Racism isn't black and white

synthcat sent me a link to a horribly racist editorial in the Portland Tribune. Basically, it states that the difficulties that blacks have are their own damned fault and until they learn to be good mommies and daddies they're never going to amount to anything.

Deep breath ...

What follows is my letter to the editor. Kendra James is a black woman who tried to drive away from a crime scene and was shot and killed by a white police officer.

I don't think the Kendra James issue is entirely black and white (no pun intended), but such simple-minded racist drivel as that editorial does people a disservice. Since the point of the article appeared to be that African-Americans live in a violent, crime-ridden society that they refuse to pull themselves out of (since they are voluntarily playing the victim role), I think it's fair to look at the evidence the author puts forward to support this.

I could write more, but for simplicity, I'll just focus on one bit of information from the author: "Blacks also are arrested for a third of America's drug violations". The author also states that blacks make up one eighth of the US population.

Actually, I'll go ahead and stipulate these facts. African-Americans comprise about 12% of the US population. Further, I suspect that the arrest rate is also correct. The last figures that I have handy are that African-Americans represent approximately 35% of all drug arrests (Gest, Ted. 1995. "A Shocking Look at Blacks and Crime." U.S. News and World Report. Oct. 16 1995.).

Wow! They're getting arrested at a rate almost 3 times that of white (European-American?) people. Unfortunately, the same article by Gest (and U.S. News and World Report is a very conservative publications), states that studies show that African-Americans only consume about 13% of the nations drugs. This implies that their arrest rate is disproportionately high.

Many state that the reason for this unfortunate statistic is that most arrests tend to happen in impoverished areas where crime is more visible (the dealer on the corner, for example) and, regrettably, more African-American.

Just for a moment, let's be incredibly generous and say this is true. No police officers have any racial bias and society has had no role in keeping African-Americans in an impoverished state. That still doesn't explain another embarrassing tidbit of information. Those African-Americans who represent 35% of the arrests for drug-related crimes also represent 55% of the convictions and 74% of the prison sentences. If justice were truly independent of such issues as race, financial status, charisma, etc., then explaining those statistics away seems difficult.

Now add to that the problem that approximately one out of every three African-American males in their twenties is in prison, in jail, on parole, or on probation.

Kendra James is sitting in her car, the cop doesn't want her going anywhere. She knows she's going to prison. While I don't have much sympathy for people who get injured or killed as a direct result of committing a crime, I have to admit that I can't act surprised that this happens or that African-American people are going to get upset. Simply ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away isn't the answer.
Thank you for the well-written article. I'm kind of pissed off that the P-T keeps printing out drivel from this awful writer.
Re: Well-written.
I didn't know the Tribune was doing that. Admittedly, their circulation is low and their readership is limited, but they are still much higher profile than many other publications around here. If they keep spitting out racist propaganda, they certainly have more credibility than most.

It reminds me of how David Duke got so powerful. He would often just chat with people and not mention his views. Somehow, the conversation would always get around to problems in our society and he would toss out some race-based "statistics" and see if the respondent would bite. If they did, he'd reel them in and if not get a convert, he might get a sympathizer.
what if....
if the reason why so many A.A. are arrested for criminal acts could be explained on a genetic level?? I'm just theorizing not spouting racism so please bear with me as i try to organize my zany notions. what if intelligence or iq level of the different races dictates why one is arrested more than the other? Dont get me wrong there are probably an equal number of white drug dealers as A.A. dealers. What seems to be the case is that the white dealers are usually higher up in the drug world cause they know thats where you make more money with the most minimal amount of exposure which leads to llower arrest rate of white dealers. I have always thought that A.A. are superior physycally but whites on a whole are geared better on a mental level. Now if this were the case, your brain chemicals are balanced based on your race? So if your brain is busy producing various chems for physical attributes would the "mental" chems be lacking and vice versa. I noticed this in weights class a long time ago that I would work out and work out and never gain muscle mass while a friend of mine never worked out and was freakin huge, but on a scholastic level the tide was turned . He went to the same school as i did and in the same town. So his access to increase his iq was not hampered socialy. Is it possible that evolution has seperated the races on purpose? Why were'nt white poeple the slaves and Africans the masters since they obviously physically could have dominated us. Is it our inventions (rifles etc.) and Asian gunpowder that enabled the euro-white race to enslave the Africans. What i truly think is that this theory is wrong but it might be in the right direction. Both races need each other abd that is what makes america as a whole so strong of a nation. I'm not trying to wave my flag or anything but we do dominate because of our diversity. I dont think the differences between the races are influenced socialy but in part with genetics? i dont know i could be talking way out my ass i just love a good debate and far out theorizing...R
Re: what if....
First off, while this is a long reply, I don't want my point to get lost in the shuffle: the idea that whites have a superior intelligence or are "geared better mentally" is bunk.

Next: discussion of genetic differences in the "races" is a very, very dangerous topic. However, it's quite unfortunate that there are many people who want to insist that equality means uniformity. For example, I read about a Navy study that determined that women were mentally better suited for the stresses of serving on a submarine (though oddly, they didn't decide to go with all female crews). No one batted an eyelash. Had the same study concluded that men were mentally better suited for serving on a submarine, I can imagine there would be a lot of controversy.

In the world of chess, the top grandmasters are all male. The best women grandmasters have never achieved the level of the best male grandmasters. It's so bad that women qualify for grandmaster status at a lower ability than men. Why? Some argue it's genetic. Others argue that it's socialization. Who knows? However, given that patriarchal societies have vastly outnumbered matriarchal societies, I do think it's fair to say that it's not simply random chance.

But is it genetic? To be quite blunt, many people don't want there to be any consideration of this topic, though many would do a double-take at a "white" person with sickle cell anemia.

As for your assertion that "whites on a whole are geared better on a mental level", what does that mean? I think it's so incredibly vague as to not mean anything. For example, let's say that I have two children, Bobby and Sally. Bobby scores 95 on an IQ test and Sally scores 100. Does that mean Sally is "geared better" mentally? Poppycock! First of all, IQ tests generally test our ability to perform certain tricks of abstract reasoning. That's it. My IQ has consistently scored slightly over 140. That's meaningless, though, because it misses a few things that are definitely part of one's mental "gearing":

  • Leadership

  • Artistic ability

  • Social skills

  • Creativity

  • Athletic ability (even if an professional athlete can't spell his name, there's still a hell of a lot of mental ability which corresponds to athletic ability)

  • Emotional maturity

However, IQ tests won't catch any of that (and most IQ tests are improperly administered and rely on reading ability). People who score high in all of those areas but can't read or write as well as others are still to be envied.

There are, though, still those people who insist upon bringing out silly books like "The Bell Curve" to bolster their arguments. This book is pitiful, but too many people found that it backed up their prejudices and they didn't seem too inclined to question it. That really upsets me because we have such a controversial topic but people just want to find something that backs up their personal views rather than find out what the truth is.

And what's the truth about the mind? Personally, I don't know. I'm not about to say that there are no genetic components to intelligence, but in this interesting essay (it discusses the Bell Curve book), we find a great quote from science writer George Johnson:

Unlike kidneys, lungs, hearts, livers, pancreas, muscles and bones, the brain is designed to change with experience, molding and remolding itself to the outside world. The genes can carry only enough information to specify the most general features of the brain -- the rough shape of this blob of neurological clay. The fine sculpting that makes us who we are comes from the experience of living...The very essence of the brain is its malleability, and that is what makes many biologists skeptical when social scientists or psychologists claim...that they have found evidence that intelligence is essentially inherent...Social scientists and psychologists have the advantage of treating the brain as a black box.

Ugh, I'd write more, but LJ keeps trying to cut me off. I'll let that quote stand as my thesis.
Re: what if....
ahh goodstuff... in your bobby and sally example i got that you were referring to gender instead of race. if you want to assemble a team of military commandos in America and you need fill positions of varied skills. It feels safe to say that the physical side of the team would predominately be A.A. and then you have a position that requires all kinds of computer related skills and mental calculating skills I have no doubt that while there is A.A. soldiers with those skills wouldnt you find that most were white?
On the subject of genetics they are now telling us that we can manipulate the intelligence of our offspring as well as other attributes. Doesnt this tell us that ones intelligence is directly related to genetics and could affect the outcome of a race's level of intellectual achievement ? I didnt mean to say that the white race is geared better mentally i wanted to ask could there be the possibility that genetics and evolution have favored caucasians throughout time? I guess the answer might stem from why are there multicolored races on the planet? is it because of environments? do different climates dictate the melenin in someones skin tone? Or could it be that we had a head start in building shelter and storing food so we turned our energy inward and started feeding the mind while other cultures and races were still hunting and gathering. Are we to find in some remote jungle a tribe of caucasian primitives? Maybe a program that started gene therapy in A.A. embryos is a way of even-ing the playing field ? Would everybody be satisfied then?
Re: what if....
It has been shown that "the biological concept of race... has no basis in science." (Dr. Harold Freeman, Celera Genomics Corp., quoted in the SJ Mercury, "Race not seen as factor in variation of genetic code," Feb. 20, 2001, G1.) If you were to compare the genetic code of a white man with that of a black man, you could not tell, on the basis of the genetic code, who was what color. Furthermore, I respectfully suggest that you may need to study your human history a little more thoroughly about who contributed to what; for example, it was Persians who developed much in the ways of science, such as astronomy and mathematics ("algebra" is an Arabic word, as it was invented by an Arab). It wasn't Caucasians who built the pyramids or the Sphinx, or maintained an orderly empire in Egypt for 3,000 years (for a quick glance at African contributions to world culture through the ages, click here.) Nor was it Caucasians who developed the sophisticated Inca or Aztec cultures in the New World. What about the spirituality and philosophies of Southern Asia, such as Buddhism, Taoism, meditation, Confuscianism, et al? These examples barely scratch the surface.

I submit all your suppositions are based on faulty assumptions. Why do you think there are all these erroneous presumptions about this alleged "head start" of caucasians, that evolution has favored them? You would agree that genes are but one factor in shaping a human being. If it's not genes that hold African Americans down, what is? The world is not nearly as fair as you seem to hope it is.
Re: what if....
Just wanted to pick up on that Men vs. Women thing:
It's a pretty well proven fact that the female and male brains work differently. Women have a lot more connections between the two halves than Men, which makes them better at multi-tasking, whereas men are a lot better at concentrating on one thing at depth. As far as I remember this comes from early development, where women looked after the kids, gathered vegetable foodstuffs and generally organised, while men concentrated on hunting, and generally couldnt afford time to think, just to do. (Reaction time when attacked etc.)

This is just to say there is a reason why men are better at chess, and thus why the women qualify for grandmaster with lower ability. Personally, I think its a good thing, thats how we're built.

Males dominating society also comes from the fact that they were the ones making the split-second decisions on what to do way back. It's a pity we're taking so long to realise that women would be better in management roles etc. *sigh*

Anyway, I won't pretend to know anything in particular about African Americans, I'll just say I'm pretty sure the problems are all just social leftovers from the days of slavery etc. (I do so love that cartoon trailer for Bowling for Columbine!), I can't imagine theres actually a genetic difference, more one of conditioning (growing up being looked down on all the time, etc).

Whatever, either we don't have that problem over here, having so many different races/cultures, or I haven't noticed it.

(I agree that IQ tests are pretty useless, btw :)