The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Judge Leon M. Bazile (1965)
denying the motion of Richard and Mildred Loving to vacate their conviction for miscegenation

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.

Rev. Jerry Falwell
“Segregation or Integration: Which?” (1958) Continue reading


Casus Belli, 1861

Tell me again how the American Civil War somehow wasn’t about slavery:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.” Continue reading


The Truths We Hold

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

U.S. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861 Continue reading


8½ Rules of Privilege

As many beautifully-snarky people have pointed out in recent years, it’s getting harder and harder to be White, male, heterosexual, and/or cisgender in this country these days without having to occasionally think about one or more of these identities in ways that might make us uncomfortable. (Full disclosure: I am all of those things listed in the previous sentence.) I have the utmost faith that we can handle it, though, and that we will emerge better for it.

I only recently (i.e. in the past 4-5 years) came to understand the extent to which I do not have to consider how my race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. affect my daily life. Other people do not have that luxury.

I’m not talking about any great epiphany that I had. Really, the most important thing that I have come to understand and accept is this: with respect to people whose lives are not like mine, I don’t understand their daily reality, and I will never fully understand. To put it another way, I get that I don’t get it.

I’ve had numerous discussions on social media and in real life (yes, IRL conversations do still happen, even with people who live glued to a computer like me) recently about how to recognize and understand our various forms of privilege, and how it can be difficult because of the way our society tends to view most of my attributes (White, male, etc.) as the “default” setting.

As a sort of confession, I used to be of the mindset that racism, sexism, etc. were not my fault, because I never owned slaves, I hadn’t even been born when Mad Men took place, and so on. It’s a seductive view for someone who wants to be on the right side of history while keeping a perfectly clear conscience, but it’s not true. Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 23, 2015

Why Mitt Romney’s tax returns are the most important historical document of the 21st century, LOLGOP, EclectaBlog, January 18, 2015

has given us all a tremendous gift by not giving us something — his complete tax returns. The fact that he’s only the second presidential candidate in the last three decades to not release them — the first was fellow Republican multimillionaire John McCain — makes them all more valuable as symbol.

Now when President Obama proposes ending an array of tax breaks for high earners and their heirs, it isn’t a vague proposition. We see Mitt Romney who amassed a great fortune, often by chewing up companies and spitting them out, paying lower tax rates for collecting checks than some pay for collecting bedpans.

It will also be great context when his old running mate Paul Ryan continues to propose cutting Mitt’s taxes during the next Congress.

Who Regrets Slavery? Not Steve Scalise, BooMan, Booman Tribune, January 15, 2015 Continue reading


Allocating Police Resources

The state of Missouri forgets to send a guy to prison for 13 years, and he spends that time leading a productive life and staying out of trouble while never trying to hide (h/t Jason). Then the state notices the mistake and sends a SWAT team to his house.

After he was convicted of armed robbery in 2000, Cornealious Anderson was sentenced to 13 years behind bars and told to await instructions on when and where to report to prison. But those instructions never came.

So Anderson didn’t report. He spent the next 13 years turning his life around  getting married, raising three kids, learning a trade. He made no effort to conceal his identity or whereabouts. Anderson paid taxes and traffic tickets, renewed his driver’s license and registered his businesses.

Not until last year did the Missouri Department of Corrections discover the clerical error that kept him free. Now he’s fighting for release, saying authorities missed their chance to incarcerate him.

In a single day last July, Anderson’s life was turned upside-down.

“They sent a SWAT team to his house,” Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Megaro, said Wednesday. “He was getting his 3-year-old daughter breakfast, and these men with automatic weapons bang on his door.”

Meanwhile, the federal government decides not to bother a Nevada rancher who has been breaking the law for twenty years because someone might get hurt.

It’s not like the Missouri SWAT team could’ve been sent to round up cattle instead, and I really do think it would be dumb if people get killed over that moocher rancher—but it is an interesting statement on the allocation of police resources.


What I’m Reading, March 28, 2014

The Internet, Where Languages Go to Die?, Ross Perlin, Al Jazeera America, March 18, 2014

We’re used to the triumphalist universalism of the digital utopians: Google organizes the world’s information. Facebook connects everyone. Twitter tells you what’s happening. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It’s all true — for a mere 5 percent of the world’s languages.

What few acknowledge is that the online world — when compared with offline, analog diversity — is very nearly a monoculture, an echo chamber where the planet’s few dominant cultures talk among themselves. English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and just a handful of other languages dominate digital communication. Thanks to their sheer size and to the powerful official and commercial forces behind them, the populations that speak and write these languages can plug in, develop the necessary tools and assume that their languages will follow them into an ever-expanding range of virtual realms.

Copyright Alliance Attacks As ‘Repugnant,’ Wants DMCA System With No Public Accountability, TechDirt, March 17, 2014

Sandra Aistars of the Copyright Alliance issued a statement during the recent DMCA-related hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee. As was noted earlier, a bunch of effort was made to turn the “notice and takedown” system into a “notice and stay down” system, and weirdly, the word “free” was thrown about as if it was synonymous with “infringement.”

Her statement details the shortcomings of the DMCA system from the expected position, citing the personal travails of creators like Kathy Wolfe, who for some reason has chosen to spend half her profits battling infringement. In general, it painted a bleak picture for future creativity, claiming that unless infringement is massively curbed, creators will stop creating. (There seems to be no place in this argument about the lowered barriers to entry, and the swell of creation that has enabled.)

But where her statement really goes off the rails (even for the Copyright Alliance) is with the attack on the popular copyright notice clearinghouse, Chilling Effects.

We Shouldn’t Arrest One More Person for Having Marijuana, Dice Raw, Blog of Rights, March 18, 2014

When you look at marijuana arrest data in the U.S., you’ll be floored to know that every 37 seconds, someone gets handcuffed and booked for weed-related crime, and Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be the ones arrested (communities of color have felt this to be true for a long time, and now we have the stats to back us up).

That doesn’t reflect the true voice of the people. In fact, 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. don’t think a person should face jail time for a small amount weed. In 2010 alone, states spent $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws, yet many cities also experienced mass school closings that threaten to hinder the progress of our youth.


What I’m Reading, March 27, 2014

Sometimes You Need A Boogeyman, Anne Laurie, Balloon Juice, March 26, 2014

Republicans have relied for many, many electoral cycles on advertising boogeymonsters to scare voters to turn out and vote against their own best interests. If Democratic candidates are finally beginning to understand that we can, and should, use the vast supply of actual GOP monsters — people like Charles & David Koch, malefactors of great wealth — as an argument for our voters to get down to the polling places, more power to us!

Race Is Real…But Not in the Way Many People Think, Agustín Fuentes, Ph.D., Psychology Today, April 9, 2012

There is currently one biological race in our species: Homo sapiens sapiens. However, that does not mean that what we call “races” (our society’s way of dividing people up) don’t exist.  Societies, like the USA, construct racial classifications, not as units of biology, but as ways to lump together groups of people with varying historical, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or other backgrounds. These categories are not static, they change over time as societies grow and diversify and alter their social, political and historical make-ups. For example, in the USA the Irish were not always “white,” and despite our government’s legal definition, most Hispanics/Latinos are not seen as white today (by themselves or by others).

This is a difficult concept and it seems to come up again and again, so let me provide a few points to bust the myth and to clarify the reality…

There is no genetic sequence unique to blacks or whites or Asians. In fact, these categories don’t reflect biological groupings at all. There is more genetic variation in the diverse populations from the continent of Africa (who some would lump into a “black” category) than exists in ALL populations from outside of Africa (the rest of the world) combined!

There are no specific racial genes. There are no genes that make blacks in the USA more susceptible to high blood pressure, just as there are no genes for particular kinds of cancers that can be assigned to only one racial grouping. There is no neurological patterning that distinguishes races from one another, nor are there patterns in muscle development and structure, digestive tracts, hand-eye coordination, or any other such measures.

Charles Murray Responds To Allegations Of Racism Following Paul Ryan Remarks, Caitlin MacNeal, Talking Points Memo, March 18, 2014

Charles Murray, the social scientist cited by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) last week in his comments about the inner city “culture problem” of men not wanting to work, on Monday responded to allegations that he has drawn racist conclusions in his works about poverty in America.

Murray defended his book “The Bell Curve,” the piece many criticize as racist for suggesting that African-Americans are less intelligent than white Americans due to genetic differences.

“Our sin was to openly discuss the issue, not to advocate a position. But for the last forty years, that’s been sin enough,” Murray wrote in a piece published by the American Enterprise Institute.

Murray argues that in “The Bell Curve,” he and co-author Richard Herrnstein merely deliberated whether genetics had anything to do with racial differences without drawing a conclusion.


Comparing Apples to Oranges in Oklahoma

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff is asking why Al Sharpton, et al, are not devoting the same amount of attention to the murder of Christopher Lane in Oklahoma, allegedly by three bored teenagers, as they did to the George Zimmerman case. The editorial begins as follows:

Three teenagers were charged Tuesday in the killing of a white college student in Duncan, Oklahoma…

(Emphasis added to make my point as painfully obvious as possible.) That’s not even the entire first sentence, but it has already explained how this case is different from Zimmerman’s case. To be clear, Lane’s death is a tragedy and a horrible crime that deserves thorough investigation and punishment of the guilty parties. (I shouldn’t have to add that caveat, but I suspect someone somewhere will try to say I don’t care as much about this case.)

Here’s how it’s different: the suspects in Lane’s death are already in custody and facing criminal charges, including murder. Trayvon Martin died on February 26, 2012, but Zimmerman wasn’t arrested until April 11, 45 days later.

No one is disputing that what the three teenagers allegedly did is a crime.

So far, no one has tried to claim that the three teenagers in Oklahoma acted in self-defense, and no one will ever be able to make that claim plausibly. The Zimmerman case involved the killing of a black teenager (who was not committing any crime) by an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer who, for reasons we’ll likely never know for sure, thought he looked “suspicious.” The narrative of people finding young black men “suspicious,” just for being young black men, plays itself out every day in this country. Certain people are seizing on the fact that the Lane case involves a young white man killed by three young black men as a sleazy way of trying to create a false equivalence with the Zimmerman case, or to fabricate some kind of “both sides do it” narrative.

It’s pretty sickening, really.

Think of it this way: many people expressed a high level of skepticism about the allegation that Zimmerman was motivated by Martin’s race. See if those same people apply the same high level of skepticism to the Lane case.


Beauty and Bad Journalism (UPDATED)

'Florence Colgate' [Fair use], via Facebook and GawkerMeet Florence Colgate. She is an 18 year-old resident of Deal, Kent, England, the equivalent of a high school senior. She might be the most beautiful woman in the world, according to both “science” and Gawker editor Neetzan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman made this declaration because, apparently, Zimmerman does not know how to read. “Science” may have been misquoted, as it was probably too busy with things like the Large Hadron Collider to worry about who is the fairest of them all.

Now, Colgate is a phenomenally attractive young woman. Almost into the realm of otherworldliness, if photographs are to be believed. I’m also sure she is a very nice person. She’s getting hate on her Facebook page that she doesn’t deserve. But really, the whole world? Doesn’t picking a blond, blue-eyed, English girl as the most beautiful woman on all of planet Earth seem a bit convenient?

I’ll set aside the questions of the various racial and gender implications of this selection, because others can undoubtedly address those issues with greater knowledge than I ever could. I would instead like to address the undue violence that this story has done to the concepts of journalism and science. Continue reading