Tag: Racism

The Baltimore Mess

As you may have read, the final charges were dismissed in the Freddie Gray case a few weeks ago, after the first four trials ended in acquittal. What strikes me about the Freddie Gray case is the staggering incompetence of the prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby. In Freddie Gray, we had a man who had not committed a crime, was bound up and tossed in the back of the van and emerged with his neck fatally broken. You would think you could at least get something out of that. But through a series of blunders — concealing exculpatory evidence, overcharging (murder instead of negligent homicide or manslaughter) and other incompetent idiocies, Mosby got nothing. Well, she got her face on TV, which seems to be what mattered most to her.

Mosby is running around insisting that if she’d only had a jury trial, she would have won (ignoring that the first jury deadlocked). She’s wrong:

A prosecutor who evaluates cases based on evidence and appropriately applied laws is actually charged with seeking convictions over justice, not the other way around. Mosby admitted to the nation she was not looking for convictions. The only other explanation was that she was looking to appease the angry citizens of Baltimore.

That would seem noble, except it’s not. Prosecutors have a serious job that comes with serious power. And the way they wield that power is extremely important. Politics and criminal law don’t mix well. That’s been on full display as Mosby’s prosecutors keep spinning wilder legal theories and, not surprisingly, keep getting handed acquittals.

The larger pity of this is that the acquittal overshadows some very serious problems in the Baltimore PD. The Justice Department recently issued the results of its investigation in the BPD. Balko, who calls the DOJ report “the worst I’ve ever seen” goes through it point-by-point. BPD has been told to make large numbers of stops and arrests, regardless of whether someone is committing a crime or not. Unsurprisingly, these arrests are concentrated in a handful of poor black neighborhoods. People are frequently detained, questioned and searched without probable cause (95% of them turn out to have no contraband or outstanding warrants). People have been strip-searched in public without probable cause, arrested without probable cause, made to “justify” their presence in public areas. Of thousands of complaint of excessive force, only a tiny number were investigated and only one resulted in discipline. BPD officers are routinely instructed to use excessive force, including being told to point their guns at people in non-violent situations to exert control.

This passage in particular is just jaw-dropping.

During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied “Then make something up.”

Just so we’re clear, the sergeant not only instructed a subordinate to violate the men’s constitutional rights by concocting a lie, he did so while knowingly in the presence of DOJ monitors. That’s some serious cultural and institutional rot. In another incident, the report describes how several officers detained a man whose only offense was to be in a “high-crime area” with his hands in his pockets. (The DOJ report notes that it happened to be a cold January morning.) After repeated questioning, the officers found a (perfectly legal) kitchen knife in his possession. They then illegally arrested him. When he resisted, they beat and Tased him to the point that he needed medical care. He was never charged with a crime. In his report, the supervising sergeant praised the officers for their “great restraint and professionalism.”

Notorious police-state bootlicker Heather MacDonald posted a response that basically ignored everything in the report. It amounts to, “well, most crimes are committed by black people.” That’s true, but it does not justify routinely detaining, searching, arresting and harassing black people. It does not make standing on a corner being black probable cause. It does not justify ignoring almost all complaints of police brutality and misconduct. This is not either-or. It is perfectly reasonable to note that black people commit an astonishingly high proportion of crimes and that the BPD is engaging in astonishing unconstitutional practices that are tinged with racial bias.

One of the things we have seen is that when riots erupt, there is often a history. That does not justify the riots, obviously, since the riots only do more damage to the community and discredit the cause. But the Rodney King riots erupted after years of complaints about Darryl Gates’ LAPD. The Ferguson riots erupted after years of the city sustaining its unsustainable budget by fining and ticketing the shit out of its black citizenry. This report shows that the Baltimore riots erupted in a city engaging in incredibly aggressive policing that makes its citizens feel under siege.

Balko:

I can’t imagine what it must be like to get stopped by the police 20 or more times every year — to be arrested and jailed for nothing at all, to be stripped nude and searched in public for a traffic offense, or to be told it’s basically illegal for me to merely exist in public. I can’t imagine trying to have a life under those conditions, to raise kids, to just function as a human being — much less rise above my surroundings. I suppose defenders of these tactics will say that black neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted because that’s where most of the crime takes place. I don’t doubt that may be true. But your constitutional rights aren’t determined by the behavior of people who look like you, or by the behavior of the people who live in your neighborhood. Neither should the dignity and humanity afforded to you by the people who are supposed to be protecting you.

This, of course, only makes the riots all the more tragic. Peaceful demonstrations would have done a better job of highlighting these problems without alienating everyone*. But the violence doesn’t change the reality that BPD has a serious problem in its policing.

(*Possibly. The might also, as we’ve seen in several cities, provoked a militarized response anyway.)

A Scalia Smear

The Supreme Court, earlier this week, heard arguments in a case of whether affirmative action should be allowed in Texas Law schools. You may have heard about this because the entire Left Wing exploded into outrage over Scalia’s alleged racism:

Demonstrating once again that his reputation for cheap demagoguery has been well-earned, Senator Harry Reid this morning took a wild shot at Justice Antonin Scalia. “It is deeply disturbing,” Reid suggested, “to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court.”

What did Scalia say, precisely?

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­ advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” he said. “One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”

That’s it. Scalia didn’t even advance the theory that admitting blacks to schools they are underqualified for only makes them struggle. He threw it out there as a discussion point to hear what the lawyers thought about it. You wouldn’t know this from the screaming headlines (the New York Daily News, which has completed its descent into pure Left Wing hysteria, had a screaming headline branding Scalia a racist).

Now there are reason to think that this theory is wrong. Recent studies have shown that black students admitted on affirmative action catch up quickly and have graduation rates similar to white students. However, others have argued that it keeps black students out of the more difficult subjects like science, where catching up is particularly difficult. This theory — not Scalia’s, but a common theory — is not far out of the mainstream at all. It’s been mentioned in prior SCOTUS decisions on this matter.

But this is a bit more dangerous than calling Scalia a racist. Alex Griswold

First of all, it’s worth noting that oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand; it’s an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties. To that end, justices often advance arguments and theories they do not necessarily hold. Take for example Chief Justice John Roberts‘ extremely harsh questioning of government lawyers in NFIB v. Burwell, even though he eventually voted to uphold the individual mandate anyways.

Arguing before the Supreme Court is a notoriously nerve-wracking experience, since justices try to find arguments and lines of attack attorneys would never consider. In this case, the transcript make it clear that Scalia was asking a question about a theory put forward by others, not himself:

Scalia, in particular, has a tendency to play devil’s advocate. During the flag burning case, he asked if burning the flag could be banned by being considered fighting words. But he eventually decided with the majority to strike down the flag burning laws.

Charles Cooke, linked above, brings this home:

If we are to have a functioning justice system, we cannot hold lawyers personally responsible for the unpleasant parts of their designated roles. When a defense attorney successfully demonstrates that the prosecution’s case is too weak for a conviction, he is not betraying a preference for murder or rape or grievous bodily harm, he is ensuring that his client gets a fair shake. When a corporate counselor illustrates that a given statute is so badly written that it cannot be used to secure guilt, he is not endorsing whatever misconduct yielded the case in the first instance but upholding the rule of law. And when a Supreme Court justice pushes those before him to respond to the countervailing briefs — or offers whatever devil’s advocacy occurs to him on the spot — he is not pitching his own ideas but mediating a dispute. The day that we fail to understand this will be the day we give in to barbarism.

All too often these days we conflate principles with outcomes. Thus, to defend the free-speech rights of neo-Nazis is to be accused of endorsing their words. Thus, to protect the right to keep and bear arms is to be charged with complicity in its abuse. Thus, to oppose further government surveillance is to be lumped in with terrorists and hackers. During the 2013 Texas gubernatorial race, the Republican nominee offered the uncontroversial observation that, as attorney general, he was obliged to defend laws he personally opposed, and that this would have been the case during the 1960s, too. For this accurate appraisal of his professional responsibilities, his opponent labeled him a foe of interracial marriage. If this approach to government were to become quotidian, we would soon find ourselves living in a country ruled by men and not by law.

Raising points of law and discussion is Justice Scalia’s job. And … apparently … taking cheap shots at him is now the Democrat’s job.

Islamophobia. And Conservaphobia

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Donald Trump responding to a question about how we can get rid of Muslims:

Confronted with a questioner who called Muslims a “problem” and asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and not American, Donald Trump did not correct him on Thursday night.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. Our current President is one. We know he’s not even an American,” said a questioner at a town hall in New Hampshire. “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

“A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and a lot of different things,” Trump responded.

Trump has been a leading proponent of the discredited theory that Obama was not born in the United States.

I will be as fair as I can to Trump. Politicians tend to draw nuts to them. This is especially true of politicians who are perceived as outsiders challenging the system. Libertarians have had to deal with this kind of crap for decades. The nuts turn up not because they agree with Libertarian philosophy but because they are attracted to just about any political outsider. But even mainstream politicians get crazies. I’ve talked to Congressional staffers about some of the insane letters and calls they get from nutty constituents. Trump laughs nervously halfway through the question and doesn’t really address it. I don’t think he’s embracing the views expressed at all. He’s just not smacking it down.

That having been said, it’s been a couple of days and he’s had plenty of time to disown the man’s comments. He hasn’t. It won’t hurt him right now bceause part of Trump’s appeal to many is precisely that he doesn’t constantly apologize. But it’s yet another thing that could come back to bite him badly should he win the nomination and yet another reason for anti-Trumpers to dislike him. And it’s yet another way the GOP’s willingness to play footsie with the lunatic fringe has damaged the brand.

Here’s the thing, though. As bad as this question was and as bad as Trump’s response was, possibly the worst response has been that of the Left. They are gleefully citing this clip as an example of what conservatives are really like. They are trotting out every invective you can imagine. To hear them say it, conservatives a racist, bigoted, Religious Right fundies who want to purge the country of a religious minority.

And, to me, that’s much worse. The reason it’s worse is because the view that we need to rid our country of Muslims or that Obama is some kind of Islamic caliphatist Manchurian candidate is on the lunatic fringe. Someone says something like that and they are instantly branded as a nut. The question was so nutty, in fact, that some conservatives are wondering if he was a plant or if the question was a joke.

But the view that conservatives are evil racists is mainstream. It is propounded every day by mainstream blogs, mainstream pundits, mainstream comedians, mainstream politicians. And it has a far more malefic effect on our politics. Conservative views and conservative politicians are ignored because everyone knows they’re racist. Objections to things like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare — objections proving increasingly well-founded — were ignored because everyone knew the Republicans just opposed these laws because they were filled with hate.

The most dangerous tendency in politics is to see your political opponents as The Other. To see them as fundamentally deformed and immoral, rather than people who have a different set of values or a different perspective.

Conservatives, including myself, are not immune from this, obviously. We’ve had six years of people trying to tar Obama as a communist or an America-hater or whatever. But again, there’s a difference. The mainstream media writes those views off as irrational and partisan. But the view that conservatives are mean-spirited racists is never regarded as irrational and partisan; it’s regarded as a revealed truth.

No one has a monopoly on rationality or intelligence. I haven’t seen a political figure yet who didn’t have a good point about something. But this incident has once again revealed that the Left and their MSM dogwashers do believe they have a monopoly on racial and religious tolerance. And that’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous. Far more dangerous some fruit loop in New Hampshire who thinks we can get rid of Muslims.

The Culture War Rout Is On

So, this week George Takei called Clarence Thomas a “clown in black face” for this dissent in Obergefell. He has since apologized for the remark, claiming that he said it in a moment of anger.

As you know, I’m not one for the Outrage of the Day. What set Takei off was Thomas’ argument that government can not take away your dignity no matter what it does; dignity is intrinsic. Thomas used the internment camps as an example and Takei, who was interred, was angered by that comparison. That’s understandable.

However …

The reaction to Takei’s remarks has little to do with him. It has everything to do with a racial smear campaign that has pursued Clarence Thomas since the day he joined the Court. Just as Takei’s comments have their origin in his long experience with racial and anti-gay discrimination, the backlash to them has its origin in 24 years of liberals slagging Clarence Thomas, all too often in racist language. Thomas is a race traitor. Thomas is an Uncle Tom. Thomas doesn’t know his history. Thomas is an idiotic sock puppet of Scalia (actually, the Scalia-Thomas pairing isn’t even in the top ten for SCOTUS). Thomas never writes any significant opinions (I recently cited his wonderful dissent in Kelo; he’s written many many others).

We’re told that Thomas doesn’t understand or care about race relations. We’re told this of a man who was born in the segregationist South; who experienced vile racism in his early life; who was and is an admirer of Malcolm X; who is thoroughly versed in our country’s racial history; who can cite you chapter and verse about how our country has perverted the law and the Constitution to screw over black people. Thomas is well aware of his race, conscious of it and proud of it. But he the temerity to disagree with liberals about how the Constitution should be applied to the law. And so none of that matters.

But there’s something here even beyond the usual Clarence Thomas race-baiting. Let’s take a step back. For the last week, numerous Republicans have been responding angrily to the gay marriage and Obamacare decisions. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, among others, have questioned the Court’s legitimacy. We’re told that this is a sign of how insane Republicans are. But … you’ll see equal amounts of rage from the Left when the Court doesn’t go there way. Hell, just last week, people were responding to Scalia’s dissent with angry tweets and articles about Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, decisions which liberals responded to by … gasp! … questioning the legitimacy of the Court.

Look, it’s understandable that people get mad at the Court when it makes decisions they don’t like. Hell, I’m still upset about Kelo. That’s fine. I really don’t see anything unusual or alarming about anti-gay-marriage politicians being angry about the recent decisions. We have to accept the Court’s decisions as a matter of law; but that does not mean we have to accept them into our hearts. Be angry when you think the Court has gotten it wrong.

What’s striking, however, is how angry the Left gets when they win. Granted, most of the Left is just plain happy about last week’s decisions. But there’s a not insignificant faction that’s just furious that the conservative bench had the nerve to dissent.

As Clark at Popehat recently noted, the Culture War in this country has had two distinguishing features: an incredible series of wins for the Left and an even more incredible series of whinges about it:

The problem I have is that the blue alliance has been on a winning streak, and with recent Blue success in gay marriage, immigration of client populations, university-and-media roll-up, etc. I feel like the culture war is over and the victors are going around (metaphorically) humiliating and shooting survivors of the losing side, and conducting mop-up operations. Witness team Blue forcing bakers to bake cakes and forcing photographers to shoot photos for partnerships that they consider immoral. Witness blue team arguing that innocent people should go to jail for rape, because – and I’m quoting Ezra Klein here – we “need to create a world where men are afraid.” Red team men, I take that to mean. Football players. Frat boys. Not nice guys like Ezra.

Look at how the reasonable Left, who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded to last year’s Hobby Lobby decision. Just to remind you: the Supreme Court decided that the government could force almost all employers to provide unrestricted contraception coverage to their employees. But because of the RFRA, they decided that a small subset of businesses — privately owned or closely held businesses — could refuse coverage for a small subset of birth control methods that they considered abortificients. It’s exactly the kind of compromise that the Left always claims to want; one that respects our diverse and pluralistic country. In fact, it’s better: they got about 99.5% of what they wanted, with a small bone thrown to religious conservatives. Even better, the Court’s decisions was grounded in a law that can be repealed, not in any supposed First Amendment rights of corporations. By any definition, it was a big win for them.

And yet .. the “reasonable left” who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded by proclaiming that we were in a corporate theocracy. They disparaged Catholics on the Court. We were told that it turned back the clock on women’s rights. You can see a bunch of “reasonable” tweets here, including a comparison to Plessy vs. Ferguson (remember when Republicans comparing SCOTUS decisions to Dred Scott was over the line? Good times.)

That’s when they “lose” by such a tiny amount it’s really a huge victory. But last week, the Left won outright. And granted, most liberals are responding with jubilation. My FB feed filled with happy posts about the victory of gay rights. But there is a noisy faction that have spent the last week poring through the dissenting opinions to find something, anything to get in a tizzy over. Jon Stewart has done multiple segments mocking the dissenting opinions and the politicians who didn’t like the rulings. And then, of course, you had Monday’s afterbirth when liberals screamed that the Court has “struck down” limits on mercury emissions (it did nothing of the kind).

So, on it’s own, Takei’s remarks are nothing — something dumb said out of anger. But in the larger context, it was the intersection of two ugly trends: racial animosity toward Clarence Thomas and incessant left-wing whinging about a political battle they have won.

So, yeah, Takei’s apology is fine (Thomas, I suspect, does not care either way). But it’s nothing compared to the long smear campaign against Clarence Thomas and the vitriol with which far too much of the Left has responded to a decision that went their way.

The Culture War is over, guys. You’ve won. Hell, I’m on your side for most of these social issues. We’ve won. Do you really have to ride down your defeated foe?

Biker Wars

So, someone enlighten me. After this weekend’s shootout in Waco between two biker gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded, we started getting a bunch of think pieces from the usual liberal outlets about how the media coverage of this awfulness was “different”.

Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren’t complaining about the tenor of this weekend’s media coverage. They’re saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.

I have no idea what Vox is on about. The coverage of this weekend’s events was not very different from the coverage of any other violence. You can read Ed Morrissey here where he talks about the many politicians who have denounced these gangs, the efforts law enforcement has made to reign them in, the arrest of almost two hundred gang members and the efforts made to prevent this before the weekend even started. No one is downplaying this or pretending this isn’t a problem. No one is failing to denounce them as violent thugs. And no one is trying to claim that this event was somehow justified.

Another line of commentary that’s predictable in media coverage and commentary surrounding violence involving black people has to do with black cultural pathology.

Politicians and pundits are notorious for grasping for problems in African-American communities — especially fatherlessness — to explain the kind of violence that, when it happens in a white community, is treated as an isolated crime versus an indictment of an entire racial group’s way of life.

The total absence around the Waco incident of analysis of struggles and shortfalls within white families and communities is a painful reminder of this.

What a bunch of crap. The difference between violence in the black community and violence in the white community is scale. Black people are six times as likely to be murdered as white people and eight times likelier to be involved in a murder. The community in Waco is not nearly as dysfunctional and crime-ridden as Baltimore is. Saying that violence is more endemic to black communities than white ones isn’t racism; it’s a fact.

Now what we make of that fact, how we respond to it; that’s a different ballgame. Then it’s reasonable to discuss institutional racism, the collapse of families, the cycle of violence, the destruction of inner cities, the War on Drugs, etc. I also think it’s perfectly reasonable to question why people get involved in biker gangs or why the media tend to romanticize biker gangs and have previously failed to report on biker violence. But let’s not pretend that a shootout in Waco reflects violence in our nation the same way the constant drumbeat of death and destruction in our inner cities does (Baltimore, to make one example, has had 34 murders just since Freddie Gray died).

And frankly, outlets like Vox are in a glass house on this. They seem to think it’s wrong for conservatives to talk about absent fathers as a contributor to violence. But it’s OK to discuss racism, decaying infrastructure and failing schools?

But the key thing to understand is that the criticism here is not really of the coverage of what happened in Waco. It’s of the juxtaposition of what happened here with what happens when the people involved are of a different color. The message is not that the conversation about Waco should be overblown, hypercritical of an entire culture, or full of racial subtext. It’s despair over the sense that if the gang members were black, it almost certainly would be.

Bullshit. There are about thirty mass shootings a year in this country, many of them involving gang violence. Almost of all of them are ignored by the media. In fact, I expect think pieces next week about why the media doesn’t cover shootings between black gangs with the same intensity they covered this one.

Salon, of course, takes the cake, wondering why the events in Waco weren’t called a riot (mainly because … there wasn’t a riot). CNN wonders why we react to Muslim violence more sharply than biker violence (because no biker gang ever murdered 3000 people). NPR wonders why the National Guard wasn’t called out (because all the perpetrators were arrested and the violence finished on the first day).

You can read a response from National Review, that points out that the media has had no problem labeling riots as such when it involves white sports fans or college students.

And who, precisely, is denying that organized crime syndicates are thuggish? Isn’t that generally what is meant by “biker gang”? No one is arguing that these were the Wild Hogs.

I understand that people get frustrated when conservations about the excessive use of force by police or the militarization of police gets sidelined into discussion of black-on-black violence. It is possible to denounce both at the same time (as indeed most people do). But trying to sandwich media coverage of the Waco shooting into that discussion is a stretch at best.

Sorry, guys. This isn’t about the media. This is about a bunch of thugs who started a brawl that resulted in nine people being killed (including, most likely, several killed by the police trying to deal with the situation). No one is defending them. No one is romanticizing them. No one is pretending this was something other than a vile incident. And if the result is crackdowns on other violent gangs, almost everyone is fine with that.

There Should Always Be Freedom in OU

Over the weekend, you may have seen the video of the SAE fraternity at the University Oklahoma singing a racist song about how there would never be black SAE. Well, they were right about that. There never will be a black SAE. This is because the University responded to the video by dissolving the chapter of the frat and expelling two of the students.

The former decision is right and proper, I think. However, I’m having serious problems with the latter. And so are a lot of people:

The University of Oklahoma’s decision to expel two fraternity members who led a racist chant on a bus provoked criticism Wednesday from several legal experts who said that the students’ words, however odious, were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

“The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

Official punishment for speech could be legal if the students’ chant constituted a direct threat, leading a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, or if it seemed likely to provoke an immediate violent response, according to Mr. Chemerinsky and several other legal scholars, liberal and conservative alike.

But in this case, these experts said, there is no evidence of any direct threat or provocation, and as a publicly financed institution, the university is subject to constitutional boundaries.

I’ve seen similar commentary all over the blogosphere. First Amendment badass Mark Randazza:

I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether I approve of it or not. (I don’t, but that’s all I’ll say about it). You have the right to be racist. I want that freedom. But, somewhere along the way, we decided that eliminating bad thoughts is more important than freedom.

Like it or not, these kids were expressing a political and social opinion. I do not care if you agree with it or not. They have a First Amendment right to freedom of association – that means they can be in a private club that says “no niggers allowed.” I can’t say that I would want to belong to such a club, but the KKK and the American Nazi Party not only have a right to exist, but serve a valuable function — even if that function is only to serve as a negative example.

Further, they have a right to express themselves — even with views that you might find abhorrent. That’s what freedom is.

Several scholars have argued that the song constitute an action and “threat”. I’ll let Scott Greenfield take that one, referencing the famous Skokie cases where the ACLU defended the free speech rights of Nazis:

These SAE boys don’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment, any more than the neo-Nazis in Skokie did. But we don’t do it for them. We do it for us. We do it because speech is either protected for all or protected for none.

There are no wiggly lines that allow us to find some sneaky back-door around the protections of the First Amendment. There is no combination of words expressing our feelings about the relative worth of rights, the relative horror of flagrantly racist speech, the unworthiness of expression, that allows us to shed the protection of the First Amendment when we feel so strongly that it should not be provided. This is precisely when the protections of the Constitution must kick in, must apply, must be upheld in the face of our strongest feelings that we don’t want it to.

You can read more from Eugene Volokh and Doug Mataconis, who get into the Constitutional issues. As a public university, the University of Oklahoma is bound to respect the free speech rights of their students. And the attempt to end-around the First Amendment by claiming a racist song constitutes an “action” is offensive. Greenwald had this to say, albeit in a different context:

We’ve said it a million times: free speech isn’t just for speech we like. It’s for speech we hate. It’s for speech that offends us. It’s for speech that shocks the senses. But more than that: I want the bigots of the world1 to feel like they can say what they want. Which do you think is better? A society in which racists go underground? Or a society in which the ugliness be out and open for everyone to see? When I was a kid, some anti-semitic bigots burned a cross on the lawn of my synagogue. That was much scarier and more dangerous than a bunch of KKK jerks marching along the highway.

It’s become common to refer to incidents like this as “teachable moments”. Maybe. But if it is, the lesson being taught is the wrong one. The lesson is that we will punish speech we don’t like.

The other day, the ACLU took another unpopular stand: defending the free speech rights of the Washington Redskins. In doing so, they quoted the great sage Jeffrey Lebowski: “you’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole”:

The ACLU has a history of defending the speech rights of groups we disagree with, because the First Amendment doesn’t protect only popular ideas. The Washington team’s choice of name is unfortunate. They should be – and are being – pressured to change it. But it isn’t government’s role to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable and which are not.

Readmit the students, OU. Make this a teachable moment. And the lesson to teach is that free speech applies to everyone, including assholes.


1. Putting aside whether these students are actual bigots or are just drunken idiots singing a dumbass song.

Update: Jamelle Bouie

As far as the University of Oklahoma is concerned, I should say I’m not thrilled with the punishment. Disbanding the fraternity might be justified, but expelling students for hate speech is an extreme response that runs afoul of free-speech norms, if not the First Amendment.

Education would be better. The University of Oklahoma is two hours away from Tulsa, which in 1921 was the site of one of the worst anti-black race riots in American history. More than a thousand whites stormed the black district of Tulsa and razed it to the ground, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless and destitute. Black Tulsa never recovered, but memories of the attack live on among descendants of the victims.

Don’t expel the boys. Bring them to Tulsa. Have them see the memorials and talk to the children of survivors. Give them a chance to see what their words actually mean, and whether they want to be the kinds of people who sing about lynching for fun.

Indeed.

The Case Against Reparations

The cover story on this month’s Atlantic is a very long piece from Ta-Nehisi Coates making the case for reparations to the black community. A lot of people are responding to Coates’ article without having read it. Conservatives are bashing it for demanding money, even though it doesn’t make any specific suggestions for what reparations would mean. Liberals are praising it for things it doesn’t say.

Although I frequently disagree with Coates, I’ve found him to be an illuminating and gifted writer. He often makes me aware of things I didn’t know about, gives a perspective I haven’t considered and has a keen appreciation of history. I read through the entire article and I found it to be illuminating, thoughtful and, in many parts, enraging. But while I agree with almost all his arguments, I disagree with the ultimate conclusion.

Buckle in. This will take a while.

The case, of course, starts with the original sin of slavery. Although this field has been plowed before, it’s always worth remembering that this was not some small institution confined to a few plantation owners. This was the single most important institution in the country:

The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together,” the Yale historian David W. Blight has noted. “Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” The sale of these slaves—“in whose bodies that money congealed,” writes Walter Johnson, a Harvard historian—generated even more ancillary wealth. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest. Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits. Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country.

TNC makes the argument that much of America’s ante-bellum wealth was built on slavery. This isn’t refutable. What is refutable is that much of America’s wealth today is still based on that. The United States paid a tremendous price in fire, treasure and blood to rid itself of slavery. Over $10 billion spent, which be half a trillion today. 600,000 killed, including nearly one in thirty southerners. Entire families were destroyed, entire cities burnt to the ground. The survivors lost all their “wealth” when slavery was abolished and most had to sell their property to northerners just to survive. A huge amount of lingering southern poverty can be traced to the impact of the Civil War. Whatever wealth slavery conferred on America — and it was significant — it was completely annihilated in the war between the states.

TNC then moves on to an era that was only slightly less horrible for black people — the Jim Crow era:

In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state.

The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants. Tools and necessities were advanced against the return on the crop, which was determined by the employer. When farmers were deemed to be in debt—and they often were—the negative balance was then carried over to the next season. A man or woman who protested this arrangement did so at the risk of grave injury or death. Refusing to work meant arrest under vagrancy laws and forced labor under the state’s penal system.

Lynchings, terror campaigns, full-scale robbery of law-abiding citizens. The State or a bank could assert that a black person owed them money and they had little recourse. Prices paid by and to blacks were determined not by the market but by whatever was decreed by a white person.

That’s been gone over before, too. But here’s where the article contributes something original and important: what happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when blacks moved north and found themselves being systematically looted when they had the temerity to try to buy a home.

… Ross was not really a homeowner. His payments were made to the seller, not the bank. And Ross had not signed a normal mortgage. He’d bought “on contract”: a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting—while offering the benefits of neither. Ross had bought his house for $27,500. The seller, not the previous homeowner but a new kind of middleman, had bought it for only $12,000 six months before selling it to Ross. In a contract sale, the seller kept the deed until the contract was paid in full—and, unlike with a normal mortgage, Ross would acquire no equity in the meantime. If he missed a single payment, he would immediately forfeit his $1,000 down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself.

There were no options open to black borrowers besides these predatory loans. Banks would not lend to them. When the FHA was set up to increase home ownership, it “redlined” black neighborhoods and made black people ineligible for federally-guaranteed loans. When black people went to court, the courts upheld the predatory “lenders”. Covenants were put in place that restricted blacks from certain neighborhoods. When black people bought houses in white neighborhoods without formal covenants, they would find themselves the victims of mobs who would throw stones or set their houses on fire. The ghettos of Chicago didn’t just happen; they were made. This legacy continues today. A black person who has an income similar to a white person has a much higher chance of living in a high-crime neighborhood or a poor neighborhood.

Remember that for most people, a huge percentage of their wealth is tied up in their home. When you force someone to buy a home at above market value on predatory terms then prevent them from leaving if the neighborhood goes bad, you are creating a wealth gap. And the compound effect of all of these crimes over decades is staggering.

Adhering to middle-class norms has never shielded black people from plunder. Adhering to middle-class norms is what made Ethel Weatherspoon a lucrative target for rapacious speculators. Contract sellers did not target the very poor. They targeted black people who had worked hard enough to save a down payment and dreamed of the emblem of American citizenship—homeownership. It was not a tangle of pathology that put a target on Clyde Ross’s back. It was not a culture of poverty that singled out Mattie Lewis for “the thrill of the chase and the kill.”

Discriminatory laws joined the equal burden of citizenship to unequal distribution of its bounty. These laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government—through housing policies—engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day. When we think of white supremacy, we picture Colored Only signs, but we should picture pirate flags.

The thing is, even with all these things I fundamentally disagree with the conclusion: that America’s wealth and prosperity was largely built on things like slavery and discrimination. I would contend that America’s wealth was built despite these things.

What would America be like today had there been no Jim Crow, no racial covenants, no KKK, no redlining, no slavery. Let’s posit, for the moment, that black people would be in far better economic shape and have more wealth. Would that mean white people were poorer? Would it mean America was poorer? No. American would be richer. Anti-poverty spending would be lower, crime would be lower, white flight and the massive expenses of commuting might never have have happened. White businesses would have 10% more customers, 10% more business partners, 10% more distributors. White customers would have 10% more businesses. White workers would have 10% more employers. Slavery didn’t build America. The South may have been rich on paper before the war but conditions in the South were appalling. John Adams described it as so poor it was like visiting a different country. To this day, the South is poorer than the North. Past institutionalized racism and the economic destruction it wrought is a huge reason for that. There are parts of the South were half the population is black. Imagine if that half were prosperous. Redlining and contract mortgage didn’t build Chicago, it nearly destroyed it.

Racism did make black people poor, yes. But it does not follow that it made white people rich. It made specific white people — like slave owners or contract lenders — wealthy. But the overall impact on the country was a huge negative. It’s like the thieves of the recent financial crisis. They got rich. But the country suffered.

Think about what happened when women entered the work force. Our economy surged. Our wealth increased. For men as well as women. If black poverty vanished overnight, black people would obviously be the biggest beneficiaries. But white people would benefit too.

Still … it’s hard to read TNC’s compilation of events and not conclude that black people spent the better part of two centuries being systematically robbed and abused by their government and by their society. It’s hard not to be weighted down by the sense of injustice. So does that justify reparations?

Well … in some cases, yes. I do not object to reparation paid to specifically wronged individuals by the specific people or agencies who did them harm. It’s the same reason I didn’t oppose reparations to Japanese people who were interred during World War II. Those claims were paid out on a case by case basis to people who were wronged, not to same vague group who was wronged by some other vague group. I did not object to reparations being paid to the families of Tuskegee victims or the survivors of the Rosewood riots.

But what about larger reparations? Would that not rectify some of our country’s racial wrongs? Well, that hinges on one of the biggest problems with Coates’ article: it basically ends its argument in the 1970’s. In doing so, it ignores one additional huge atrocity visited upon the black community — the War on Drugs. The War has turned inner cities into war zones. Black drug users are far more likely to be busted and far more likely to go to prison for being busted than white drug users. Black kids are more likely to get arrested for crimes and more likely to get harsh punishment for them.

But more importantly for this specific argument: we’ve been doing reparations for a while now. We haven’t call them “reparations” specifically, but the aim was to ameliorate the damage of two centuries of racism. And the results have ranged from nothing (when black people have been lucky) to disaster (when they haven’t been). Johnson’s War on Poverty was cast in explicitly racial terms. The result, many believe, was a small reduction in poverty at the cost of the death of the African-American family.* Urban renewal and “job creation” efforts have been heavily targeted at inner cities. The result of these policies was the wholesale destruction of inner city economies to the benefit of wealthy outside interests. A few years ago, racial discrimination by the Department of Agriculture was addressed with the Pigford settlements. That “worked” in that the only negative effect was some corruption.

(*Liberals like to jump up and down because poverty fell from 20% to 12% after the Great Society and black poverty fell from 40% to 25%. This ignores two things: the biggest reductions were at the beginning and right after Bill Clinton’s much-hated welfare reform, and; poverty rates fell faster in the years before the Great Society. Pre-1960 data is difficult to pin down because the government only began officially measuring poverty in 1959, which allows liberals to claim the Great Society cut poverty while ignoring everything that happened before then. The best numbers I can find indicate that poverty fell from 30 to 20% between the post-war era and the Great Society and black poverty went from 70-80% down to 40%. Whatever the exact numbers, it is clear that poverty was already plunging when the Great Society was foisted on us.)

Moreover, TNC hinges his argument on housing policy. But the last forty years saw a huge push to revise our housing policy and make credit easier for the poor and minorities to obtain. The result was a financial crisis that made things far worse for poor people and minorities, that destroyed what little wealth they had … again. TNC notes that subprime mortgages were heavily targeted at minority communities — even for those who had good enough credit to get prime loans. That’s true, but subprime was a small section of a massive swindle, aided and abetted by our own government’s “ownership society” policies. And Wells Fargo, for one, did pay reparations for that. And should have.

Take a look at this article, which uses hilarious Length of the Mississippi arguments to figure out what slaves were owed. It then suggests several possibilities for reparations including the idea that money be made available for investments in businesses. But we’ve tried that. You can look the desolate economies of our inner cities to see the result.

And that brings me to my conclusion: my main problem with reparations is that I don’t think it will solve anything. Giving black people a bunch of money may provide a temporary infusion of cash. But it will not solve the problems that truly plague the black community — poor education, few job opportunities, mass incarceration, broken families. When affirmative action first sprang up in college admissions, I predicted it would fail because it did not address the real problems that were lowering black admissions to college — broken families, poor public schools, high crime. It attempted a fix at the back end, like curing lung cancer by giving someone cough medicine. Affirmative action has faded but what has sprung up is almost worse: a massively leveraged financial system which encourages more and more people to go to college but leaves many of them worse off financially (and, as usual, blacks are getting the worst end of the deal.)

Let’s look at other instances of reparations. Presidents Reagan and Bush eventually paid out reparations to Japanese Americans interred during World War II. TNC cites the precedent of Israelis who demanded reparations from Germany and got them. That may sounds like a precedent for reparations for blacks. But … does anyone think that the prosperity of the Japanese-Americans or Israelis was created by reparations? Does anyone think they would currently be poor without them? Israel grew before reparations and grew after them and still has a strong economy 50 years later. Even with most generous assessment, reparations contributed only 15% to their economic growth over the decade of reparations and that at a time when Israel had minimal infrastructure to build wealth with. That is not nearly equal to the chasm that exists in our inner cities.

In both cases, the reparations were a moral judgement, not a way to ameliorate poverty. Paying reparations might make some feel better. It might assuage some lingering white guilt. But in the end, the impact of it on the black community will diminish and disappear. Just like when we sink billions of dollars into public schools. Or when we sink billions into “big projects” and “job creation” in our inner cities. We’ve tried this. Unless you are talking about the most extreme reparations (such as the suggestion by one wag that the government simply give money to black people every year to make up the difference in income between them and white people), this will be a temporary infusion that will go away very quickly.

The solutions to black poverty — to poverty in general — are far more complex. Black poverty may throw its roots in racism. But it has been compounded over the years by government malfeasance and cultural decay. That can not be fixed with money. We’re already spending hundreds of billions trying to. It can only be fixed by giving people the means to make money — through education and opportunity — or by stopping doing the things that hobble them — crony capitalism, the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. That will take time, possibly generations. It will involve changing the way we do things in many ways. But that would be real reparations, not another liberal silver bullet.

In any case, you should read Coates’ article. Not because of the conclusions he reaches but because of the relentless documenting of the African American experience. It is long and depressing but a must-read. The racial history of this country does not define us. Nor does it justify whatever policy some Lefty think tank comes up with. But it should not be forgotten.

(TL;DR version: there is no question that economic destruction has been visited upon the black community by institutionalized racism from the early days of this country up to the present day. However, as is often the case with liberals, TNC correctly identifies the problem but identifies the wrong solution. Reparations, even if you accept the idea of collective guilt, aren’t working and will not solve the problems that ail black America.It will only put them off. Again.)

They wish it wasn’t so

Racism is alive and well, and while the left would like to pretend the rich owner of the L.A. Clippers that got caught showing his true feelings about color is a republican, I have to point out that the NAACP isn’t ever going to have to pull lifteime achievement awards from a conservative, because they don’t like them. My bet is that the media will soon be ignoring this story, as their agenda to pretend they were dealing with a rich republican falls apart as the facts come out about Sterling’s real political leanings.

I have said it before, and I will repeat it again: the biggest racists I have met have all been left leaning scumbags that pretend they are all caring and such. Sterling fits the modl perfectly. I would not be surprised to find out the NAACP was honoring him for adovating for liberal policies that are destructive to minorities, but are percieved by the race huxters as good things. Watch who is trying to run away from this guy the fastest, demonizing this racist, cause I bet you they are very likely to be people that are worried they will be found out too. Also look for the disappointment in the LSM and the left as they remain unable to pretend this guy belongs to the other side. Doesn’t fit the narrative.

Tawana Brawley is that you?

You remember Tawana Brawley don’t ya? She made Al Sharpton super famous by helping him orchestrate a massive and destructive campaign of lies to impugn whitey. Well, it looks like Tawana has a big sister or something, as Oprah Winfrey’s story about racist behavior towards her falls apart.

Oprah Winfrey says she’s kinda sorta “sorry” for the fallout that ensued after she told the media about a “racist” encounter at a purse store in Switzerland … saying, “I’m really sorry that it got blown up.”

Yeah, right.

Oprah addressed the media at the premiere of “The Butler” in L.A. last night — backpedaling after the shop in question started to refute O’s allegations of racism during an incident last month.

The shop owner says the whole thing was a “misunderstanding” and had “nothing to do with racism.”

Last night, Oprah said … “I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland.”

Problem is … O’s full of it. What did she think was going to happen when she went on national TV and cried racism? The media was just going to ignore that??

Was that a facetious question? She probably figured that as Obama’s friend and protégé, she would also get a pass from them. Except they were so eager to propagate the racist narrative that they went to look for more details only to find Oprah made the shit up. Sucks to be them. Too much crying wolf.