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Posts Tagged ‘race’

Many of my more liberal friends profess to be outraged by the incipient racism behind the Arizona immigration law.  Setting aside the question of whether the law actually promotes racial profiling (there are many other, better places to find good information on that question), whether such profiling is a public good is a different matter entirely.  I don’t disagree that the idea of making law enforcement decisions solely on the basis of race is fraught with peril, if not outright unconstitutional.  But consider the following scenarios and see how you might react:

  • You are a tourist in Costa Rica.  You paid several hundred dollars for a room and bus travel to several exotic locales while in country.  Costa Rica has a lot of illegal immigration from Honduras, due to the high disparity in standards of living, employment, and political freedom between the countries.  Costa Rican police have set up checkpoints all over the countryside, where they inspect the paperwork of those traveling the roads.  When your bus arrives at a checkpoint, you realize you forgot your passport at the hotel.  The policeman, realizing that the resort bus is full of tourist gringos, never gets on board and allows it to pass without checking anyone’s documentation.  Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, be outraged that the driver of the car behind the bus (a Latino woman) was asked for her papers, and you were not arrested for failing to travel with yours?
  • Your daughter has been raped.  Based on her statements, a black man with what she believed was an African accent was the perpetrator.  She didn’t see her attacker’s face.  Responding to the APB, a policeman stops a man driving a Toyota with a Kenyan flag bumper sticker because he is driving 10 miles over the speed limit.  During the traffic stop, the policeman realizes the driver has a foreign accent he doesn’t recognize.  He asks for the man’s immigration paperwork, and he cannot produce it, saying he has been in the country for years.  Asked if he is a citizen, the man says no.  Lacking probable cause for a search on the basis of the rape, the policeman arrests the man for failing to carry his green card.  Subsequent investigation of his car and home on the immigration charge lead the police to evidence that prove he committed the rape.  Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, feel uncomfortable that your child’s rapist was detained and investigated on the basis of his immigration status (a question that was only raised because of a sticker on his car and his foreign accent), rather than on any evidence that he raped your daughter?
  • There is a bomb in the airport.  Security footage shows that a young woman in a pantsuit placed the bomb behind a trash can.  You have been detained, along with everyone who was on Concourse C at the time the bomb was found.  They are questioning everyone in alphabetical order.  You are an 72-year-old Asian man named Wang with diabetes who needs to check his insulin level.  You are prohibited from accessing your luggage until security has finished questioning everyone.  Your wife, who was walking back from the bathroom on Concourse B at the time of the incident, has been waiting with your test kit outside the interview room for five hours.  You are starting to feel lightheaded.  You’ve asked for medical attention, and they are calling for it now.  But as a fair-minded liberal, are you glad that your government is consistently applying the law by holding you for questioning?
  • You just took a new job, and you have been randomly selected for an audit of your I-9 form.  Although you presented a copy of your Social Security Card and birth certificate to your employer during orientation, you are now required to present them — along with five other forms of identification — to a federal agent two weeks after you start your job.  You also have to provide the names of seven references who can vouch for your citizenship.   A week later, you learn that one form of I.D. you presented was found to be inadmissible (the bureaucrat issuing the document spelled your middle name as “Jeffrey,” not “Jeffery,” although you’d never noticed before).  You are expected to present a replacement form of I.D. within 24 hours to the federal agent.  You aren’t sure where you’re going to get that, and it will require you to miss the day of work.  Having been at your job less than 30 days, you don’t have any paid vacation.  Your boss wonders why you’re being investigated by the federal government, but he begrudgingly offers unpaid time off to take care of it.  Two of your friends you used as references call and ask why they were asked if they knew where you had been born (they didn’t know — was that a problem?) by a U.S. Marshal.  You know that your great-grandparents arrived in this country in 1911 on a boat from Finland, and you’ve never left the country but once on a family vacation to Jamaica when you were 12.  You get your backup I.D. to the Federal Building one hour before the office closes, and you return to a pile of extra work from your skeptical boss the next day.  Are you, a fair-minded liberal, edified through this process that the Department of Homeland Security is wisely employing its resources to ensure that illegal immigration in this country is being curbed?

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Today’s theme is quality time:

  • A high school teacher in Alexandria writes a moving, yet troubling, article in Sunday’s Washington Post, exploring why his students are about to graduate without an education (hint: it’s missing fathers and busy mothers).  The immutable, bracing tragedy of it all comes flying at you from the first sentence.  How is THIS not a national crisis worthy of a national debate?  One reason — the side on which the truth lies is out of bounds for polite discussion.
  • One provocative opinion on why we spend less time with our kids these days comes from And Now You Know: it’s taxes.  I’m still thinking about how much I agree with the post — could we instead be working for lifestyle more than taxes?  are our kids merely entertaining themselves in more solitary ways? — but the fact that I’ve thought about it for a good day or two means it’s worth a look.
  • Harkening back to yesterday’s post (a record day at the Letters, by the way – thanks to all who stopped by), Power Line tells us that President Obama has turned down Germany’s invitation to join its celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I’m surprised – I thought the guy was all about striking Reaganesque and Kennedyesque poses.  This Administration is willing to make a trip across the Atlantic for four and half hours of wooing Olympic officials but unwilling to party with a key ally as it remembers the epic moment of its national reunion.  Apparently all Obama wanted out of Berlin was its votes?

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Several outfits have polled the question raised by former President Carter: are those who oppose Obama’s policies motivated by racism?  Fox News did a version of this, with the following question:

Thinking about Barack Obama’s policies, some people say [A:those who oppose Obama’s policies are mostly motivated by racism], while others say [B: opposition to Obama’s policies is based on honest disagreements] — which comes closer to your view?

The results showed that 65 percent think the disagreements are honest, and 20 percent* think they are borne out of racism (9 percent some of both, 5 percent not sure).  That sounds good – a 40 percent spread.

But consider that in the same poll, 48 percent of those polled opposed Obama’s handling of health care, and 44 percent supported it.  Since we can reasonably assume that the 48 percent who oppose Obamacare didn’t call themselves and their fellow travelers racists, that means of the 52 percent who either support Obamacare or aren’t sure, THIRTY-EIGHT PERCENT of them think that Americans are MOSTLY motivated by race when they oppose Obama’s policies.

Consider also that African-American respondents polled almost opposite to the country — 65 percent said race was the primary motivator for opponents, while 27 percent said opponents had honest disagreements.  That’s a shocking total — and evidence that the election of a black President did not result in a sea change in the way black Americans view the political landscape overall.  Sadly, we’re a long way from a post-racial America, folks.

*Note that this number is also quite similar to the 22% who believe that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.  The size and scope of the left-wing lunatic fringe is further delineated.

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Marque’s Note: I know this is a long post with long quotes – anathema in the blogging world.  I also know that the mere juxtaposition of these passages will be considered outrageous by some.  But I think a fair-minded reader will be struck by the troubling similarities in the perspectives and conclusions made by these two bright, accomplished Americans.

“Who am I? I am a ‘Newyorkrican.’ For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil – rice, beans and pork – that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs’ tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Carribean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish.

[…]

If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla – pig’s intestine – to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

[…]

The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law.

[…]

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor — I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area – Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, “to judge is an exercise of power” and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives – no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging,” I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father’s visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

[…]

Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

— Judge Sonia Sotomayor, ‘A Latina Judge’s Voice,’ Berkeley La Raza Law Journal (Spring 2002)

*****

“A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed.  It will be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition, of education, of conversation, of the sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought to, and born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to their own homes, and their own society: yet many have been so situated, that they might have availed themselves of the conversation of their masters; many have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from that circumstance have always been associated with the whites. Some have been liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and sciences are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before their eyes samples of the best works from abroad. The Indians, with no advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on their pipes not destitute of design and merit. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation. They astonish you with strokes of the most sublime oratory; such as prove their reason and sentiment strong, their imagination glowing and elevated. But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait, of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar roestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem. Ignatius Sancho has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his letters do more honour to the heart than the head. They breathe the purest effusions of friendship and general philanthropy, and shew how great a degree of the latter may be compounded with strong religious zeal. He is often happy in the turn ot his compliments, and his stile is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words. But his imagination is wild and extravagant, escapes incessantly from every restraint of reason and taste, and, in the course of its vagaries, leaves a tract of thought as incoherent and eccentric, as is the course of a meteor through the sky. His subjects should often have led him to a process of sober reasoning: yet we find him always substituting sentiment for demonstration. Upon the whole, though we admit him to the first place among those of his own colour who have presented themselves to the public judgment, yet when we compare him with the writers of the race among whom he lived, and particularly with the epistolary class, in which he has taken his own stand, we are compelled to enroll him at the bottom of the column. This criticism supposes the letters published under his name to be genuine, and to have received amendment from no other hand; points which would not be of easy investigation. The improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life. . . .”

— Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

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I have watched and read Juan Williams for years now, mostly as a commentator on Fox News.  I often find myself laughing or scoffing at his points, but I also acknowledge that he is a fundamentally good guy.  This morning’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, though, brings my respect for him to an entirely new level.  Just as only a President Obama can tell the black community it must take more responsibility and expect less of government, so can only a Juan Williams call out his media colleagues for taking it easy on the first black president.  An example of his wisdom:

If his presidency is to represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone else — fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism — then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.

Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist.

This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.

Amen, brother.

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