Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You only have to be racist against one group to be a racist

One thing I’ve always noticed about Seattle is that most whites who imagine themselves to be “liberal” are friendly with at least one black person. The caveat to this is that this black person must be inoffensive , not make one feel “uncomfortable,”  and speak “well”—denoting “intelligence.” Wearing eye glasses is a plus, “denoting” a certain level of “restraint”; after all, who’s going to get into a fight or assault someone if they are deprived of their vision? Otherwise, these “liberals” tend to avoid places where blacks congregate, because they have the same “fears” and paranoia that whites who are not “liberal” have.

On the other hand, these same people seem loathe to give a Latino the same, well, “respect.” Perhaps this is due to the belief that they do not share the same “values” or “culture,” thus nothing in “common.” Or perhaps it is because they don’t look very “intelligent” to them, and it degrades the image they have of themselves to be seen with one. 

There is, naturally, another “caveat” to this theory; using the example of Jodi Arias, the Latina who was convicted of the first degree murder of a Caucasian man who she fancied as her future “mate.”  Arias’ self-conceit boggles the mind; to update people, a penalty phase retrial is upcoming after the initial jury failed to reach a consensus on the death penalty, and Arias has declared that she intends to be her own “attorney”—still under the self-deception that she can fool a jury even with all of her previous lying exposed. But the thing that always “fascinated” me was here was another Latina who was a white man’s strumpet—willingly performing any and all sexual acts to snag him. This is how some people “purchase” false social “status.”

But for the most part this is a failed endeavor, and it isn’t just on one side of the racial divide. Many blacks also harbor racial resentment toward Latinos, blaming them even more than whites for their jobless problems. It is never pointed out that Latinos seem more willing to “travel” to where the jobs are; you don’t necessarily need technical training, just the willingness to work whether you “like” a job or not. Another thing I notice is that some workplaces (such as King County Metro) that hire only white and black employees deliberately exclude “Mexicans” because both groups view them as the “enemy” threatening their job security.  After all, they are not “real” Americans like they are.

So, being between white and black bigotry is to be between a rock and a hard place. That Latinos are accused of failing to “assimilate” and remain within an “alien” culture is more due to this “wall” created by whites and blacks to enclose them—much as Jews were “enclosed” in their ghettos for centuries in Europe because of their “alien” beliefs and “race.” Both groups—but mainly black commentators—choose to “soften” or conceal their racism against Latinos by using the term “ethnicity” rather than “race” to describe their prejudice against them. The problem with this bit of mendacity is that within this hodgepodge of “ethnicity” are separate races—white, indigenous and black; those of indigenous or mixed-race blood are those most likely to encounter prejudice based not on their “ethnicity,” but  a reaction based on the non-white qualities of their genetics—thus their “race.” That is what racism is.

Yet we are still confronted with white “justification” and black denial. Take for instance two recent shooting incidents. Both whites and blacks have joined hands to protest the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Black are always more demonstrative of the injustices perpetrated on them than are Latinos, and self-conscious whites are always “eager” to show “solidarity” with them. Obviously I find it intensely hypocritical of the same white people who display paranoia and fear of “suspicious-looking” blacks at night would show this “solidarity” for the slain black “kid” who robbed a convenience store and acted “tough” with the diminutive clerk—and then was certainly guilty of at least an altercation with a police officer while trying to avoid arrest, leading to the shooting. Was shooting to kill by police “justified”? No, but shouldn’t people—especially those who commit crimes—know that it is foolish to grapple with another person who has a “license” to shoot? 

Jerry Large of the Seattle Times is one of those who does not believe that the black community in general should be held responsible for criminal activity—or individually, for that matter. In a recent column in the Times, Large (who is black) avoided the question of black accountability, announcing that “As a citizen, I’m more concerned about the potential for ill created when people sworn to uphold the law do wrong than by individual acts of wrongdoing” and “most people in poor communities are no more inclined toward misbehavior or crime than anyone else, but anytime there are lots of jobless young men without prospects clustered together, some will go wrong.” Large also claimed that “it is white people who make government policy, control businesses, shape education and administer justice — all of which affect whether and how mainstreaming happens for people at the economic and social margins.” 

The funny thing is that I’ve said as much here in the recent past.  The problem is that I didn’t use it to “justify” or even “explain”  crime, especially violent crime. It is one thing for someone who is not black to recognize the effect of racism, and quite another for the offended party to soft-pedal the very real failure of how one deals with prejudice, and I accuse some in the Latino community of the same; I feel nothing but contempt for “thugs” and “gangstas” regardless of their race or “ethnicity.” Life is short, and you have to find ways to get past the bigots and make life worth living; that doesn’t include committing crimes that harm others who are complete strangers and have never harmed you personally. Many people who claim to have been thwarted in their opportunities “gave up” long before they even tried—no doubt influenced by the “making it real” rap artists they look to for “inspiration.” 

But what really bothers me about Large’s views is that I remember something he told me in an email some years ago. During the anti-Latino immigration propaganda campaign started by Republicans and abetted by so-called “populist” commentators, Large wrote a column about how immigration negatively affects employment for blacks, and angered about this I responded that blacks wouldn’t have this “problem” if they accepted so-called “undesirable” jobs like Latinos rather than complain about them and quit after a few days. Of course Large was insulted by this insinuation, claiming that “everyone” complains about their jobs, although he avoided the other part of the observation. Was I making a broad generality? Yes, I stand guilty of that; but on the other hand, Large still refused to confront reality face to face; his personal life trajectory was the exception, not the rule.  He didn’t answer the question of why he “made it” and not others. If he was to admit to any dysfunction in his community, this would only give more credence to what was generally understood but not spoken of. Better to blame Latinos for “stealing” jobs that “belong” to blacks.

Those who think that whites are only guilty of racism are thus quite mistaken. I remember former Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert Jamieson, who is black, admit that during a community “meeting” some years ago to discuss the placement of a day labor office in a mostly black community, he was struck cold by the ugly anti-Latino racism expressed by the black audience.  And why should this not be true of supposedly “progressive” and “educated” blacks—such as those who work for the Times? I certainly have taken issue with the negative propaganda the Times has passed on as “fact” concerning immigration issues, and its so-called “minority and social issues” reporter (who the last time I checked was black) certainly has no knowledge of or has ever bothered to understand the perspective of the local Latino community.

And who was the Times employee who composed the uncredited “Why didn’t the Kent shooting story mention race” piece, in reference to the unconscionable slaying of the two convenience store employees I mentioned last week? What “race” would want to take “credit” for this act, outside a white supremacist (one of the victims was Hispanic), or a black jihadist who felt his murders were “justified” by the deaths of co-religionists supposedly the fault of Americans? Certainly not someone on the Times staff, no doubt a black employee. The piece included the following examples of “righteous” indignation:

In the case of the Kent shootings, at no time did police offer a description of the gunman or passenger. A witness at the scene who spoke to the gunman told The Times he wasn’t even sure what the man looked like.

We will include race or ethnicity when it becomes a key factor in a story.

We don’t let other media outlets determine what we publish. We don’t want to publish misleading information. And we don’t want to fall for stereotypes.

The article then “rationalizes” its position by pointing toward “misinformation” about the race of the shooter: “Killers were black? I am willing to bet $100 they were.” The writer then throws in this tidbit at the very end:

On Thursday, the suspected gunman claimed the confrontation began when other men directed ethnic slurs toward him. The suspect, Leland Russell Jr., is Hispanic, according to the probable-cause document.

So there, he wasn’t black, you racists, he was “Hispanic.” So much for not playing into “stereotypes.”

Unfortunately for the author of this bit of hypocrisy, that isn’t so “cut and dry” either.  After going through an indignant explanation for not identifying someone by race, someone on the Times staff decided to identify the shooter as “Hispanic” anyways. The problem is that while we do know one of the victims was “Hispanic,” and the shooter’s companion was black, Leland Dean Russell Jr. is not however, your typical “Hispanic” name.  Was his father white or black?  But what about witnesses on a Fox 13 news broadcast that day who specifically identified the shooter as “black”?  Local news affiliate KING-5 also stated that "A gas station customer said two young black men in a black Cadillac parked awkwardly at a gas pump"

Secondly, the shooter did not claim that “ethnic” slurs were directed at him by the construction workers; he claimed that racial slurs were addressed to him  and his companion. Why did the writer of this article falsely use the term “ethnic”? Is it because that in his or her mind only blacks are victims of racism, so if you say “ethnic” it isn’t really the same ugly thing? No Latino or “Hispanic” would use the term “ethnic” slurs for the bigotry directed at them; only self-involved black commentators use that turn. So by using it, we are supposed to “assume” that the shooter was “Hispanic,” and not black—again, which is what the witnesses claimed.

The shooter may turn out to be “Hispanic,” but why trust an embittered Times employee who is likely black and angry that people would assume the shooter was black? Of course, most shootings in Seattle are by blacks as are their victims, but these don’t get much play in the media—probably because they are “commonplace” and thus not newsworthy (only in Kent would extensive resources—including that of federal immigration agents—be brought to bear to solve a three-year-old gang shooting incident despite the lack of cooperation of witnesses); but why add to the total if it can be avoided? Admittedly, murders are committed by Latinos, and so what is another one to add to the “criminal” inclinations that current propaganda applies to them? 

I am waiting for the Times to post a photo of the shooter, which it would certainly have done by now if the shooter wasn’t black. I have frequently talked about the Times’ hypocrisy, and have accused it of racism in its reporting on Latinos. Here we have evidence that the Times—which has never employed a Latino on its staff who had (or has) the competence to speak to Latino concerns in this country as its largest minority group—may be scapegoating a targeted group of which it has been exposed as having a culture of discrimination against. What the Times—and blacks—don’t seem to understand is that you can run, but you can’t hide from your own racism, even if you do use the term “ethnicity” to conceal it. 

Which brings me to this final thought: People in this country think there is nothing wrong with or objectionable about open displays of bigotry against Latinos—by whites or blacks. But they are wrong. You only have to be racist against one group to be a racist.

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