Race Relations

I could never really understand why people who bought Milli Vanilli‘s music were so upset when it was revealed that those two guys in Milli Vanilli didn’t really sing any of those Milli Vanilli songs. Purchasers still got the music they heard on the radio. The actual recording artists were still singing the right songs the right way.

I’m reminded of that by the revelations that Rachel Dolezal, head of the Spokane NAACP chapter, may actually not be black.

The mother of Rachel Dolezal — an NAACP leader in Spokane, Washington, who identifies as African-American, though her parents claim she is white — said Friday that her daughter “has not explained to us why she is doing what she’s doing and being dishonest and deceptive with her identity.

I haven’t seen a lot of details on this story, so I honestly don’t know what exactly she’s been doing. Has she been following the standard psychopath playbook of telling whatever lies will get her what she wants? If so, then I hope she goes down in flames.

On the other hand, if she just grew up with a lot of black people, including family members, and always feel like she identified with the black community more than the surrounding white culture, it’s hard to find fault with her for showing solidarity with those she considers to be her people.

The NAACP statement on Rachel Dolezal is interesting:

One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.

I guess even though she’s white, she’s still singing the right song.

Update: Okay, I may have posted too soon… It’s starting to look like she went beyond just claiming a black cultural identity. Stories are circulating that she posted a picture of herself with a black man who she claimed was her father, even though he’s not.

She also claims to have been the victim of considerable racially-themed harassment by unidentified perpetrators. These could be legitimate threats, but they include written threats that did not come through the mail and break-ins at her home, all of which could easily be faked to try to get people to support her.

Then there’s her quote that “We’re all from the African continent.” This is technically true, but it’s not what we mean in this country when we say someone is African-American. That sounds like the sort of careful parsing you’d get from a practiced liar.

This is starting to sound less like confusion over identity and more like deception, possibly for personal reasons.

More On Cops, Protesters, and Racial Bias

In a previous post, I criticized Jack Marshall’s post about the connections between protesters and cop killers. Jack tried to respond, but apparently my comment system is acting up again, so he emailed it to me.  I started to write a response, but I guess Jack decided he had enough material for a full blog post, so I’ll respond to that instead. Or at least as much of it as I can. As it is, it’s taken me a while to put this together, and in the meantime Jack has posted several more pieces about the protest movement. Serves me right for arguing with a guy who thinks about these things for a living.

Two quick notes before I get started: First, I do need to back off on something a bit and apologize. When I was drafting that first post, I started with quotes from several people who had tried to blame the shootings on activists and protesters. When I added Jack’s rather substantive post to the mix, it grew so long that I decided to shorten it by leaving out the other statements. Those other quotes could, I think, have fairly been referred to as smears, but if I’d been more careful, I wouldn’t have left the word “smear” in as a characterization of Jack’s post. Smearing implies lying about someone to make them look bad, and while I disagree with what Jack says, I don’t think he was lying. His post was sincere and substantive, and I was careless not to change that before publishing. (Sorry, Jack.)

Second, to get an idea of where Jack is coming from, I encourage any of my readers with an interest in this topic to read Jack’s original post, then my response and then what Jack has to say about it. (To get even more of an idea where Jack is coming from, you might also want to read a post where he blames Obama for declining race relations, another post where he argues the protests aren’t really non-violent, and just for fun, a post from 2012 where he argues that Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 0% approval from black people means blacks are racially biased.)

At the end of Jack’s post he lists several reasons why he thinks mine fails:

It fails because it adopts the straw man that the issue is merely police abuse, rather than police racism that culminates in the murder of blacks, as part of a larger racist culture.

I’m not quite sure what Jack is getting at here. He seems to think that whenever I or some of the protesters refer to “police abuse” we’re really using code words to disguise the fact that we’re accusing the police, and by implication the justice system and American culture in general, of anti-black racial bias.

My post had several paragraphs about racial bias, so I thought my position would be obvious, but I guess I’ll have to be more clear: Yes. I’ll own that. I am accusing the police, the justice system, and American culture in general of anti-black racial bias. As I explained, it’s not all police, it’s not everyone involved with the justice system, and it’s certainly not all Americans, but there’s enough racism in the mix to justify vigilance.

I’m not talking about white supremacist groups like the Klan, which have been pushed out onto the fringe for decades — and which really got their asses kicked when millions of white Americans voted for a black President. I think that kind of powerful organized racist thuggery is gone for good.

Nevertheless, I think there’s a systematic and often callous disregard for black interests, black welfare, and black lives, and this has led to laws, policies, institutions, attitudes, and individual decisions that add up to a powerful, but not necessarily intentional, racial bias.

Getting back to Jack’s summary of my post’s failures:

It fails because it continues to rationalize the “hands up” narrative,

Jack asserted that protestors were wrong to protest because there was no evidence of racial bias after the Michael Brown shooting, but the fact that multiple witnesses were saying he had his hands up is actually pretty good evidence of racial bias. That this evidence eventually didn’t pan out very well doesn’t mean protesters were wrong to make some noise about it when it was the leading account.

(Also, it’s not as if Mike Brown is the only unarmed black man alleged to have been shot with his hands up. Sometimes there’s video, as when Trooper Sean Groubert fires a final shot at Levar Jones while he is backing away with his hands up. Jones lived, and Groubert is facing felony charges.)

because it conveniently ignores the Trayvon Martin references—which have nothing to do with police–in the rhetoric of pundits and activists.

It is because they have nothing to do with the police that I ignore the Trayvon Martin references.

It fails because it can’t explain, if the issue isn’t race, why white victims of excessive police force aren’t part of the discussion.

It’s black people who show up in large numbers at the protests, it’s black civil rights leaders who are leading the major protests, and the slogan is “black lives matter.” Of course the issue is race. I didn’t think anyone was trying to hide that.

The racial issues overlap with the issues of over-criminalization and police militarization, which are of considerable concern to those of us with libertarian leanings. There is some tension between the groups, with each side feeling that the other is addressing a side issue, but a consensus position might be that police have too much power and control over our lives, which they sometimes abuse, and that this is worse for blacks than for whites.

Most all, it fails because the underlying belief that the simple fact of a white individual taking action that results in negative consequences for an African-American is evidence of racism is racism itself.

It’s certainly not enough to prove racism, but it’s one of the requirements. More importantly, it’s not just about individuals taking action, it’s about the last 400 years of black people in America, at least 350 of which were pretty damned awful.

Further, police departments have a long history of racism. I don’t know if it’s worse than in society at large or if the racism in police departments is just scarier because cops hold positions of trust and authority. Studies generally show that black people are stopped by police more often, they’re searched more often, they’re arrested more often, they’re jailed more often, and they’re shot by cops more often. Even skeptics like John Lott admit there is some evidence to suggest that police disproportionately kill black people, and that comports with the reported experiences of black people. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did not invent the idea of parents instructing their black children to be extra-careful around police officers.

(And lest you think that was all in our disgraceful past, black NYPD officers talk about how they’ve been treated by police when out of uniform.)

Now let me respond to a few other points…

“It’s not like the civil rights advocates, activists, journalists, and pundits are just making stuff up.”

Sure they are! They are made up the narrative that Brown was harmless, and used a photo that made him look like Gary Coleman.

What, any photo where he doesn’t look like a straight-up gangsta is a lie? So Jack, if the cops gun you down, which photo of you should they use? For me, I want this one:

Back to Jack:

They treated the “hands up” story, which came from Brown’s pal, as if it was fact. Then after it was shown to be unreliable, they continued to treat it as fact, and do to this day. I guess it doesn’t count as “making stuff up.”

The sentence Jack quotes about “making stuff up” was in response to his putting “police shooting unarmed black men” in scare quotes. My point was that the protesters were not making up the pattern of police shooting unarmed black men. There was solid factual basis to their accusations, in the form of a bunch of unarmed dead black guys.

That said, I will certainly concede that some of the activists are liars. In fact, maybe it will clear up a bunch of the conflict between Jack and I if I say that as long as we’re talking only about Al Sharpton, I don’t much disagree with his point. I’m old enough to remember Sharpton’s involvement in the Tawana Brawley mess, and while he seems to have mellowed since then (or just gotten more careful), that’s not saying much.

It might not be clear from my original post, but I’ve never been a Mike Brown true believer. From my very first post on the shooting of Mike Brown — before the grand jury report, before we knew the officer’s name, before we knew much more than that a cop had shot an unarmed black kid — I was saying the shooting might be justified, or at least an understandable. I haven’t read the grand jury report, but I gather from other people that it tends to confirm that the shooting was justified.

Personally, I think it’s been a mistake for those accusing police of racism to pin so much of it a single incident. on Darren Wilson’s shooting of Mike Brown, since the facts were far from clear. On the other hand, I don’t think it was unreasonable to question the shooting early on, and I don’t think it was unreasonable to accuse Wilson of some form of murder in the court of public opinion to keep the pressure on.

This brings me to what Jack calls my “second worst argument.” I wrote:

“However, Jack’s assertion that Michael Brown activists should not have made accusations before the investigation was complete is hypocritical nonsense. He is making that assertion in the middle of a post in which he accuses civil rights leaders and activists of creating the atmosphere that motivated cop killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley. In other words, just hours after the shooting — long before the NYPD investigation could possibly be complete — Jack claims to know who the murderer was, why he did it, and the identity of the people whose anti-cop rhetoric supposedly influenced him to do it. Jack is doing exactly the same thing he’s criticizing others for doing. The next time a cop kills an unarmed black man, should we hold Jack accountable for creating the conditions that made the cop fearful?”

Jack responds:

In the case of Wilson, he was publicly accused, with nothing but the testimony of Brown’s accomplice in crime and a proven liar, of executing an unarmed man who was in a position of surrender (that was after Darion Johnson abandoned his earlier claim that Brown was shot in the back, and that Wilson fired a final shot into him, execution style, as he lay on the ground). When I wrote about Ismaaiyl Brinsley, there was no substantial question that he was the killer, and the evidence of his Instagram message announcing his intent and motivation was online for all to see.

None of which contradicts my point that the investigation has not been completed. I was being a bit pedantic, but I stand by my point that Jack is drawing conclusions and assigning blame without knowing everything possible about the shooting, which is the same thing he complains about.

In any case, saying that the protesters in Ferguson should have waited until the investigation was complete is dodging the issue. Getting all the facts is important, but sometimes the people urging you to wait until the facts are in are the same people who are trying to keep you from ever getting the facts. The Ferguson police department went into “Our officer did nothing wrong, nothing to see here, move along before we gas you” mode almost immediately. Without the protests and press attention, I’m not convinced this would have ever gone to a grand jury.

Jack actually provides an example of this in his comment, when he mentions the killing by cops of a white guy named John Geer and wonders why no one is interested in that case. That’s a good question. That’s not the first suspicious police shooting in Fairfax County, Virginia, where authorities have refused to identify the officers involved or explain why the victims were killed. (Since I wrote that post, the officer who killed David Masters was identified and fired.) When a secretive group kills people in other countries, we call it a “death squad.” Although I don’t really think the Fairfax police are engaging in an organized murder campaign. It would be nice to not have to take their word for it.

Perhaps if protesters had taken to the streets after the killing of John Geer — before the investigation was complete and all the facts were in — we’d know more about what happened to him.

Jack is critical of black leadership for not doing exactly that — for not taking up the cause of unarmed white people killed by police under suspicious circumstances — but that just seems like a case of people choosing their own priorities. Black leaders are organized to fight for causes that affect black people, and about 95% of the young men killed by police are black. If we demand they expand the scope of their operation, then why not insist they also address the problems of Palestinians in Israel, or Shiites in Sunni-controlled territory (or vice-versa), or North Koreans in North Korea? (Or if they want to help black people, how about helping black people in Africa? Because really, if you want to help black people, forget marching in the protest line. Spend the same amount of time on a part time job and donate your earnings to fight African Malaria.) Better to let people choose their own priorities.

And he was already dead. I wasn’t contributing to the conviction by rumor of a man who hadn’t been yet shown to be guilty of anything, and would have to live with the results.

No living individual at risk? You don’t think Al Sharpton, Mayor de Blasio, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama aren’t getting a lot more death threats now that so many people are blaming them for two cops being killed? I’m sure there are nutcases out there who are forming feeble-minded plans to kill them. (Although, if history is our guide, if anyone does respond violently, they will more likely kill some random stand-in victim that is easier to get to, just as Brinsley did.)

This brings me to my worst argument, according to Jack. I wrote:

“This is not the first time Jack has criticized activists for claiming there was racial bias in the Michael Brown shooting when ‘there is no evidence of this at all.’ Technically speaking, Jack is plain wrong. As Jack more-or-less admits, the simple fact that a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager is evidence of racial bias. It’s not very strong evidence, and it’s subject to interpretation and possible refutation by other evidence and testimony. But it’s still evidence.”

Jack responds:

I never “admitted” any such thing.

Crap, he’s right. I was referring to his statement that “There is no evidence that Brown or Garner, or other shooting victims like John Crawford or 12-year old Tamir Rice were shot because they were black, except that they were black,” which doesn’t quite get me where I thought it did. I’ll expand on this in a minute.

The fact that a white man ends up killing a black man is no evidence of racial bias at all, unless you believe, as the activists do, that whites are inherently racist.

There’s a little more to the evidence than that. Let’s restore a couple of details that Jack seems to think are irrelevant: (1) I wrote “white police officer” not just “white man,” and (2) I wrote that the black person was unarmed. So now Jack’s question should not be whether whites are inherently racist, but whether white police officers are inherently racist. Further, “inherently racist” is not how I would describe the police. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be “historically racist.” I think that’s pretty much undisputed.

Put all that together, and here’s the worst-case description of what happened to Mike Brown: A member of a group with a history of racist violence, equipped with a sidearm, possibly body armor, and several non-lethal weapons, confronts an unarmed and comparatively vulnerable black man on the street, and despite having a car which can be used for either cover or escape, he gets out and chases the black man down the street and shoots him dead. We have a lot more details now, some of them very important, but I believe that is an accurate summary of what we knew when the story broke that weekend in Ferguson. Further, I don’t think anything in that version of the story is contradicted by anything Officer Wilson has said since.

Obviously, that is by no means a fair version of the story, but suspicions never are. If my wife were murdered by an unknown assailant, police would almost immediately suspect that I had killed her. They would begin investigating me, even if they had no particular reason to suspect me, purely because of the long history of husbands killing their wives. Without any other evidence, the mere fact of her death at the hand of another would be enough evidence to raise their suspicions against me, and those suspicions would guide their investigation. By similar reasoning, when a cop kills a black man, that alone is reason to take a careful, suspicious look at the incident.

Every homicide, including by police, is either an accident, self-defense, or murder. If a cop shoots a guy six times, we can rule out an accident, which makes it either self-defense or murder. Cops shoot lots of people in self-defense, so that seems like the most likely explanation. But given that the dead guy didn’t have a weapon (and lacking a definitive narrative), we should at least consider the possibility that it wasn’t self defense, which brings us to the question of motive. Why would a white cop murder a black guy? There’s whole list of possible reasons, but unless there’s some history between them, racism is right near the top.

Does a white judge sentence a black prisoner harshly? Racism. Does a white superior reprimand a black subordinate? Presumptive racism. Does a black candidate for a job fail to get hired by a white interviewer? Must be racism. A white cop gives a black driver a speeding ticket. Well, look at their colors, man! Racism! Is a white blogger convinced that a black President is a catastrophic, epic, tragic failure? Isn’t that racism? I’m told it is, almost every day.

Statistics matter. History matters. Is there a history of white judges sentencing blacks more harshly than whites? Does the white manager have a history of reprimanding black employees more than white ones? Does the interviewer have a history of rejecting qualified black candidates? Do the police have a history of using their discretion to ticket more blacks than whites? Does the blogger have a history of anti-black racism?

If that answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” that still doesn’t prove racism in a specific instance, but it’s a reason to take a closer look.

Every once in a while, some unknown douchebag (I don’t believe the email headers) sends me an email something like this:

Hi Mark,

Did you see this article?

It’s about Racial violence over Christmas season — all over the country. More than a dozen episodes. All in the last month or so.

Thought it might be grist for your mill.

Mark

p.s. Apparently holidays are a good time for mob violence.

The link is to one of Colin Flaherty’s crazy WorldNetDaily articles about what he calls “racist mob violence” or, when he’s being more direct, “black mob violence.” However, the incidents aren’t just from  “the last month or so.” They’re selected from all over the United States over a two-year period. And Flaherty’s summary descriptions of them aren’t exactly a high point of precision journalism. For example:

In Baton Rouge over the weekend, a mob of 200 black people caused a panic at the Mall of Louisiana after they began fighting and running through the shopping center.

As it turns out, if you follow the story links, a crowd of 200 juveniles, apparently mostly black (as seen in one picture), showed up at the mall for some kind of impromptu meet-and-greet put together via Instagram, and a few fights broke out. Police arrested ten of them and dispersed the rest, calling for their parents to come and pick them up. No serious injuries were reported.

In February, police used pepper spray on a black mob of 600 waiting for the release of a new style of basketball shoe.

Actually, 600 people were waiting outside a store for a new shoe when some guy cut in line, causing a fight. He was the only arrest. A few people fighting in a crowd of 600 does not make for a mob, although police did help control the crowd. Also, this was from eleven months ago, not the recent Christmas season.

In September, WFAB reported Baton Rouge police had to break up a riot of more than 100 black people at a skating rink. One man brandished a gun, and families were “fearing for their lives.

It looks like everyone in the building was black. Flaherty refers to these incidents as “racial” violence, but it looks all black-on-black to me. And again, this was not Christmas.

In Newport News, Va., a black mob broke out in a “large fight” at the Patrick Henry Mall two days after Christmas. Police were called to the mall to quell mob violence involving more than 100 black people.

Actually, a fight broke out in a shopping mall food court. There were no weapons, no injuries, and police arrested five teenagers.

You can see what Flaherty’s doing here. He has obsessively curated a collection of reports of violent incidents at establishments frequented by black people, probably because they are in black neighborhoods. These are real incidents — sometimes an idiot cutting in line at a sale, and sometimes a dozen or so kids who might be gang members — but Flaherty tries to portray these incidents as mob action by attributing the violence to every black person in the building. Thus a fight between a handful of teenagers in a mall food court becomes, in his mind, a riot by every black person in the mall.

The fact that he’s been able to collect a few dozen incidents of this nature isn’t all that shocking when you consider that the U.S. black population is around 40 million people. There are bound to be thousands of violent goons in any group that size.

Flaherty, however, explains the discrepancies between the reported facts and his summaries a little differently:

In Dallas at the East Texas Mall, police and shopping center officials said a “Black Friday” disturbance was just a scuffle. The video tells a different story: It shows a black mob of more than 100 people fighting, throwing furniture, tossing trash cans, and hurling wreaths – all while police with dogs and tasers try to subdue the crowd.

(“Hurling wreaths”? Oh no! They could put someone’s eye out!)

But that’s not what’s actually in the video. The four or five big black teenagers throwing things at each other are kind of scary, but the other black people in the video are spectators, either watching or taking cover. Police made one arrest for shoplifting. Flaherty’s description of the story is a huge exaggeration of the actual story.

Of course, Flaherty doesn’t see it that way. Everywhere he looks, he sees unruly mobs of black people, and yet the media isn’t reporting the story, and cops aren’t making mass arrests. In Flaherty’s mind, that’s proof of a conspiracy between the police and the media to hide the truth about black mob violence. Because Liberals.

No, really. That’s his theory. Because, you know, police are always reluctant to arrest black people. And the media hates making a big deal out of things.

Update: And to whoever sent this, thanks. You were right, it was something I could write about.

Wow, it looks like somebody hacked into John Derbyshire’s email and sent one of his publishing outlets something that would make him look a racist asshole. I mean, would even a jerk like Derbyshire really write shit like this?

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

Holy Crap!

I keep thinking I must not be getting the joke, that this is some kind of rude satire, and I’m just missing the clues that give it away, like someone who never heard of Chris Rock tuning into the middle of him doing his “Controversy LaRue” character.

In my heart, though, I know Derbyshire’s just a tool.

Update: Derbyshire, who is best known as a writer for National Review, isn’t:

Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.

Cue complaining about NR’s caving in to political correctness in 5…4…3…