The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    Arguing Double Standards

    While the Trayvon Martin case slowly unfolds in Florida, supporters of shooter George Zimmerman feel compelled to play up any sort of black-on-white violence to prove that it's all good. On local Baltimore TV, over the last month or so, we've seen endless replays of a white man getting punched to the ground by a group of black people at supposedly safe Inner Harbor.

    Last week, Republican Delegate Patrick McDonough, whose district includes parts of Baltimore County and Harford County, but not Baltimore City, issued a press release, "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays." Claiming that state investments were at risk, he called for Gov. Martin O'Malley to declare the Inner Harbor a "no-travel zone." Despite accusations of racism, McDonough now has called for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to resign because she is soft on black-on-white street violence. It's all red meat for his district.

    For conservative website WorldNetDaily, Colin Flaherty author of “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It,”  writes Call for crackdown on black-on-white terror. Yeah, terror.

    The Inner Harbor is a dangerous place for residents and visitors,” said McDonough. “And it does us no good to avoid this hard truth: Black youth are responsible for a sustained and dangerous period of violence in one of Baltimore’s nicest neighborhoods.”
    McDonough’s “aha” moment came two months ago when he and his wife were in the area for a charity fundraising dinner.

    “This was a Wednesday night,” he said. “And when I stopped at a traffic light, I saw a hundred young black people in the next block over fighting and walking down the middle of the street.

    “There were no police around. No police reports. And no stories in the paper. Violence and mayhem among young black people in the Inner Harbor is the new norm,” said McDonough. “And this has to stop.”

    McDonough’s comments were echoed by many callers to his talk show on WCMB in Baltimore and by a New Jersey tourist as well.

    “My husband and I came to Inner Harbor last month and stayed at a hotel there,” said the visitor to Baltimore who did not wish to be identified. “That night, we looked out our hotel window and saw at least 100 black people walking down the middle of the street, fighting and acting in a menacing way. The police did not show up for at least an hour. When I got back to New Jersey, I was curious about what happened. Then I learned there were no police reports. No newspaper stories. It was as if it had never happened.”
    McDonough was seemingly unfazed by the whirlwind of criticism facing him for his remarks.

    “The Good Book says speak the truth and fear not,” he said. “And for everything they are calling me, you will notice they are not saying one thing. No one is saying that what I said is untrue.”

    It was kind of sad finding WND, because one of their writers is Barry Farber, who penned a tiresome screed, The Homosexuals are Overreaching under a byline, The Gaying of America.  I used to listen to Farber's talk show on WMAL in the 1960s and 70s, and he seemed like an open-minded enough guy back then, with his closing tag line, "I'm Barry Farber, Keep Askin' Questions." Why did you start hatin' on gays, Barry?

    I'm familiar with the complaint that the media under-report black violence. Even in the 1970s my parents used to complain that the Washington Post rarely identified the race of criminals, and preferred more conservative papers, like the departed Washington Star and the Unification Church's Washington Times. My Dad persists in reading the declining Times for politics, but also grabs a Post for decent coverage of sports.

    More recently I browsed a back-and-forth between Chez Pazienza and Bob Cesca, individual bloggers who also write for The Daily Banter and who also do a weekly podcast together. They mostly agree on stuff, but had different takes on media reporting of race:

    First Pazienza: Yes, When It Comes to Race, There Is a Double-Standard

    I want to stress one more time, because it’s that important: I have no idea whether race played a role in this recent attack and I won’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it did. But it’s a news outlet’s job to dispassionately report the facts, even if it’s to impress upon the public that not enough is known about a news item to make a judgment call. But the press generally doesn’t do that when it comes to issues of race and violence, not when the victim is white and the assailant is black. As Goldberg says, they’re holding the two groups to different standards when it comes to what they’re willing to say about them without unequivocal evidence. When a power-drunk white guy in Florida shoots an unarmed black teen, it’s asked whether the attack was racially motivated. And it should be. When an angry mob of young black men and women attack a couple of white reporters, trashing their car and sending them to the hospital, the possibility that the attack was racially motivated isn’t even discussed, out of fear of offending anyone or fueling an ugly stereotype. And, again, it should be.

    Then Cesca: Black-on-White Crime and the Reasons for a Double-Standard

    To be clear, none of these historical realities exculpates the crimes committed in Norfolk or Sanford or wherever. A crime is a crime and the people responsible for attacking Forster and Rostami should be arrested and charged (one person is already in custody). But this exhaustively lengthy context begins to explain why the crimes occur and how/why they’re covered. If the press is a little tentative about covering black-on-white crime, especially when it’s a minor non-fatal assault like the Forster/Rostami case, we can begin to understand why with the proper background. We can also understand, given all of these reasons, why a white-on-black crime might harken back to any of the countless atrocities committed against blacks by the white-dominated American power structure and, subsequently, we can also understand why African American activists like Al Sharpton and others are outraged when it happens. It makes complete sense given the prologue of the past.

    Yes, there’s a double-standard. And until there’s full equality and the long slow process of racial healing is completed, the double-standard has to remain.

    As for the media allegedly ignoring what appear to be black-on-white crimes, ask anyone associated with the coverage of the O.J. Simpson case if that’s true.

    Then Pazienza again: The Black-and-White Media Double-Standard: Yes, But is it Right?

    I'm not saying that the media don't report black-on-white crime. Of course they do. Jesus, in a lot of places — mostly local news markets — it's almost all they do. The difference — the double-standard — occurs when it comes time to tag a crime as racially motivated or to acknowledge a racial component within a crime. When there’s a possibility of labeling a crime racially motivated, the burden of proof is much higher in a black-on-white crime than it is in one that’s white-on-black. I understand completely the history involved — which Bob outlined nicely — and how and why that can come into play, but I’m still not sure that makes it right from the standpoint of journalistic ethics. From what I’ve seen, it would take a person or a group literally shouting “I hate white people” while kicking somebody’s ass for many in the media to report that a black-on-white crime had racial overtones — and if it didn’t appear at first glance to have overt racial overtones they almost certainly wouldn’t go looking any deeper for them.

    I can't agree with Cesca's claim that we have to accept a journalistic double standard—we should always demand accuracy. Pazienza's assertion that the burden-of-proof is higher strikes me differently than how he presents it. There certainly is racial antipathy out there, but in many cases crime is just about money or territory or anger or class or even different customs, such as when the black cop emptied his weapon into the black man who grabbed his wife's rear end.  

    If criminals would issue press releases saying, White man successfully terrorized or White drivers chased away or Black trespasser executed it would be as clear as reading McDonough's Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore ... that they were primarily concerned about race. But the most obvious explanation of a tourist getting mugged at Inner Harbor is that he was vulnerable and they wanted his wallet and smartphone, not that they cared that he was white. The most obvious explanation of reporters getting harassed in Norfolk is that they were strangers in the neighborhood. The most obvious explanation of Trayvon Martin being followed is that he was stranger in the neighborhood. Yes there may well be racial overtones, but there's an economic and class divide fueling racial divisions as well, so those have to be considered.

    The real problem is that reporters should offer more proof of racism, and everything else, than, "Some say."


    There is a whole class of arguments that get posed in the abstract when they can only be answered in specific cases. This is one of them, I think.

    The slippery slope argument is also one of them. Any kind of change can be characterized as one step down a slippery slope toward much more extreme or maximalist outcomes.

    So someone on these pages recently made the argument about marriage equality: "It's a slippery slope. If two men can marry, why can't a man marry his daughter or a dog?"

    Well, if you keep the argument at a distance from key specifics, then indeed marriage equality could be construed as a slippery slope to bestiality. Logically, it's hard to know where to draw the line.

    But as soon as we note that inbreeding and couples where one party is inherently more powerful than the other aren't healthy, physically or psychologically, it isn't that hard to make distinctions. To see where to put the brakes on.

    Some cases might be harder than others to decide, but that's no reason to give up and say that, logically, it's impossible to decide.

    Same thing here...

    If white on black crime is racist, why isn't black on white crime racist, too? And it may be racist in the sense that the black attacker hates the white victim because he's white or represents "white people."

    But when we talk about "racism" in this context, I don't think we're really talking about the feelings and attitudes that are unique to one individual attacker.

    The point of hate crimes legislation, as I see it, starts with the recognition that there's a power differential between two groups which, over many years, has led to one group oppressing the other. Or enabled one group to oppress the other.

    The crime is then seen as an expression of this power differential and as an act of intimidation toward the less powerful group. What happened to Matthew Sheppard was bad, but it was also bad for the rest of the gay community. The crime acted as a warning shot over the bow of the gay community's collective "boat."

    Now, after eons of being oppressed, it is tempting, maybe even natural, for the oppressed group to dish out some of the medicine it's been forced to swallow. So gangs of black youth may, as the description says, be walking around in search of some whites to intimidate, or even hurt.

    But in the larger social context, black people don't have the power to intimidate white people. They are fewer in number. Tend to be less well off. And just have fewer resources all around. Especially the people described above.

    So yes, these gangs may have racist motivations in attacking or intimidating white folk, but I wouldn't call these acts racist in the same sense I would white on black crime. If anything, they are a reaction to the racism that's been meted out to them.

    And just so we don't go down this dreary path, I'm not suggesting that black on white crime not be punished to the full extent of the law. Nor am I suggesting that excuses be made. All I'm saying is that black on white crime needs to be understood from a different perspective than racially motivated white on black crime.


    A question not asked is - does it matter if it's racially motivated?

    People attack each other over something: race, money envy, sexual fury, drunken stupidity, religion, emergency, greed, self-preservation, responding to a slight, etc.

    If George Zimmerman had seen some unknown white dude in a hoodie, he would have followed him. Black guy in a suit? Doubtful. Girl of any color? No chance.

    Well established fact - dudes be doing stupid shit 24x7, dudettes not so much.

    2nd well established fact - we all profile, and we're genetically programmed to do it. Something out of place, unusual, gets noticed. Patterns get noticed. 

    We can override programming, but not all of it should be overridden. How we should react depends on different info. As someone noted the other day, couple fighting from window above - will it turn dangerous or not? Hard judgment call. Someone out of place walking through neighborhood? 95% chance it's innocent & non-threatening - how to respond?

    (offending 19 people for every 1 that should be checked? allowing something unfortunate every 20th time in the name of tolerance?)

    Our focus on the racist aspect of things often leads us off the rails. The attempt to classify George Zimmerman as racist caused a number of serious media mistakes that haven't been corrected, when the basic issue was whether he was an overeager neighborhood watch guy that got out of control, period.

    OJ Simpson's case was so unabout race it's not funny, except for how the verdict was seen from different races' eyes. 


    Attempt to classify Zimmerman as a racist are tangential. Questioning whether race played a factor in the failure of local police to charge him for shooting an unarmed young black man, or even investigate the evidence, is another matter entirely.

    But they did investigate evidence, despite initial media reports - they took his gun, they took his clothes, they took him to the station for questioning... They contacted Martin's father the next morning, contrary to media reports...

    Whether the police did a good & thorough job of investigating is a different question, in which case your race question comes in, though one investigator wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter that night, which makes it sound like some consideration went into it.

    Not enough consideration to give Zimmerman a drug and alcohol test.

    Yeah, but you test one Zimmerman, you gotta test all Zimmermans.

    Follow-on comments should begin with Infidels, cover a wide swath of material (and not just the early albums), and conclude in the saddest, but most obvious, place.

    Concluding in the saddest and most obvious (to me) place.

    The inner George Zimmerman

    Oh no, not the born again albums? Or singing "We Shall Overcome"?

    So he told them he had prescription drugs in his system. Not sure what a drug test would have helped - whether he drank or not, he killed someone. Don't think drugs is an alibi for manslaughter, so wouldn't change the evidence. Likely the police would have noticed any significant smell of alcohol, and as he'd been driving out of the complex, less likely he'd been drinking.... etc., etc.

    I'd want to know if someone  on neighborhood watch, and carrying a weapon while on mind-altering drugs.

    But he wasn't on neighborhood watch when he shot Martin according to latest reports.  Regardless, I think anytime there is a shooting, testing should be done to ascertain if drugs or alcohol is in shooter's system.

    Well someone claiming to be on neighborhood watch, then.

    No, from near beginning it was known that while a member of Neighborhood Watch, he was just driving from his home out of the gated community when he saw Trayvon Martin - i.e. not on duty, but he reported the unknown person to 911.

    The pictures in the NY Times, etc. make this clear- Zimmerman's apartment was on the back right, Martin's on the back left, the cut-through from 7-11 on the front right, the cut-through to Martin's on the front left, the exit & clubhouse front center.



    Not being on duty, but acting as if you were would be an even better argument for a drug and alcohol test.

    Come on, Neighborhood Watch isn't always that formal - just "keep an eye out" - and it's typically all about calling 911.

    So you normally walk on Tuesdays, but you see an open window on Thursday and you can't call 911 or check it out without "acting as if you were"?

    First, he wasn't on neighborhood watch, now it isn't that formal. You're arguing in circles and avoiding the point that they didn't do the obvious test.

    It does seem slightly bizarre not to charge someone who has just killed an unarmed person...and to let him go.

    It feels even more bizarre that it took a PR campaign to force the authorities into charging him and holding a trial.

    Are police in the habit of simply taking the word of someone who's just killed someone else at face value?

    A question not asked is - does it matter if it's racially motivated?

    The guy is dead either way, but sure it matters. That's the rationale behind hate crimes legislation.

    If George Zimmerman had seen some unknown white dude in a hoodie, he would have followed him. Black guy in a suit? Doubtful. Girl of any color? No chance.

    How do you know?

    Yes, while hate crimes legislation has a "rationale", is it actually useful or meaningful?

    I only see an issue whether homicide is premeditated, justifiable, etc. Should the penalty change if someone kills me because they don't like my jokes or what state I'm from or my school vs. they don't like my skin color or gender? 

    "How do you know?" Obviously I don't. It was a "surmise", somewhat based on Zimmerman's work with minorities and somewhat based on general cultural attitudes and habits.

    I think the penalty should change.

    If you kill someone because of personal animus or because you don't like his jokes, your act doesn't serve to intimidate members of the Bad Joke Tellers of America.

    But if you kill someone who is a member of a group that is oppressed or has been oppressed, then you're sending a wider message of intimidation toward that group.

    So we'll protect short people and skinny people now with hate crimes legislation? Any crime against females, unless they're seriously bulked up? A grownup taking advantage of a kid is intimidation to kids everywhere - another instance. How about if Occupy Wall Street threatens bankers - is that a hate crime because of intent to intimidate?

    How about if there's a conspiracy to target more than one person, there be the 2nd charge of conspiracy to target more than one person. No need to create special privilege or protection. If there's especially premeditated crime, rather than a common racial flare-up, you use the premeditation in sentencing.

    You see, you're arguing the absurd to make your point.

    This is the same problem we have with the slippery slope argument.

    You take the logical form of the argument, but strip out all the content and assume that we can't make distinctions based on history and facts, even if they aren't cut and dried.

    Just off hand...

    The group as a group must have been subjected to well-established hate, discrimination and intimidation over time that substantially impinged on its freedom, safety, and even flourishing.

    So, in the case of blacks and Jews, we have burning crosses and swastikas...

    These are dynamic judgments. Our understanding of a group's situation may change over time and the group's situation may change over time. Moreover, just because we might want to consider a group's inclusion under hate crimes protection--and accept or reject it--doesn't mean all groups must be included, nor that no group can be protected if all groups aren't protected.

    Wait a second - burning a cross is a specific act, beating someone up is a 2nd. If you want to make burning a cross illegal when used as harassment or intimidation, fine - define an appropriate statute. Beating someone up is already legal - adding a 2nd charge because they beat them up for being black, rather than ugly, obnoxious, foreign, female, or whatever is just  arbitrary. Conspiracy to threaten a group is already illegal - why does it matter whether they're black, Jewish, Vietnamese, short, disabled, Republican, gay, whatever?

    As for slippery slope, we have enough slippery slopes that aren't theoretical - a guy was convicted of abetting Al Qaeda purely from translating & posting Web content. We have terrorism laws used for drug enforcement, and now drones are being rolled out over the US.

    But to bring it back to the point, strong people do intimidate weak people every day - older vs. younger, male vs. female, rich vs. poor, majority vs. minority, healthy vs. disabled.

    If a school bully steals lunch money from the younger grade every day, I still don't get why it's significantly different from picking on the skinniest in class or picking on those with brown skin. It's still an abuse of power, it still demands correction. 

    I think you're a bit entangled here, but I can't stop to disentangle. Maybe later.

    Let me just say, burning a cross is a specific act, yes, but with a larger purpose. If we prohibit that one act but ignore the purpose, we leave open a wide array of other acts with the same intention and the same impact.

    If we say we can't discern this "larger purpose" and it doesn't matter, then why ban cross burning? Actually burning a cross is a fairly benign act in and of itself. Generally speaking, no harm is done. No one gets hurt. No property is damaged.

    We don't ban cross burning because of the act per se; we ban it because of what it means and what it is intended to do.

    Less than 7K crimes were labeled hate crimes by the FBI in 2010. Of those with racial bias, 69.8% were anti-black and 18.2 were anti- white. Of those with religious bias, 65.4% were anti-Jewish. About 30% of the hate crimes were property damage and aproximately 30% involved intimidation. 

    58.6 of the hate crime offenders were white.  18.4% were black.

    If someone burns a cross when a black family moves in, it is meant to send a warning to other black families.

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