Excuses, Excuses: How the Right Rationalizes Racial Inequality in America
June 4, 2005 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Read the first article, and agree with many of his points as well as his conclusion. However, Wise makes several speculatory claims that, in absence of any proof, should be removed.

He also drifts away from his original (strong) argument to take up a tenuously-related, weaker agrument. E.g., that differences in median age can't be used to argue away income disparity, since the shorter life expectancy of black workers is the result of racism. That would make an interesting article; here he would be more convincing if he simply pointed out that the disparity remains when comparing workers of the same age.
posted by Eamon at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2005

> You are encouraged to write to Mr. Wise for footnotes to this article.

I wonder if anyone will do this? Because without them this sort of article consists of nothing but unsupported assertions.
posted by jfuller at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2005

I am forced to ask why the footnotes weren't included to begin with. I would have been satisfied with "According to a study by XYZ Organization, blahblahblah" (so we can google it for ourselves) or better yet, links to relevant statistics. Is "write me for supporting documentation of my controvertial opinion" what passes for commentary anymore?
posted by ilsa at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2005

Great post. A lot of white people in the US have this impression that the Civil Rights Era solved racism and now it's gone. They also think black and Latino people are just lazy and/or violent. Cognitive dissonance is a dangerous thing, especially when one votes. But yes - as I say about the moronic war on drugs, "If pot were legal, what would the police arrest black men for?"

~sigh~ There's too much in this country worth being outraged about.
posted by graymouser at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2005

I admit I have not yet read the Criminal Justice link yet, but can't much of the discrimination be correlated with income levels? Particularly in terms of incarceration: those who can afford good councel are far less likely to do hard time than those without, regardless of their skin color.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:11 AM on June 4, 2005

You really should read the article, C_D. Inequality begins with who is most often stopped by the police, and who is arrested. These have nothing to do with the quality of legal counsel.
posted by Eamon at 10:20 AM on June 4, 2005

Via Political Theory Daily Review
posted by dhoyt at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2005

thanks for these, especially the CJ article. i should keep a copy in my back pocket for the occasional purse-lipped lady at the beauty salon. that way i don't have to feel compelled to spit or stab anyone in the eye.
posted by RedEmma at 10:25 AM on June 4, 2005

Eamon, good point. I just finished it.

I do take some issue with this part, however:
Perhaps most telling, police appear more likely to stop innocent blacks than whites. For every 4.6 whites stopped in 1997-1998, for example, police were able to make one arrest, meaning that roughly 22 percent of the time their suspicions were justified. Even this is not a very impressive percentage but it is far better than that for blacks. Police had to stop 7.3 blacks before making a single arrest, meaning that only 14 percent of the time was their suspicion justified.
It seems to me that if blacks are more likely to be stopped than whites for prejudicial reasons, then one might assume whites are more often stopped only when there's legitimate reason (swerving in traffic, running lights, etc.) If that's the case, then it should be no surprise that a larger percentage of white "pull-overs" wind up getting arrested.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:01 AM on June 4, 2005

To clarify, I'm not arguing with the conclusion as much as pointing out that some of the statements could be easily misconstrued.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2005

That's the point though, right? Police pull over whites if and only if there is a good reason to think they might be doing something illegal. This treatment should be extended to everyone in our society.

I agree with you, however: he's all over the place with his numbers. Like I said above, I feel that his argument suffers by including a few weak points that could simply be left out.

Maybe I should get my hands on those footnotes and reedit.
posted by Eamon at 11:19 AM on June 4, 2005

I am forced to ask why the footnotes weren't included to begin with.
posted by ilsa at 9:48 AM PST on June 4 [!]

Because to give the many sources would totally disrupt the flow of the article, and publishers are anti-footnote. Trust me, I've read academic books by professors for an academic and student audience which had no footnotes, and when I asked the author about it, he told me it was the policy of the publisher. (Which was a shame, because it would have been a really good resource book with footnotes).

I was just thinking that the second article would have been very good to read in the Black American thread a little while ago.
posted by jb at 11:27 AM on June 4, 2005

Via Political Theory Daily Review

Quite true & remember: to prevent dumbass questions, read the links !
posted by y2karl at 11:28 AM on June 4, 2005

On the footnotes issue, it's interesting to note the different levels of proof people require, depending on which side of the argument they find themselves.

The Left tend to expect well reasoned, sound points, backed up by evidence (which Tim Wise, for example, is generally happy to provide); while for the Right, any hate-filled, racist, nationalist rant is considered fully justified by appeals to what they call "patriotism", or by links to yet more vitriolic rants by others with similarly unfounded views.

In this case, I suspect Tim Wise is looking to grow through his "write for my footnotes" teaser. The more people email him with requests for his footnotes, no doubt offering comments and feedback, the better his articles get, and the more names he has on his mailing list. So mail him, and ask him for his references : I'm sure he has them, and he'd probably be delighted!
posted by cleardawn at 11:31 AM on June 4, 2005

Already did.

When they were linked at the Political Theory Daily Review.
posted by dhoyt at 11:31 AM on June 4, 2005

Yeah, that lack of footnotes shows this to just be a pack of lies, no? You know, all those black people who think that they are pulled over more often than whites are just paranoid, right? And, all those blacks who think their wages are lower on average than similarly situated whites are just paranoid, or perhaps shiftless, no? I mean, the temerity of this guy to complain - he's just another paranoid whiner, no?
posted by caddis at 1:14 PM on June 4, 2005

I didn't read the article... but I saw an interview with Charles Barkley and thought he had some interesting things to say in his new book.
posted by tomplus2 at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2005

> he's just another paranoid whiner, no?

And a white one at that. And one who, as he states, makes his living "combating racism." Therefore he has a financial stake in finding racism. That doesn't prove there is none, but it does place Mr. Wise under a particular obligation to document his claims.

My own question, which might be answered by the documentation, is not Is there racism? Of course there is, and of course there will always remain some residual level of racism (and sexism and nationalism and culturism and religionism) as long as the human speces is composed of tribalist monkeys. The question is Is it still important? Is it still a huge issue? Should we devote whatever energy and resources it may take to eliminate the stubborn residual racism to which humans unconsciously cling? Should we do whatever it takes to get the racism rate down to 0.00?

When we consider the number of things we're supposed to be panicked and outraged about (AIDS in Africa, child sexual exploitation, the persistence of slavery, global warming, the energy crisis, ecological destruction, mass extinctions, American cultural/economic/military imperialism, the federal deficit, the trade deficit, the coming economic crash caused by these, sexism/male domination, nuclear proliferation, the international weapons trade, bioweapons research, world hunger, bird flu, other emergent diseases and the Coming Pandemic, etc. etc. etc.) the unavoidable question is, Is residual racism the thing to focus on? Or is it maybe just one among hundreds of needs competing for the focus? And considering the money and social effort already devoted to combating racism over the last 60 years, isn't it entirely possible that our society has already devoted as much effort to combating racism as is consistent with having some resources left to devote to all these other screaming needs? I'm just asking. Who knows, maybe the footnotes would help.
posted by jfuller at 3:23 PM on June 4, 2005

Is it still important?

posted by caddis at 3:35 PM on June 4, 2005

Would somebody who was not less likely to suffer on the job market or go to jail because of his race ask that question?

Seriously, what the fuck? As a society, we spent more resources on watching television that we do addressing racism.
posted by Eamon at 3:53 PM on June 4, 2005

I think you should rename the posted link How the Left Rationalizes Racial Inequality in America
posted by caddis at 5:36 PM on June 4, 2005

Thanks, I like Tim Wise and I haven't seen these articles yet.

jfuller-Your comment that "this sort of article consists of nothing but unsupported assertions." without footnotes is specious. You know there are footnotes, you know how to access them. It might not be as convenient as either of us would like, but given what Wise stipulated, I would suggest you have to give the articles the benefit of the doubt until you read the footnotes and find that they do not support his assertions. If he hadn't mentioned documentation at all I would be right with you, but now the obligation is on you to either disagree with the substance or accept it. (Another way to put this in context is to ask how many times you look up pages referenced in articles that include notes with the text. I know that when I see footnotes I grant the numbers legitimacy unless I really want to argue, and then I search out the actual references. In that case, footnotes I can read (as opposed to having to send away for them and delay reading until I receive them) are purely a function of psychology. As, I would argue, they should be in this case.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:02 PM on June 4, 2005

caddis - I'm confused by your comment. Can you elaborate please?

Also - it appears there is a third part - Housing
posted by jb at 8:36 PM on June 4, 2005

If my comment confuses you then just reread the comments here. The excuses described in the articles are hardly limited to the Right.
posted by caddis at 3:12 AM on June 5, 2005

Last night I conveniently forgot the many times that simply reading the source leads me to conclude that the information cited is probably incorrect or suspect. So, yeah, not presenting the footnotes is a problem. Especially when you've got your own website where you can post the sources without fear of editorial interference.
posted by OmieWise at 3:39 AM on June 5, 2005

caddis - I am confused, because I thought that Wise's position would be typical for the "left". It isn't?
posted by jb at 5:47 AM on June 5, 2005

Is it still a huge issue?

Jesus 15 thousand dollars

Wouldn't you think it was important if somebody cheated you out of 15 grand? I guess its less important if it isn't your money. Hey I don't give a damn if you like me I don't give a damn if women grab their purses and cross the street to get away from me. Just don't F with my money. Maybe that is just my personal stake in all this talking.
posted by Rubbstone at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2005

Right, on, Rubbstone. It's not a big issue for whites because, hey, we GOT our 15 grand.

Shipler's book on the subject is far and away the best I've seen. It's amazing. It does a great job of showing that white America is seperate from and blinded to the problems of black America. While whites overwhelmingly in surveys believe that race relations are great, blacks see exactly the opposite. There is a failure of communication on the topic, and an overwhelming desire for the dominant class to see themselves as good, non-racist people.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:48 PM on June 5, 2005

Here's a good example of seemingly benin policy disparately affecting minorities.

Some states (mine) have laws that give higher sentences to people dealing drugs with a radius of a school, public park, library, etc. I doubt most city drug dealers have GPS devices warning them where the local school is, so although this law sounds great and sane, its usefulness is questionable.

Look at the typical city. You can't throw a stone without hitting one of those places. Now look at the typical suburb. Very sparse, not many parks or even libraries. And those things are probably far from the ideal places to deal drugs (I'd expect that to be a mall or shopping center in a suburb, although having never bought or sold drugs, I can't be sure).

Minorities mostly live in cities, and suburbs are usually white. So that means someone dealing drugs in a city is more likely to get a longer sentence than someone dealing drugs in a suburb.

So the end result is that a lot of minorities get harsh sentences for doing the exact same thing as their white suburban counterparts.

Seemingly neutral law, but with results that are racially skewed.
posted by RalphSlate at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2005

What's confusing me is how he can tell that the offending rate differs from the conviction rate. I'm not disputing for a second that it does differ, but I'm at a loss to think of how you could tell what the offending rate is without using the conviction rate? How do you tell the difference between ten crimes committed by one person and ten people who commit one crime each unless you know who committed each crime - in which case there ought to be a conviction to match.
posted by talitha_kumi at 2:24 AM on June 9, 2005

Just a followup note that no one will ever see. I did request the footnotes to these two articles (there is now a third in the series also). The mail didn't bounce, but as of now, a week later, not a peep out of the author. Guess the offer was as bogus as the articles.
posted by jfuller at 5:09 AM on June 11, 2005

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