Posts from ‘Race’


I spanked my child only one time.  It took me about a week to get over it.  He was 2 or 3 at the time and he started to run out into the middle of the street. I rationalized that this was a life or death situation and he was too young to have a rational discussion about this.  He had to learn not to do this if he were to survive and he had to learn the simple equation that running into the street was a no-no, that it was associated with pain. I was reminded of this with the media coverage and the viral video of the Baltimore mother who was seen hitting her teenage son for throwing rocks at the police during the Baltimore protests. Many praised the mother’s actions in hitting her teenage son.  It showed a parent taking charge and disciplining here son when he took actions that were in their eyes “bad.” Some may have seen it as proof that for black boys harsh discipline and violence was necessary to keep them in line. Further interviews revealed that her concern was not so much about protecting property, respecting police authority, or not participating in illegal and frowned upon acts.  Her major concern was as mine had been: keeping her child safe and out of danger.  In this case the danger was police violence against black youth.

This may have fueled those who feel that the problem is black youth behavior and not police over-reaction.  If black youth simply submitted to police authority even when police actions stepped over the line, they wouldn’t be beaten or killed. Those of us old enough to remember recall that this was also a criticism of the civil rights protesters of the 50’s and 60’s. If they had passively submitted to Jim Crow they wouldn’t have brought down the wrath of Bull Connor and countless other law enforcement officials. One may argue that the rock throwing and all was not done by the peaceful protesters, but by youths just caught up in the mob violence of the occasion. However this ignores the acts of police violence that set off this situation in the first place and the countless acts of the police before, during and after the protests.

Let’s get back to the so-called “Mother of the Year.” Her actions were not a support of the status quo or of ensuring the proper attitude toward society and the police.  They were an indictment and recognition of the reality of police violence.  She was doing what she thought was the only thing she could do.  She couldn’t change the police so she was getting her child away from them.
She saw it as a life or death situation, an emergency when she did not have time to argue with her son.  She did the most expedient thing; she resorted to violence to protect her child as I had done many years before.

Our society has a a major divide on whether it is acceptable to use violence to discipline your child.  Adrian Peterson, the NFL running back, was suspended for corporeally punishing his four year old child.  This mother was cheered for corporeally punishing her teenage child. There are people on either side of the argument who believe passionately in their view. Let us not allow this dispute to make us lose sight of the central issue here: Freddy Gray. The issue in the foreground here here should not be parenting and it should not be not child abuse. There is a time and place for talking about both of those things.  The real issues here are so contentious and so frightening we welcome the opportunity to pursue a sideshow. Unless we deal with the core issues the situations will keep on repeating themselves.


I was watching Jon Stewart’s takedown of the Fox News coverage of the Ferguson, Missouri outrage. As is usually the case it was brilliantly done. My favorite part was Fox News’ Sean Hannity explaining how he would act if stopped by a policeman and implicitly saying that black men should do likewise.  He said that he would put his empty hands out the window, then get out of the car, pull up his shirt to show that he had a handgun in his waistband and explain that he had a permit to carry that weapon. The look of incredulity on Stewart’s face and his first comment “you really have no f*cking idea do you?” mirrored my sentiments exactly. I suspected but did not have the proof that they were so far gone.  They live in a world not just of fiction, but of science fiction where there is an alternate reality working.

After I had finished marveling at the depths of Hannity’s delusion I began to wonder how he might go about confirming that he was right.  He could ask inner city black males how they think they would be treated if they behaved as he suggested.  Oh that’s right Mr. Hannity probably doesn’t know any inner city black males from personal experience.  Hmm, how about asking some of the police who work the inner city beat how they would respond to a black man or a white man for that matter who behaved as Mr. Hannity suggests. Or better yet why doesn’t Fox News try a little experiment and have actors act out Mr. Hannity’s little scenario in an inner city setting for real cops and see what happens. What, no volunteers.  Well maybe then we could just hire actors to like ABC does with its “What Would You Do” series.  The form releasing Fox News from any damages that may result, might be a tough sell to any actors but some may be hard up enough to take the job.

It occurs to me however that Fox News commentators may be so comfortable living in their delusions (think back to election night last year and Karl Rove refusing to believe Mitt Romney had lost) that the last thing they want is to test them out in the real world. Perhaps some secretly know they are delusions and suspect how such tests might work out. I think that this is what (among a list of things) I hate most about them.  I hate their arrogance that presumes their self righteousness without any evidence beyond their own belief systems or their hypocrisy in knowing what they spout could not stand up to real world testing. At that they are no different from bloggers like me sometimes are.  They however  presume to be journalists, have an audience of millions and a responsibility as journalists to check their facts in order not to mislead that audience. Their failure to do so is leading many people to a view of the world that is so unrealistic as to promise a car wreck further down the road.


A little while ago there was a Facebook challenge circulating among my friends: quickly list 10 books that were important to you without thinking about it too much. Not being one to be constrained by the rules I wanted to do it but with some thought rather than quickly and not necessarily with 10 books. My list is considerably different from those of my friends and colleagues but I always was an odd duck. The first book is one few will have read but many will have heard of: Moby Dick. I read it for the first time when I checked out a copy from the adult section of my public library (it may have been the first “adult” book I read.) I was 11-12 at the time. I read it as an adventure story just skimming over the long boring parts to get on with the exciting ones. In other words I read it as a young boy would. It is important to me not for that first reading but because of my second.  Later in high school it was on a summer reading list and I re-read it presumably because it would take less time to read something I had read before. I was amazed at how different it was.  Those parts that had seemed so boring to me before suddenly became the more interesting.  The discourse on whiteness, the subtle racism toward Queequeg, the historical context, and above all the vengeance obsession became parts that strangely interested me.  I then had the sudden insight that it was me who had changed not the book. This was a new idea to me. A reader brought his “baggage”, into the reading of a book.  It was his situation, his spot within the life cycle, his experiences, other books he had read, his knowledge of the world at that moment, into each reading of a book. I resolved to re-read Moby Dick every ten years or so believing new parts of the book would reveal themselves to me each time.  Sadly I have not followed through on this pledge though I have re-read many books since.

The second reading experience I want to talk about is really not a book at all. In  high school we were assigned to research an historical event. I chose the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  Why? I had heard that it was an important case in a history that involved African Americans like me.  In addition it had happened within my lifetime but I knew little about it because I was only four years old at the time. I don’t remember my elders talking about it in 1954 but that may have just been me. The high school had an excellent library and I was able to research much of the media reaction at the time of the decision. I didn’t end up digging too deeply into the case’s roots nor the long drawn out attempts to circumvent it that followed.  Looking back it was a pretty rudimentary project, but it was my first history project with primary materials.  At the time I enjoyed doing it though I did not realize how central to me history would become. More to the point it was the first time I realized how out of touch with the world I truly was.  It was 1966 and momentous things had been happening around me my entire life and I was only peripherally aware of them.  Of course the civil rights movement had been an exciting television show in my house, but I had neither the historical knowledge nor the life experiences to appreciate it. Little did I know that all hell was about to break loose when I arrived in college in 1967.

I did not read the next two books until long afterwards. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and Country of My Skull by a female Afrikaner named Antje Krug.  I group these two together because they provide the yin and the yang of South Africa. Together they embody the hope that in South Africa’s future they can meet in the middle and be better people for it. Mandela’s book is about how to make integrity pragmatic.  He knew that he was opposed by people who feared the future he represented.  He knew that the way to win them over was to show them through his own magnanimity, show him through his respect for them and demand for their respect of him, show him through his rationality and steadfastness, that their fears were groundless. Krug’s book is about her coverage as a journalist of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.  She has to learn of the injustices committed in the name of ordinary Afrikaners by the racist regime. She also had to learn what Mandela was teaching: that the only true future lay in respect not fear of blacks. Given recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere those are lessons folks in our country need to learn too.

(To be Continued)


Recently a friend sent me this Chris Rock video and asked me what I thought of it.  She was appalled by it but many of her friends and acquaintances liked it. Admittedly humor is a multi-leveled thing and viewers take different things out of it. This is the problem with ironic art.  This is especially true of African American humor where a subordinate (the fancy word is subaltern) hides their criticism of the dominant culture in code or behind masks. On the surface this is about how black behavior either one’s own or that of a companion may precipitate police beatings.

On one level it can be seen as a criticism of black behavior; on another an inventory of police overreaction, both of which lead to the beatings and by extension the shootings that have become an epidemic. As a criticism of black behavior it is aimed both at the black community and to those whites who believe this stereotypical behavior is shared among most African Americans. In these roles it becomes a revelation of a ‘dirty little secret” that the license of humor allows to be aired.

For black folks it is an exhortation to clean up their behavior albeit a humorous and satiric one. This is nothing new. Recently we have heard it from Bill Cosby, Barack Obama and most recently Al Sharpton in his “eulogy” at Michael Brown’s funeral. These exhortations at least have the virtue of claiming that African Americans have some control over their lives by modifying their behavior. The problem here is that it is not true. Oh it is certainly true that among a group as diverse as African Americans we all know someone who would behave in these ways. What is not true is that it makes the difference between being treated fairly by the police and being beaten or being hired and not being hired or being suspended from school and not being suspended or getting ahead and being left behind. Study after study has shown this. Individual behavior does not alter the stereotypes to which most African Americans are subject. No matter how well one behaves at some point someone is going to judge you by the stereotype and not your behavior. This makes all the self-flagellation about black behavior moot.

For whites, even those sympathetic to the African American cause, it allows them to breathe a sigh of relief because these stereotypes have indeed crossed their minds. To have as major a validator as Chris Rock confirm and excuse these perhaps subconscious but at least hidden thoughts, is a blessing. Comedian Dave Chapelle walked away from a multi-million dollar deal for the continuation of his comedy show when he realized that his popularity was because others had taken his humor in the wrong way. They were taking it as a confirmation of their stereotypes rather than the send up of them he had intended. Perhaps Chris Rock will one day realize that his humor is a double edged sword. Perhaps not.

The other side of the Chris Rock video is that these, let’s call them quirks of black behavior, provoke a gratuitous violent reaction among police officers. This is the subversive subaltern view of the dominant power structure. Chris Rock is also saying that these behaviors among African Americans may trigger [not an accidental use of the word]  behavior by police but it in no way justifies it. In each example the black behavior falls far short of what it should take to lead to police violence. Taken as the satire that I believe was its intent, the video mocks the idea that there is a “proper” mode of behavior by blacks that will not lead to police beatings.  Even the most trivial of black “mis-behaviors” may bring about dire consequences. Indeed this is the problem with all the “it’s their own damn fault” arguments. Blacks never know what behaviors will set off the police, even innocent ones may do so. The safest course is to avoid the police altogether. However some contact is unavoidable given what must be done to survive in the inner cities and the mission of the police.

The black litmus test for racism is “Would a white person have been treated the same way?” When simple acts like jaywalking or walking in the middle of the road may bring about police action in black neighborhoods when no one would even care in white ones, when belligerence by whites may or may not bring about police violence, when vague descriptions cause innocent blacks to be stopped and detained when whites would not be, when black behavior is viewed more suspiciously than whites doing the same thing, then we have a racial problem.


There is nothing that would justify in my mind the shooting of an unarmed man down on his knees with his hands in the air by a police officer, soldier or anyone else particularly those who we have authorized to use deadly force on our behalf. Nothing. I just wanted to get that off the table first.

I really want to talk about the great divide of opinion over the incident. Many support the police officer and cite “reports” of Michael Brown’s robbery of a convenience store a few minutes earlier, Brown’s use of marijuana, and Brown’s physical struggle with the policeman in the officer’s police car as the incidents which set events in motion. A few days ago, there was even a false report of physical injury like a broken eye socket that was inflicted on the police officer presumably by Brown. These reports come from official and unofficial sources that range from the Ferguson police department to shadowy unnamed friends of the police officer. Some use these “reports” as justification for the officer’s action in shooting Brown citing the threat that a six foot four “hopped-up-on-drugs thug” (to quote one person on Facebook which is always an impeccable source) who even when unarmed might cause an officer to to fire out of fear or anger. Those who hold this view usually have positive or sympathetic views of the police officer and negative stereotypical views of the victim.

In contrast the people in the Ferguson black community have positive or sympathetic views of the victim and negative stereotypical views of the police officer. They concentrate not on anything that may have precipitated the officer’s actions but on the act of shooting Michael Brown. They rely on the reports of eyewitnesses who say Brown was surrendering when he was shot and not threatening the police officer in any way. To be fair the testimony of eyewitnesses has been shown in court to be questionable as folks bend their memories to fit what they think is happening, forget some details while recalling others real or imaginary, and to not always be truthful. Similarly, the “reports’ of those in authority have been known to be selective, self serving and even doctored. Those reports from shadowy unauthorized sources who claimed to know the police officer are not worth the air time they are given. They are the result of an overactive media who rushes to fill its air time and will jump to any conclusion, use any source and even fabricate things to do so. My point is that whatever side you are on in these two differing views of the event the evidence is at best not unimpeachable or complete and at worst flimsy.

This has not stopped people on either side from strongly holding their views of this incident. It is a spectacular example of what psychologists call confirmation bias. Both sides are making assumptions and holding preconceptions perhaps based on past experience or perhaps not; based on stereotypes and perceived truths or not. Confirmation bias is the tendency to believe evidence that supports our preconceptions and discount evidence to the contrary. This phenomenon has been commented on for almost 500 years.  In 1620 Francis Bacon wrote:

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects: in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

Great thinkers and non-thinkers alike have to recognize and perhaps guard against confirmation bias lest the truth become another casualty. In a larger sense the truth of this incident is less important than the reality of the situation.  The purpose of the games of dueling evidence, character assassination or build up, is not to establish the truth but to confirm our biases. As long as police see themselves as the front line in a war against crime and the protectors of the white community rather than the black one, they will think of the people they police as animals to be contained rather than fellow human beings. As we have seen in every war soldiers have to dehumanize the people they kill by thinking of them as “gooks”, “rag heads” or in this case “n*ggers” in order to do the job they think they have to do. Much of the black community thinks of them as an army of occupation rather than the nice officer who is there to protect them because that is how they have been treated too often. If we are to move forward out of this cycle, we need at least to recognize how we endlessly repeat our flawed thinking, talking, and behaving about these issues. Most of all we have to change the reality of the situation to change the thinking and behavior.  In the heat of battle this may seem like a luxury. Indeed, putting the police on notice that the continued killing of unarmed black men will no longer be tolerated may be the highest priority right now. Let this small voice in the wilderness call for us not merely to use this tragedy to confirm our assumptions, prejudices, preconceptions and stereotypes. Let Michael Brown’s sacrifice not be in vain.


The America that poor people and people of color live in is already an America few middle and upper class whites refuse to recognize. It is an America where police and others in authority are not on your side; an America where there is no right to assemble and protest; an America where you can be hassled by the police just for walking down the street; an America that is sustained by the human sacrifice of a black life every now and then; an America where there is no justice. It is an America that will continue until whites understand that it is coming for them too or until it is too late.


I just saw the 12 Years a Slave movie.  To get this out of the way first it is an excellent movie with top notch writing, acting, cinematography and directing. I have used the book in my classes at times and of all the slave narratives I have assigned it is the one that has elicited the most response.  There is something about the tale of once having been free and then becoming unjustly enslaved that amplifies the injustice, cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. Steve McQueen has done an excellent job of translating the essence of the book to the screen. The real question is whether we still need such reminders of the horrors of slavery in contemporary society? Do we still need a movie like this when most whites can say “I don’t own any slaves?”

To remove the suspense my short answer is “yes.” The slavery of African Americans was based on the idea of the subhuman bestiality of an entire race.  We can argue whether it was the white race or the black race, but the assumption that the other is not a human being worthy of the protections, practices, and civility accorded other human beings is the core of the slave system. Unfortunately that belief has outlived United States’ slavery which for the record was practiced for 300 years. This belief in black folks’ not-fully-human status has underlay the 100 years of “Jim Crow” and the continuing era of second class citizenship that has followed slavery. We can see it today in the bleating of Fox News and Tea party conservatives who try to rationalize it in non-racial terms. They say or pursue policies based on the idea that black folks are inherently violent, lazy, or less intelligent and need to be treated differently than white folks.  This is of course the same rationale that the slave-owners used even though they were disproven on a daily basis. It is this foundation belief that the movie attacks with incidents of Solomon demonstrating his intelligence even though he suffers for it, black workers who pick several times more cotton than white workers, and slaves who let their slaveholders live even when they could have murdered them in their sleep. Just as in slavery contemporary capitalist America could not function if African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and women were truly the people the mythology used to keep white males in power says they are. If Trayvon Martin were indeed the model of the inherently violent black teenager that the defense says he was, he would have shot George Zimmerman on sight. If blacks lacked any work ethic as Newt Gingrich stated then why are almost 90% in the work force or looking for a job. If immigrants are just looking for free social benefits why have they had a long history of doing the worst jobs, raising themselves up and advancing in our society?

The presence of these ideas submerged, subconscious or fully acknowledged in our political debates is proof that we still need to be reminded where these ideas come from, how they have entered our collective conscious.  While I as other reviewers am given pause by yet another movie about black victimization, whipping or rape porn, and white folks doing black folks wrong, I do endorse this one.  It shocks and disgusts by showing that white neuroses, psychoses and relationship problems were played out on black bodies. The movie certainly subtly shows the toll slavery has on whites but that is not the major point.  Too many Hollywood movies assume a white male gaze leads to profitability and therefore concern themselves primarily with white protagonists. This one doesn’t. I saw it with a predominantly white and full audience. I hope others see it and recognize it as demonstrating where that path of the assumed inferiority of others can lead. More to the point I hope they see and recognize those ideas in contemporary political debates so they don’t fall for this ideology even when it is hidden in color blind language.


Recently we have seen the fiftieth anniversary of two seminal events in the history of the civil rights movement: the 1963 March on Washington and the Birmingham church bombing. Each event has something to tell us about race and oppression, but are we learning the right lessons?  At the March on Washington anniversary celebration the weekend before the actual anniversary we had another gathering of fewer people but we had speakers to remind the crowd of how we may have made some progress but we still have far to go. On the Wednesday of the actual anniversary we again had speeches from leaders including President Obama though they couldn’t hold a candle to the originals. I have often felt that there has been too much emphasis on the speakers rather than the audience. Although Martin Luther King’s oratory on that day soared I always felt that he would disagree with the constant reminder that that speech became what is remembered about that day. It smacks of what he called “the drum major instinct” where leaders become enamored of the notoriety and fame of their place at the head of the band. I have always felt that historians and teachers have placed too much of their lessons on the few who were on the stage rather than the many who were in the audience.  After all it is the band that makes the music and without them the drum major is just a man flapping his arms. The real heroes of that day, indeed of the entire civil rights movement, were the ordinary people who did extraordinary things like travel by car, bus or foot to Washington D.C. that day. They are the ones who, often at the risk of injury or death, marched, sat-in, protested, or tried to vote.  They are the ones who worked to end the indignities, fear and violence that was a part of segregation.

The other anniversary to note is the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four little girls and injured others. It was an action whose savagery, location, and innocent victims shocked America and made clear the violence that enforced and underlay segregation. A major part of King’s nonviolent action was to make that violence manifest itself by bringing it down upon himself and his fellow civil rights workers. The hope was that their clearly undeserved suffering would stir the consciences of Americans. The leaders of Birmingham were  happy to oblige. The adolescent industry of television was able to broadcast it to the entire country and the world.  Newspapers around the world blared headlines so loud that civil rights became a Cold War foreign policy issue for the U.S. government. The bombing of the church and the deaths of these children made the country and world understand that what southerners wanted to present as a peculiar social practice was actually enforced by murder, hatred and viciousness.

I have often told students that oppression can’t be maintained by violence alone.  There is a psychological component to it in which the people being oppressed have to be so intimidated by violence that they accept their oppression as an unfortunate but unchangeable reality.  They may even accept the logic or rationale upon which their oppression is based. Franz Fanon has explored this psychological aspect of oppression through out his work especially in Wretched of the Earth. He concludes that the oppressed, in his case the colonized, can, must, and will throw off their psychological acceptance of their oppression.  For Fanon this can only be done through violence against the oppressor.  His model and experience of this was the Algerian battle against the French forever immortalized in the magnificent film The Battle of Algiers. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to do this nonviolently and it is in this context that we need to view the March on Washington. The march was an attempt to bring all the people who were working on the front-lines of the battle against racism together.  It was an occasion to demonstrate the widespread support that the movement had, an occasion to show the foot soldiers that they were not alone, an occasion to provide inspiration to continue and an occasion to demonstrate that the movement was an interracial one. It was acknowledgement, encouragement and respite for those who had successfully overcome the psychological bonds of racism.

Just as the victims of racism had to overcome their belief in its inevitability and sometimes their belief in their own inferiority, the perpetrators of racism and the silent majority who allowed it to occur, had to overcome their sense of its correctness, inevitability and necessity. Racism’s underlying logic was that there was an inferiority among all blacks and a superiority among all whites that made segregation or second class treatment of African Americans the thing to do. Segregation was only common sense since God had made blacks inferior and entrusted their care to superior whites. The Birmingham bombing shattered the self righteousness of their belief in segregation. Even if they still believed in the inferiority of blacks could they accept what the maintenance of the racist system required or led to? Were you really superior if you had to bomb churches and kill children to prove it? In blindly following the logic of their system could they live with what they had become? The bombing produced cracks in the support of the segregation system, cracks that would eventually bring about its downfall.

Amid all the hoopla it is therefore necessary to examine these events for their real meaning and not the one popular culture, superficial history, politics and the media give to them. I believe their weakening of the psychological aspects of oppression were key.


There is an old African American proverb that was born in the mists of time: “White people be crazy”. This is less a statement about mental health and more a statement about lack of understanding motivation. It is used to account for foolish and otherwise inexplicable behavior of white folks that goes against reality, common sense, decent conduct or  proper upbringing. If for example one looks at horror films in which the white protagonists do something that furthers the plot but otherwise makes no sense, then the catch-all explanation is that “white people be crazy.” That lone man who stood in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square might be explained by “Asian people be crazy” but making him into a hero in white mainstream media is another example of “white people be crazy.” Tea Party statements especially anything Michele Bachman says are full of “white people be crazy” examples. Continue Reading


NPR reports that a poll shows a wide difference between blacks and whites about whether the Trayvon Martin case was about race. This is not new.  The wide difference between blacks and whites about the existence of racism or its presence in a given situation has shown up for all of the sixty plus years I’ve been alive.  Whites believe that without the intent of racism the act was not racist.  Setting aside for the moment whether an intent is racial or not, most African Americans decide whether an act is racist by the consequences rather than the intent. Even if the intent is not racial (or more commonly whites have rationalized the intent into the delusion that it is not racial) if the consequences affect blacks negatively they would label it as racial.

African Americans have a simple test.  If the races of the protagonists in the actions had been different would the consequences have been different? If they would then the act was indeed racist. Would Trayvon Martin have been pursued by George Zimmerman if Trayvon had been white?  Would Zimmerman  have felt in fear of his life if Trayvon had been white?  Would Zimmerman have shot Trayvon if Trayvon had been white? To the whites who support Zimmerman the answer would have been yes to all these questions.  They would argue that he was simply protecting his community and then himself. For blacks and some whites who condemn Zimmerman the answer to these questions would be no. They would argue that Zimmerman was himself responding to a picture of black youth as potentially criminal that permeates the media and popular culture. This is the image of Trayvon that his defense team apparently successfully conveyed to the jury.

The process of rationalizing intent as non racial is the subject of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s book Racism without Racists: Color Blind Racism and the persistence of Racial Inequality in America, which I recommend to all interested in this subject. In the book Bonilla-Silva shows that many whites believe unless someone shows personal prejudice holding racist views of the difference between whites and other groups (and many do) their actions cannot be called racist.  The fact that most objective studies verify the existence of racial inequality is attributed to history, failures on the part of African Americans, Latino or other non whites to get over historic racism, and systematic or structural racism for which no one is to blame. Any complicity (and most complicity is denied) they may have in these inequalities is rationalized away by attributing them to non racial motives.

I want to be fair here. To white America if the intent of an action can be shown to be racial the penalty is quite high. Paula Deen’s admission that she used the n word made the intent of her actions racial and brought down the wrath of corporate America upon her. The crime of which she was actually accused became secondary to her use of the word many years ago.  Conversely the Supreme Court in striking down part of the Voting Rights Law ruled that Congress had to provide a more recent proof that the criteria for proving the intent of voting restrictions was indeed racial in order to invoke the law. This is indeed consistent with the color blind racism that Bonilla-Silva discusses.

I will certainly defer to my colleagues in the legal profession as to the role intent or consequences play in the law. My layman’s view is that sometimes intent does as in the distinctions between first degree murder, second degree murder or manslaughter and in cases of libel. However most times it doesn’t. Lack of intent may mitigate the punishment for breaking the law but it doesn’t always show that no law was broken. So let it be with racism. If an action has the consequence of racial inequity whether intentional or not, that action is racist.  That applies to racial profiling, following innocent blacks around in stores, populating our jails with inordinate numbers of non whites, or treating non whites differently in our legal system. If the effects are racially unequal or disproportionate we should be alerted that something racial is going on. Blaming the victim is not enough.   Whites rationalize their actions as with the cop who says “most crimes are committed by blacks just look at our jails” or the store owner who follows blacks because he assumes they are most likely to shoplift from him (hello Winona Ryder.) Just as rationalizing the surveillance of non whites to fight terrorism allows the Tim McVeigh’s and Tsarnov brothers to have a clear path, the racial “assumptions” in other parts of our criminal “justice” system allow whites to get away with things while we are over-pursuing blacks. This cannot be in our best interests.