Category Archives: Race

President Obama’s Unexpected Legacy: The Deadly Deterioration Of Racial Reconciliation And Trust

Murdered cops

I really hate thinking this, much less writing it.

At this moment, race relations in the United States are in a more precarious and dangerous state than at any time since the 1960s. The arrogance, incompetence, biases, and in some cases intentional political machinations of the nation’s first African American President and his party are substantially and perhaps primarily responsible for this tragedy. This is a catastrophe for the nation and its society, though one that the mainstream media will deny, obscure, or refuse to admit. It is still true.

As we begin December 21, 2014, two NYPD police officers named Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, one white and one Asian, are dead, having been assassinated by a deranged African American criminal who drove from Baltimore to New York in order to put “pigs in a blanket.” He announced his plan with message referencing the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as “them” and “us”—“us” being black men, “them” being police officers.

You will hear and read Obama/Holder/Sharpton/ De Blasio defenders furiously denying the connection between these politicians’ repeated suggestions that white police officers were profiling black men and often killing them, and the racial hatred currently focused on police. They will say that the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was insane, and perhaps that he was more likely a lone wolf Islamic terrorist. The journalists  should be reminded that they were immune to such alternative theories when they blamed the Tucson attack that maimed Congresswoman Gaby Giffords on the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, even though the shooter in that case had no smoking hashtags that indicated any motivation other than insanity.

Ironically, their arguments apply fairly now, when they did not then. Re-read Paul Krugman’s infamous column from 2011, substituting the “climate of hate” he attributed to attacks on big government by conservatives (because, like the Michigan professor who authored this, Krugman doesn’t regard what he and other liberals express as hate, just well-earned contempt) with the real and deadly racial distrust and suspicion nurtured by the rhetoric of black leaders, progressive pundits, and others, suggesting that young, black men are being hunted down and killed for the crime of being black. Krugman won’t make that argument now, but if he had any integrity or objectivity, he would.

President Obama, elected on the promise that he would bring the races together, lit the long fuse for this unfolding disaster for our democracy in July of 2009, less than a year into his first term. A prominent African American professor, Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., acted like a jerk to a white Cambridge, Mass. police officer responding to a call, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Obama, in the first of his many unethical pronouncements that interfered with local matters completely unrelated to his job, made public comments suggesting that Gates was treated unjustly because of his race. The facts indicated that Obama had impugned the character of not only a model police officer, but one recognized for extraordinary sensitivity in the area of black community relations. There was no public apology from Obama, however, and the fuse was lit. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Brooklyn Police Shootings

Hands up

Via Vox: Two Brooklyn police officers were shot and killed execution-style today by a lone shooter, an African American male named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had posted two messages on Instagram suggesting that he was putting “wings on pigs today” because “they take one of ours, we take two of them.”  The message was accompanied by hashtags referencing Eric Garner and Mike Brown. The shooter later killed himself, and had allegedly shot an ex-girlfriend as well.

Five Observations:

1. The dangerous escalation of rhetoric and the persistent  misrepresentation of facts by civil rights advocates, activists, journalists and pundits made this kind of episode nearly inevitable. You cannot flood the airwaves with constant references to “police shooting unarmed black men” as if there was an organized racist liquidation of blacks by police in the streets and not risk sparking violence from the hysterical, the deranged, the angry, the lawless and the desperate.

2. The irresponsible “hands up” protests did not cause these deaths, but they probably helped create the conditions that led to them. The shootings of the  two NYPD police don’t make the false “hands up” lie—which continues to assert that Michael Brown was executed when the evidence indicates he was not, and that there was racial bias involved, when there is no evidence of this at all—any more unethical, reckless or irresponsible than it already was. It was wrong from the beginning. It was wrong to assert these things before what happened in Ferguson had been investigated, and it was wrong to keep asserting them after it was clear that they were unsubstantiated or false. It is still wrong. It is still dangerous. Continue reading

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Ethics FYI To Hollywood, Pundits And Al Sharpton: There Is Nothing Racist–Or Unethical—About The Hacked Denzel Washington Memo

denzel-washington

Does anybody even bother to think about what racism is any more before accusing people of it? Do journalists think about the circumstances before they parrot knee-jerk accusations of racism from the likes of Sharpton and others? Based on the evidence of reaction to the infamous memo from a Sony honcho regarding the performance of Denzel Washington pictures abroad, apparently not.

Everywhere, this screed by an unnamed Sony executive is being called “shocking,” “unbelievable,” and, of course “racist.” It is nothing of the kind. In a scenario that reeks of the surreal Samuel L. Jackson fiasco where Ethics Alarms was virtually alone in noting that Jackson’s on-air accusation that a white TV host had confused him with fellow black star Lawrence Fishburne because “all blacks look the same to him” was unfair and completely meritless, the news media is just running with a demonstrably false accusation.

Here are the relevant portions of the e-mail exchange based on what has been reported in the media:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.) [But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside….I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas…Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”

Let’s examine this “unbelievable” e-mail, line by line and then as a whole, for ethical misconduct and incipient racism:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.)”

No problem there, right?

“[But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.”

The baseball analogy, a “double” over a “home run,” is a conclusion based on Washington’s films’ grosses and hard facts, not racism. It is a legitimate opinion, and one that in a business context must be made as a matter of fiduciary duty. Foriegn box office is about half (or more) of a typical film’s profit. If a star isn’t as popular in foreign markets as in the U.S., then metaphorically speaking, a “home run” is more difficult, and maybe impossible. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway”

The First Lady at Target, whose skin color obviously led a shopper at Target to ignore the blouse, cart, shopping cart, purse and sunglasses and assume that she was a minimum wage target employee who just wasn't wearing her red shirt today, because whites are such racists. It's amazing she wasn't shot, when you come to think of it. No really. Amazing.

The First Lady at Target, whose skin color obviously led a white shopper at Target to ignore the blouse, cart, shopping cart, Target bags, purse and sunglasses and assume that she was a minimum wage Target employee who just wasn’t wearing her red shirt that day, because whites are such racists. It’s amazing Michelle wasn’t shot, when you come to think of it. No really. Amazing.

I suppose it should be no surprise that my bias toward “Comment of the Day” candidates tilts toward comments that save me a post. This couldn’t be more true than in the case of this edition, a comment by johnbuger2013 (and I can’t wait to see what johnbuger2014 has to add!). The effort by Michelle Obama to paint normal , harmless, benign and trusting interactions between black and white citizens as racist profiling is really horrible, and the degree that the news media (“oh, there go those tea-bagging right-wing media again, picking on the Obamas for nothing!”) is ignoring the implication of what she did is not merely horrible but terrifying. Essentially, it is a declaration that the media will accept false accounts as truth as long as it furthers the narrative that all blacks—even the Obamas!—are constant victims of thinly disguised bias and racism.

What Michelle launched into the the public discourse, and “People” irresponsibly abetted, is yet another Big Lie, like the myth that Mike Brown was gunned down while surrendering with his hands up.  Though she was dressed at the time of the alleged incident like a shopper, with a cart and a giant purse, in sunglasses and wearing a Nike cap, Michelle absurdly told the magazine that a shorter fellow shopper, who was short but white—that’s the key, white—asked her if Michelle  could take down an item from a high shelf because the shopper assumed the first Lady was “the help’–because she is black.  The story is unbelievable on its face, and more than that, it exposes Obama as an anti-white bigot. Never mind: everywhere, her offensive characterization is being treated as fact. Fact—even though it is impossible, even though shoppers ask each other, regardless of race, for assistance all the time. Knee-jerk loyalists to the cause of race-baiting, victim-mongering, eternal grievances and Team Obama—including other commenters here— have twisted logic and fairness into grotesque shapes to justify this disgraceful story. The Big Lie, as we know, works.  From the Hollywood Reporter:

“During the show’s Hot Topics section, the co-hosts addressed Barack and Michelle Obama’s recent statements that they’ve been mistaken for the help.”

But Michelle wasn’t mistaken for the help. Michelle is so paranoid, bigoted and race-obsessed that she thought she was mistaken for the help with no justification whatsoever. Never mind: her story is now Truth. From US:

“The ladies [ of “The View”] got into a heated discussion when O’Donnell, co-host Rosie Perez, and Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox agreed that it’s racist when African-Americans are profiled in stores.”

But Michelle wasn’t profiled in the store (and nobody on The View’s panel of ignoramuses had te wit or integrity to point out that the whole discussion was based on a falsehood). Someone foolishly mistook her for a normal, well-adjusted, non-white-hating human being who would happily assist a stranger without assuming the worst about her. This will teach her. next time, only ask white shoppers for help: they won’t hate you for it.

As you might be able to tell, I am upset about this story, and the trend it represents, and angry with anyone, regardless of race, who won’t view it objectively and condemn it for what it is. But this is not a politics blog, but an ethics blog, and even though ethics outrages just pour out of the Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck like the waters of Niagara, my mission is broader,  my target audience is broader still, and on a topic like this, where 90% of journalist are inclined to promote a lie, I can’t accomplish much by flogging the same issue day after day on Ethics Alarms, other than assuaging my own frustration.

I digress, however. Here is the Comment of the Day, by johnbuger2013, on the post, “What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway”: Continue reading

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What Michelle Obama Calls Racism…Today, Anyway

Target Michelle

The current People Magazine has a feature titled “The Obamas: How We Deal with Our Own Racist Experiences,” in which both Obama’s reflect on their personal experiences with a racist America. It begins like this…

“The protective bubble that comes with the presidency – the armored limo, the Secret Service detail, the White House – shields Barack and Michelle Obama from a lot of unpleasantness. But their encounters with racial prejudice aren’t as far in the past as one might expect. And they obviously still sting.”

Here is a relatively recent experience, the first one cited by Mrs. Obama in the article, that “stung”:

“I tell this story – I mean, even as the First Lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target [in 2012], not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the First Lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.” 

That’s right, Michelle feels—or says she feels—that this incident was proof of incipient racism, one of the “micro-aggressions” that white society inflicts on African Americans daily, sapping their self-esteem, confidence, and trust in society.

She’s right that it “happens in life” and isn’t new. In fact, it happened to me, in the local Target, coincidentally, just last month. A very short elderly Asian woman asked if I would take down a large container of laundry detergent from a high shelf. Obviously, she thought I worked at Target and was denigrating me, applying racial stereotypes to a large bald Greek-American man.

I can say with no hesitation whatsoever that what happened to Michelle at Target was not an incident of racial stereotyping. The photo above shows how Michelle was dressed on the fateful day, and anyone who would mistake her flowered blouse, Nike hat, shades and shopping cart as the uniform of a Target employee had recently escaped from a Home for the Bewildered. What wasn’t new about the encounter is that in a healthy, ethical community strangers should ask each other for kindly help and assistance, and normal, non-paranoid, non race-obsessed citizens—and especially their leaders, who are supposed to model responsible  behavior— ought not to be so warped by ideologically-dictated confirmation bias that their immediate reaction is, “Hmmmm…what did she mean by that?” Continue reading

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“Beverly Johnson And The Bill Cosby Scandal”: NPR’S “On Point” With Michel Martin, and Me, Among Others

old-microphone

//embed.wbur.org/player/onpoint/2014/12/16/bill-cosby-beverly-johnson-assault

The panel segment starts after the interview with Johnson, about halfway in. You can also listen on the WBUR website, here.

My comments regarding the discussion are here.

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The Michel Martin Question I Didn’t Answer This Morning, and More On The Bill Cosby Scandal

On pointIn the segment on “Beverly Johnson And The Bill Cosby Scandal” I just completed for NPR’s “On Point” program, out of Boston with the magnificent Michel Martin hosting, I emulated the Sunday morning talk show guests I so revile for answering questions by making their own points that have little or no relevance to what was asked. Michel asked me, as the time left in the hour-long program was ticking down, what ethical obligations consumers—that is, the audience for his concerts, TV shows and albums—have regarding Cosby, in light of the rape allegations against him.

I was still stunned by the comments made by three callers, encompassing several ethically confused assertions that you know I would find annoying:

  • That the victims should not be coming forward so late;
  • That Cosby is “innocent until proven guilty” (GRRRRR…);
  • That it’s “easy” for women to make unsubstantiated allegations against celebrities, and
  • That there is a parallel between the allegations against Cosby and the Rolling Stone campus rape story.

That last one especially had my head threatening to explode, which would not be good for my relationship with NPR, so I think I can be forgiven for missing Michel’s query. Yes, the UVA rape allegation is exactly like the Cosby scandal, other than the fact that the accusers in Cosby’s case have come forward publicly while “Jackie” has not; that its two dozen (so far) alleged victims for Cosby and one in the UVA case; that one situation is a classic example of abuse of power, wealth and influence and the other is not; that Cosby settled one claim rather than air the allegations in a court of law; and that virtually every part of “Jackie” claim has failed to hold  up under scrutiny and investigation, whereas Cosby, the one individual who could offer evidence to counter the allegations against him, has done nothing but have spokesmen and lawyers issue blanket protests and denials.

Yup. Identical.

My answer to Michel should have been this:

“It’s up to Cosby fans, If they still can still laugh and cheer at Cosby’s nice guy schtick and “America’s Dad” persona knowing that he’s a serial rapist, fine: laughter is good, get it where you can. Personally, I can’t laugh at someone whom I know has engaged in horrific acts, hurt women who admired and trusted them, and by his own conduct left another cultural hero lying face-down in the mud. I can’t forgive it, I can’t get past it, and I’m certainly not going to keep laughing. this is no different from the NFL fans who keep wearing Ray Rice jerseys, or for that matter, Democratic women who continue to swoon over Bill Clinton. If they do, they either:

  • Can’t get over their cognitive dissonance, and at some level refuse to believe what cannot be rationally denied, or…
  • Don’t think the conduct involved—punching women, exploiting women, raping women—is worth getting upset about, or…
  • Buy the absurd personal/public dichotomy, and can still cheer wife-beatering athletes, star-struck intern-exploiting leaders, and raping comedians.

All of these are sad and impossible to justify, but they are common. Does the continued support of a Cosby ratify his conduct? Not in the eyes of his undeterred fans, but in the culture? Of course it does. If Bill Cosby’s career escapes relatively unscathed by this, and he is not held accountable by society, the verdict of the culture will be a particularly extreme version of The King’s Pass: if you are rich enough, powerful enough and seen as contributing enough to society, then you will be held to a lower standard, and can get away with, if not murder, serial rape.”

Continue reading

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