Monday, April 9, 2012

The lost art of free thinking

Tulsa, Oklahoma—the scene of a shooting spree that killed three black men over the weekend—certainly has a history of racial strife. I have written here about the 1921 race riot, in the context of a long simmering “envy” by local whites of a neighborhood christened the black “Wall Street,” and yet again how merely the (false) rumor of a black male assaulting a white female was the spark that led to the destruction of the neighborhood by rampaging whites and bi-planes dropping incendiary bombs. I mention this because there was reference made to it in a story concerning the shooting in Tulsa, perpetrated by a man who says he is Native American, and his white roommate; what precisely is the connection between this incident and the 1921 riot is, however, somewhat obscure. But other than engaging in such contextual hyperbole, this recent killing spree is unlikely to receive the kind of media attention that the Trayvon Martin story has generated, which is being squeezed to the last drop (the latest is to use it to drive voter registration—as if there hasn’t been sundry other issues of wider import over the decades to have done so). This is due mainly to the fact that the Tulsa case is (or should be) more “black and white” in its genesis and conception, while the Martin case is far grayer, the result being considerable effort deployed to portray as “innocent” a “kid” who clearly was not—and where the evidence suggests that the actions taken by the initial victimizer led to him becoming a victim.

Also unlike the Martin case, there was clear premeditation in the Tulsa killings—unless, of course, you consider Martin’s decision to attack George Zimmerman as having an element of premeditation. What is also different about the reporting is that this time the media took pains to suggest a “motive” in the Tulsa shootings: The father of the shooter who says he is not white but Native American (and he appears to be), was murdered, and the “person of interest” in the case (who is black) is currently serving time for another crime. We may surmise that there was frustration and a sense of helplessness that the perpetrator might never be brought to justice; after all, murders in urban centers involving minorities are rarely “solved,” mainly because of police and public indifference, and the fact no one wants to “snitch” if it means that they might end-up dead as well; this is not only true of many black neighborhoods, but in Russian, Latino and Southeast Asian communities where gangs rule in a climate of fear and intimidation.

I have no doubt that there are people who will want to connect the Tulsa case with the Martin case, in that blacks are being “targeted.” But this case have very little similarity to the Martin case. For one thing, Zimmerman was not motivated by hate like the Tulsa shooters. For another thing, the Tulsa victims had no link to the “person of interest” other than his skin color; they were not responsible for what that person may or may not have done. And even if they did, it is against the rules of civilized behavior to act against any person who has done you no wrong. In the Martin case, we just have to connect the dots if we choose to be honest about it. I heard Stephanie Miller the other day mangle the English language in an attempt to make it perfectly reasonable that Martin would attack Zimmerman instead of simply continuing on to his father’s girlfriend’s townhouse; Miller’s contempt for evidence-backed alternatives merely makes her the “liberal” version of Sean Hannity and his ilk. In any case, there had in fact been several robberies in the neighborhood in recent weeks (the police reports are there online); Martin was technically not a resident of the neighborhood, and for whatever reason Zimmerman chose to believe he was acting “suspiciously.” Was this completely unjustified? Martin—who had been suspended from school once before for “tardiness”—was caught by school security loitering in the hallways during classes with jewelry and a screwdriver on his person, probably jimmying open wall lockers. It is interesting to note that school officials—knowing that Martin’s father was a “respected” member of the community—used a lesser delinquency to suspend him for on that occasion; that he was not arrested likely further imbued Martin with a sense of immunity and “entitlement.” Zimmerman watched Martin as he passed his vehicle, who then started running, initially in the direction of the nearby back exit—again giving Zimmerman a further rationale to be “suspicious.” And finally, when is the media going to come to grips with the fact that all of the evidence points to the conclusion that Martin both initiated and was the sole perpetrator in the physical altercation, and that he was at least as much responsible for the final denouement as Zimmerman? Had Zimmerman not been armed, Martin would not be dead, but he might have ended-up like Luis Ramirez, who was also attacked by “innocent kids” in Shenandoah, PA. Beyond that, why don’t we also ask where Martin went wrong. His family was comfortably middle class. Why didn’t he take his education—and his future—seriously, instead of getting himself suspended on at least three occasions? Why did he engage in stereotypical “gang” behavior? Was it because he wanted “street cred?” Only his family can explain where he—or they—went wrong. This isn’t People magazine bovine scatology.

There are admittedly a great many things wrong in this country. The anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric doesn’t “discriminate” across legal status lines; Latinos who are native-born citizens are “suspect” merely by association. The fact is that this rhetoric is used by both whites and blacks—especially those who need scapegoats to explain away their own lapses; ugly anti-Latino slurs were used, according to former Seattle P-I columnist Robert Jamieson, by black attendees of a meeting in south Seattle opposed to a day labor facility for mainly Latinos some years ago. Michelle Malkin—who I referred to in a previous post as the “First Lady of Hate”—scours the Internet for stories to “justify” her anti-Latino bigotry. Pat Buchanan told us that Latinos are “out to destroy America.” Who will speak out against this hate speech? And what about Barack Obama? I will give him credit for directing the Justice Department to oppose certain elements of draconian state laws that trample on Latino’s civil rights, but otherwise the ICE under his watch has been even more active than in the Bush years. I will never vote Republican, but I am not at all certain that I will vote in 2012. The fact that the right is keeping a low profile on the Martin case is merely recognition of the left’s habit of eating their own.

And just in case people accuse me of being “insensitive,” I know a thing or two about racial profiling, having described numerous episodes I have experienced right here on this blog. Last week, it was about my encounter with a man driving a mini-cart in an empty parking lot on my way to work; this week, I was walking past the Kent animal shelter (which a few years ago came under fire for poor treatment of animals), when I noticed that high in the trees behind it were at least a dozen nests of birds which may or may not be herons (they appeared too entirely dark, and the reddish egret has dark plumage). I stood outside the fence watching them in fascination, having never seen these birds nesting so close to civilization and in such numbers; I was also hoping that someone who shared my fascination would come outside to confirm to me what species they were. When a white female did come out I called out to her with the inquiry, but she claimed ignorance; in fact she didn’t even bother to look and see what I was pointing at. Someone inside the facility saw this and apparently thought I was threatening her; I noticed that someone opened the door to the front entrance and peered through the glass—apparently too frightened to show (presumably) her face. The next thing I knew, some guy in a security outfit came outside to close and lock the gate; undeterred in my thirst for knowledge, I asked him if he knew what birds they were. He acted somewhat surprised by the question, but confirmed that they were herons. A little further investigation determined that they were probably little blue herons, which unlike great blue herons rarely venture into run-off ditches near industrial parks.

There are other issues people must come to grips with. Black male murder victim rates far exceed that of other racial groups, about 39 per 100,000 according to FBI data—about 6,000 per year (I’ve talked about this before—but in the context that it is 23 times that of the rate for white women, who seem to be the murder victim 90 percent of the time in television media). The problem is that the black male perpetrator rate is even higher—41 per 100,000. Most blacks are killed by other blacks, and this is largely true across the racial divide. The path in life that Trayvon Martin chose to take, seemingly at odds with the presumed middle class values of his parents, may very well have ended as a number in these statistics. And would you have cared then? If you had cared, then it would have required you to question the economic structure in this country, that values obscene profits and executive compensation over jobs, tax cuts that eliminate jobs in the public service sector, anti-affirmative action court rulings and laws (like I-200 in this state)—all which reduce opportunity. But it is too easy to make the glib moral judgment, because it doesn’t cost anything. As the say, talk is cheap; few people want to actually do something if it “costs” them something.

And there is a cost. I do not discuss my views with people at work, but I’m sure “word” gets around. In the last ten days I’ve had a backpack and a plastic clipboard containing all my logs and paperwork stolen at work. At first I was willing to blame a UAL employee with an attitude issue with the disappearance of the backpack, but that was because I was uncertain at what point I recalled seeing it last. After the disappearance of my clipboard, I am fairly certain it was one of “my” people. Then this past weekend, another improperly trained employee put cargo in the wrong location, and while I was putting it in the right location, a black female who I did not know drove right into the wrong place again. I was flustered but said nothing, merely pointing in the direction where her load was supposed to go. I assumed that she would “get it,” but instead her response was to start screaming obscenities at me (I’m not kidding) on cue as if she had planned it. I might have engaged her, but she was doing fine all by herself. I walked back to my “office” without saying a word, which only elicited more obscenities. This is the kind of behavior you would expect from people who think you are their “enemy” simply because you don’t see things exactly their way—especially if you are a member of the despised “ethnicity.”

No comments:

Post a Comment