Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spinning the Unspinnable

Daily Evergreen managing editor Lisa Waananen is desperately trying to spin the unspinnable on the Evergreen's Editorial Blog.

She writes:
Our position is that if any members of our community perceive racism, it becomes an issue the entire community must address. We’re not judges; we’re proponents of open discussion.
Well, some members of the WSU community percieve that the CES department is filled with intolerant, foul-mouthed, and unprofessional professors. Where's the editorial and open discussion on that? What if some members of the community perceived that Muslim students were potential terrorists? Please, spare us the soliloquy. The Evergreen only editorializes and debates viewpoints which conform to a particular liberal and PC orthodoxy. Not every perception deserves public discussion or debate, particularly if no real proof or evidence can be presented. Often, they are simply solutions in search of a problem.

But you must always remember that perception quickly becomes reality, especially when it is memorialized in newspaper ink. It is an awesome responsibility. A printed public apology would be much better than spinmeistering on a blog.

12 comments:

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

"Our position is that if any members of our community perceive racism, it becomes an issue the entire community must address. We’re not judges; we’re proponents of open discussion."

Two words for Lisa: "White s-bag."

Her words ring hollow.

Moebius Cube said...

I want to say in advance that the Daily Evergreen showed poor journalistic judgment in having Mr. Boston write an editorial based on a news story he was involved in. However, other than his version of the events that night (I wasn’t there I can’t know, but witnesses have differing reports) his editorial about racial bias in taser use nationwide is backed up by the evidence. In one telling study Houston police data show that out of 1,000 cases of taser use 63% of the suspects were black out of a population that is only 25% black (http://www.washingtonpost.
com/wp-dyn/content/article
/2006/12/17/AR200612170078
5.html). The following are just a few cases of excessive use of tasers against minorities:

Seattle had to pay $25,000 for excessive force when police tasered a teenager for a traffic violation after they thought his reaching for a cell phone was a weapon (http://seattlepi.nwsource.
com/local/191724_taser21.h
tml). Evergreen police tasered a pregnant woman at her wedding reception after responding to a noise violation (http://www.nbc4.tv/news/37
68716/detail.html). In Kansas City police tasered Reverend Gregg Wilson after he refused to cooperate with an unwarranted search (http://www.thekansascitych
annel.com/news/3715643/det
ail.html). At UCLA police tasered a Middle-Eastern student five times for not showing his student ID and refusing to leave (http://www.youtube.com/wat
ch?v=AyvrqcxNIFs&eurl=). Miami-Dade police officers faced 10 lawsuits for unlawful taser use -- including on a twelve-year old girl and six-year old boy (http://www.wesh.com/news/3
934647/detail.html).

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and speak to an institutional problem in police conduct. In an ACLU review of 33 deaths involving Tasers they found that 90 percent of the suspects did not brandish weapons and two-thirds of the deceased fit the category of people who are psychologically agitated, intoxicated or have pre-existing heart problems. In Colorado incidents involving tasering handcuffed individuals (targeting one man in the genitals) amounted to “deliberate torture.” (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-
bin/article.cgi?f=/chronic
le/archive/2004/09/26/BAGV
R8VCR71.DTL). Amnesty International has even called on the United States to offer a moratorium on taser use because there are widespread concerns that it amounts to “excessive and lethal force.” (http://web.amnesty.org/lib
rary/index/ENGAMR511392004).

I don’t know what happened that night and neither do most of the people responding to this issue. However, Mr. Boston is correct that we should be concerned about the uses of tasers in situations that are unwarranted.

April E. Coggins said...

Moebius Cube: Your examples are cherry-picked and fail miserably in telling the complete story. But I suspect that you have no interest in the complete story. Selective outrage is more your style.

Scotty said...

This is not going to be popular to say, but maybe there were 63% of the taserings at black men because it was actually necessary to use it. Just because there is a certain population of black people in an area does not mean that the percentage of taserings should equal it.

Look at the percentage of taserings for men vs. women. There is a difference. It is not because men are 90% of the population. It is because men tend to fight more than women.

It is not about race. You attempt to make it about race. It is about who is fighting and resisting and who is not!

Moebius Cube said...

Scotty,

Regardless if it's popular to say or not, what exactly ARE you saying? Are you suggesting that black men are "biologically" more prone to violence than white men? You suggest this is the case for differences in tasering frequencies between men and women, and I would tend to agree with you. This is a sexist argument, but I think it's an accurate sexist argument based on the different biological (primarily testosterone level) differences. But what evidence do you have to suggest that black men are more violent? When you start talking about biological differences in behavior between races you're on dangerous ground. We share 99.4% of our DNA with chimpanzees and, as Stanford geneticist Cavalli-Sforza has stated, "We are preoccupied by skin color differences, which give us the impression that the 'races' differ greatly. That's not true. It is extremely rare to find other genes with the same degree of variance as skin color. All the other genetic differences are very small."

If there are no significant differences in biology than the only conclusion is that the different treatment by police towards black suspects is the result of social forces. Why are police responding so differently towards blacks than whites?

Based on Bureau of Justice Statistics white offenders made up 67% of all arrests since 1994 and yet blacks outnumber whites in federal and state prisons by 48% to 47% (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/). Why the disparity? You could make the argument that economics is the primary factor. But then you're right back to questioning why blacks are more likely to be poor than whites. I know it's an uncomfortable view to accept, but racism is very much prevalent in today's society. I'm sure you had no intention of suggesting a racist argument before, but when you're saying that race is the reason people are more violent you are using racist language.

April E. Coggins said...

Scotty,
As you probably know, since it was reported everywhere except in our priviledged student newspaper, there was a taser used on a white male the very same day and under similar circumstances. The Big Brother Selective Committee at the Evergreen is making sure that story isn't circulated.
It would be easier to support free speech for the Evergreen if they supported free speech themselves. Unfortunately, they are the first in line to suppress opinions and even factual events, that detract from their political message.

April E. Coggins said...

Moebius Cube:
Is it possible for you to see people as individuals instead of defining everyone as a member of a race? Are white people under tasered? Is this a quota thing?

Moebius Cube said...

April,

I'm perfectly comfortable with viewing people as individuals. And, no, I don't think white people are "under tasered." But when you see statistical analyses as skewed as these figures are (and the Bureau of Justice Statistics is hardly a controversial source) it should make even the most conservative person stop and think. What causes the higher number of cases within a specific group? It's only been forty years since interracial marriage was illegal (as well as a host of Jim Crow era laws). It shouldn't be a surprise if racism is still a lingering problem. I think we should address the problem directly and continue our work towards a colorblind society. I know we can get there, but we can't will it into being. We first have to acknowledge the problem.

April E. Coggins said...

Moebius Cube: I hope that you can agree that more but different racism is not the answer.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

Moebius -

You went down you racial biology tangent a little too quickly there. Scotty did not imply that there is an underlying biological difference between blacks and whites that accounts for the disparity in taser use by race amongst specific populations. He only raised the possibility that the number of blacks who were tasered had to do with the number of blacks who involved themselves in situations in which it was required.

You write: "If there are no significant differences in biology than [sic] the only conclusion is that the different treatment by police towards black suspects is the result of social forces. Why are police responding so differently towards blacks than whites?"

The better (and real) question is: what were the 630 black suspects doing that led to them being tasered?

You write: "Based on Bureau of Justice Statistics white offenders made up 67% of all arrests since 1994 and yet blacks outnumber whites in federal and state prisons by 48% to 47% (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/). Why the disparity?"

Again, what are the crimes involved? Someone can be arrested for a vast number of reasons, and many actions logged as arrests can result in immediate release. An acquaintance of mine who is on the WSU police force recently stopped someone for a moving violation, subsequently discovered marijuana in this individual's possession, for which he was officially arrested, cited, and then let go (after his pot was confiscated, of course). Therefore, comparing arrests to incarcerations without taking into account the nature of the crimes involved is misleading.

You write:"Why the disparity? You could make the argument that economics is the primary factor. But then you're right back to questioning why blacks are more likely to be poor than whites. I know it's an uncomfortable view to accept, but racism is very much prevalent in today's society."

You appear to be making the claim that racism leads to economic disadvantage for individual blacks, which in turn leads some of them to begin committing crimes. This is an interesting turn from your prior reasoning, since you are now admitting that the disparity in involvement of individual blacks with the justice system might start from their own actions.

But there's an obvious correlation that you're overlooking here: criminal activity is economically disadvantageous, so criminals tend to be poorer on average. This is true. What's worse, widespread criminal activity can depress the economic health of entire regions, so people other than the criminals who happen to live in proximity to them suffer. Economic disadvantage no doubt feeds criminal activity, so there's a vicious cycle involved that is driven by a number of factors. You are trying to cast this issue as if there is one factor involved, racism, which is easily shown to be an oversimplification and likely wrong.

You write:"I'm sure you had no intention of suggesting a racist argument before, but when you're saying that race is the reason people are more violent you are using racist language."

And we're back to the beginning. Again, Scotty's argument was not racist. You've essentially attempted to engaged in an indirect ad hominem.

Moebius Cube said...

I think this is where a lot of well meaning people get it wrong. Suggesting that racism exists, or even telling someone that they're using racist language is not being racist. Racism is defined as "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."

So when the Nation of Islam would announce that all white people are evil, that is being racist because it's targeting a group as a whole. But that's only part of the story. The negative AFFECT of racism, rather than just the definition, has to come from a position of privilege. So when the Nation of Islam would use racist language it had no affect on the targets of that racism because white's as a whole hold the vast majority of positions of power and authority. This privilege doesn't have to be institutional or financial, but also psychological. Remember the experiment in the 1950s where black girls were asked to choose whether a white doll or a black doll was ugly? The girls overwhelmingly chose the black doll because of how they'd been taught to think about themselves. That still exists today in what psychologist David Sears calls symbolic or subtle racism (since laws have attempted to eliminate the overt kind).

Sears' version of the new racism describes a more elusive, political, almost abstract language of race which avoids blatantly negative racist statements in favor of political codewords and symbols. This new racism is partly based on a view of racial discrimination as being outdated and puts the onus of achievement and equality on blacks and other ethnic minority people. If blacks would, for example, stop clamoring for special treatment and simply work harder, they could achieve the American Dream. The idea is that it is black's own deficiencies whether they be greed, laziness, violence, and so on that are the cause of their problems, not the history of slavery, segregation, discrimination, prejudice, and racism which is assumed to have come to an end (http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/racism/homepage.html).

This is a long answer to a seemingly straightforward question, but I hope I've shown that this is a complicated issue and does require a little work on our parts (who enjoy a level of privilege) to understand the affects this has on blacks and other minorities. It certainly deserves more than flippant responses disregarding the entire issue.

Paul - You've made some great points and I appreciate someone putting time into thinking about this. I just read your post after finishing this one, so I'll have to get back to you a bit later.

Cheers.

April E. Coggins said...

I resent this statement: "This is a long answer to a seemingly straightforward question, but I hope I've shown that this is a complicated issue and does require a little work on our parts (who enjoy a level of privilege) to understand the affects this has on blacks and other minorities. It certainly deserves more than flippant responses disregarding the entire issue."
How would you know what "privilege" I have enjoyed and why would you presume that I have had any? What are the assumptions that you are making? You are taking a careless leap, one that you cannot possibly back-up.