All posts in Race

Books That Were Important To Me

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

The “It’s Their Own Damn Fault” Argument

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

Evidence of Things Unseen

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

Latent Violence Becomes Manifest

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.

Another “White Folks Done Black Folks Wrong” Song?

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

Two Civil Rights Anniversaries

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

Everything Racial Ain’t Racist; Everything Racist Ain’t Racial

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

What is Racial?

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

A Reply to CNN’s Don Lemon and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly

An economist, one of my former colleagues, challenged one of the central tenets of economics.  Much like physics intro teachers ignored “friction” to produced examples  to focus on what they want you to learn, economists include free choice in the lessons they want to teach. My friend wanted to argue that there is never free choice in economic decisions because there is differential access to information.  People are making their choices not in a free and unconstrained manner but because of the information available to them.  Those with superior information are more likely to make better choices while those with

The Battle Over Obama

President Obama’s administration has been nothing if not controversial. His impromptu statement on Trayvon Martin is a good example. In it he is articulate, reasonable, aware and pragmatic as has been his hallmark. In the end however it is more rhetoric than action and even that has kicked up dust. The right would have us believe that there is no racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, access to voting, education, life chances or health care when the statistics tell us otherwise.  Yet they maintain that this discrimination is not racism but calling America on its discrimination is racism.  It