Refining The Race-Baiting Scale (“The Knight Scale”)


Untitled Race cards

I am slowly updating and expanding the resources on Ethics Alarms, including adding some of the tools that I have initiated on the blog but never put on the home page to accompany the much-used Rationalization List and the Apology Scale. I thought one of these was a race-baiting scale, as I referred to one, dubbed “The Knight Scale,” here and here. I discovered, however, that I had just given numbers to a few examples of race-baiting along least bad-to-worst spectrum without specifying specific varieties of race-baiting for each.

This was a major failing, and I apologize. Race-baiting has been one of the primary features of public discourse embedded in our culture by having a black President, was well as one with so many unscrupulous race-obsessed supporters and so much evidence of incompetence and dishonesty to try to defend. Its widespread use, tacitly approved if not orchestrated by the White House, has also contributed to the vastly deteriorating race-relations in the U.S., along with the racial distrust and anger fueling it. I have stated, and strongly believe, that this will be, above all else, Barack Obama’s legacy. The tragedy this represents cannot be over-stated.

I am offering now and belatedly a revised Race-Baiting Scale, running from 1, the least offensive and significant form of race baiting, to 11, the worst and most unethical.  Two notes: 1) All entries are based on the assumption that no actual racist or bigoted conduct has occurred, and 2) It is stipulated that all actual racist conduct or bias is unethical and should be called out and condemned.

The Race-Baiting Scale

1. The Race “Gotcha!”: An accusation of racial bias based on an innocent, ambiguous but arguably insensitive remark that may not have had any intentional racial connotations.

2. The Double Standard: Protests against comic or satiric performances or jokes by white performers or others involving African-Americans as racist, when in form and substance they are indistinguishable from similar performances of jokes regarding whites.

3. Dog Whistles: An accusation of racismbsed on the accurate use  terms like “urban” are coded racial “dog-whistles”

4. Taboo Facts: The position that stating facts or statistics that accurately reflect pathologies or persistent problems in the black community is racist.

5. Blame Game: The attribution of disparities between the black and white populations primarily or entirely to racial bigotry and discrimination.

6. Discrimination Gamesmanship: Accusations that a black individual has been fired from a job or otherwise penalized for documented and objectively measured poor performance or misconduct due to racial bias.

7. The With Us or Against Us Ploy: The argument that a white individual opposing policy measures widely favored by or advantageous to African-Americans is proof of racial animus.

8. The Lesser Paranoia Validation: Assertions that when a white individual doesn’t support or approve of a black individual’s performance or conduct, it is based on race, and not the conduct or the performance.

9. The Greater Paranoia Validation : The defense to a fact-based accusation of crime or wrongdoing against a black individual that it is based on race.

10. Manufactured Outrage: Accusations of racism based on criticism of a black public figure for conduct that a white public figure would be and has been criticized for in exactly the same manner.

11. Presumed Racism: Accusations of racism based on no other factors but the races of the individuals involved.


46 thoughts on “Refining The Race-Baiting Scale (“The Knight Scale”)

  1. Is race-baiting only something blacks (and other minorities) and their supporters can engage in?

    Is it possible for a white person to unfairly accuse a minority of racism and racist actions/tactics against white people? Or does it only go in one direction?

    • Is this a trick question?

      I think racism goes both ways, so I think race-baiting goes both ways. The Scale for black on white race-baiting would be missing a few numbers. Of course, many black commentators and our justice department hold that black on white racism either doesn’t exist of is justified, and ergo not really racism. It’s not wrong for blacks to hate white people, since white people deserve it. I think that’s wrong, but I sympathize with the argument.

      • Not a trick question, genuinely curious, as your scale only uses black on white defintionally, precluding the possibility of it happening the other way. At the very least, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, at the very least, can go in any direction.

      • Please don’t tell me you are still holding on to the lie that Holder dropped criminal charges against the New Black Panthers and as such he thinks black on white racism isn’t real or is justified.

        • Straw man…. You don’t have to fall back on that to demonstrate the administration is blind to black on white racism. Look who they send to which funeral.

        • How is that a lie? Charges were brought, properly, before Holder came on, the NBP’s had a default judgment because they didn’t even show up, and then Perez dropped the charges. It was a whitewash—if a couple of white rednecks carrying clubs had shown up at a voting place acting exactly the same, Holder would have thrown the book at them. Did you read the report? All it said was that the decision was discretionary, as in, no White House interferenece and not political. Still biased however. Absolutely.

            • Wrong, Dan: From the Washington Post:

              Two months after Election Day, Adams and his supervisors in the George W. Bush administration filed a voter-intimidation lawsuit against Heath and his colleagues, even though no voters had complained. The Obama administration months later dismissed most of the case, even though the Panthers had not contested the charges.

              It’s a Voting Rights Act charge, not a criminal one. That’s a straw man.

                • More from the Post:

                  Interviews and government documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that the case tapped into deep divisions within the Justice Department that persist today over whether the agency should focus on protecting historically oppressed minorities or enforce laws without regard to race.

                  The dispute over the Panthers, and the Justice Department’s handling of it, was politicized from the start, documents and interviews show. On Election Day, the issue was driven by Republican poll watchers and officials and a conservative Web site.

                  At the department, Adams and his colleagues pushed a case that other career lawyers concluded had major evidentiary weaknesses. After the Obama administration took over, high-level political appointees relayed their thoughts on the case in a stream of internal e-mails in the days leading to the dismissal.

                  That decision to pull back the lawsuit caused conflicts so heated that trial team members at times threw memos in anger or cursed at supervisors.

                  The dismissals triggered outrage from conservatives and congressional Republicans, two internal Justice Department inquiries and the investigation by the conservative-controlled civil rights commission. The debate has thrust Eric H. Holder Jr., the nation’s first African American attorney general and long the target of Republican attacks, into an unwelcome spotlight.

                  In recent months, Adams and a Justice Department colleague have said the case was dismissed because the department is reluctant to pursue cases against minorities accused of violating the voting rights of whites. Three other Justice Department lawyers, in recent interviews, gave the same description of the department’s culture, which department officials strongly deny.

                  This was written a while ago. Since then, Holder’s been pals with Sharpton and presuming the victim status of Zimmerman and Brown, pushing the case that requiring the same level of validation for a voter that it takes to open a bank account, get a hotel room, fly or get a rental car is racism. He’s been a race-biased Attorney General in a job that is supposed to be race blind. In retrospect, the New Black Panthers case was a hint of what was coming.

              • “After reviewing the matter, the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statutes. The Department did, however, file a civil action on January 7th, 2009, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under 11(b) against four defendants.”

                Click to access 05-14-2010_NBPPhearing.pdf

                Notice the date that the Justice Department chose to not go after criminal charges. January 7th, 2009.

                What date did Obama take office?

                As I said, the decision to not go after criminal charges was made under the Bush Administration and not the Obama administration.

                  • Well, either that or they couldn’t find one person who actually didn’t cast a ballot because they felt threatened.

                    But sure, lets push the idea that it must be Holder being racist and not Holder saying “let’s not punish people where there was no victim”.

                    • I’m not going to play games, Dan. Read the report—I linked to it. Whatever you think was the situation, it wasn’t. A judgment had already been ruled against the NBP for intimidation. The Holder JD dropped the charges anyway. They didn’t need to prove anything: it was already settled. Here. You’re just spinning.

                • In your first response you specified “criminal charges” while disputing that the Justice department , Jack focused on “charges” and presented evidence to support it, you responded by disputing “criminal” as a way of defending Holder. I’m sorry, that’s dishonest quibbling. Your description of “…the lie that Holder dropped criminal charges against the New Black Panthers and as such he thinks black on white racism isn’t real or is justified” is just a straw man.

                  • No. Many people attack Holder and the Obama Administration for dropping criminal charges against the members of the New Black Panther part who were there. That is incorrect.

                    So when Jack listed a general issue with the administration and it being the supposed cause of worsening race relations I asked if he believed the lie that Holder dropped criminal charges.

                    He then asked how it (it being the claim that Holder dropped criminal charges) was a lie. I then explained it.

                    So your analysis is incorrect. HIM trying to talk about the civil charges to try and disprove my statement that it is a lie to say holder dropped criminal charges would be the dishonest quibbling. I FIRST focused on criminal charges and Jack expanded it to all sorts of charges.

  2. I was going to actually bring up the same point Deery did (which I think signals the apocalypse) in that the stages should be written race neutral.

    I also wonder if there’s a place in your scale for race capitalism, a la Sharpton, where they basically extort money from individuals or companies on the threat of making public accusations of racism?

  3. I would add one to your list, or at least amend one of the ranks.

    Redefining words: The claim that someone cannot be racist because that person lacks power in a given situation (even though the definition of racism doesn’t require power). This is often used to say that black people cannot be racist against white people because of privilege.

    Now, the impact on a white persons life may be less by being the target of bigotry on the part of a black person but that doesn’t mean that bigotry cannot be correctly classified as racism.

    It is one point where I disagree with some fellow liberals on when it comes to race and racism.

  4. I think 5 and 4 are reversed. The blame game at least acknowledges that those numbers really exist.

    11 Presumed racism seems to be a factor in some of the others. 10 Manufactured Outrage seems to me to be merely a special case of it, and possibly a worse instance since it’s accompanied by direct evidence that it goes the other way. 9 and 6 also seems to be a special cases.

    7,8,9: The order seems odd to me. Racism accusations based on not supporting policies, on not supporting an individual, and on punishing an individual even if it’s justifiable. None of them are supportable, but it seems like they should be reversed. Accusing someone of racism for not favoring them is worse, to me, than an accusation based a direct harm which at least is real. Which would place 9 next to 6, which seem related.

  5. Jack, my respect for you is increased enormously for attempting to articulate something like this. I don’t know; maybe I am being too simple-minded about where you are going with this, and about what ethical behavior-enabling destination you are trying to attain. Is it really a scale? Or is it more of a “pick list,” like the Rationalizations, at least at this time, for which more time and experience may lead to consensus on fitting the various kinds of race-baiting to some kind of a scale of “ethics impoverishment” or “egregiousness?”

    • Uh-oh! I just saw the “here” posts you linked to. Looks like I have already commented extensively on this Knight Scale! (under a different name) This is going to be interesting: Reviewing those threads, and my comments, and answering the question: “What was _I_ thinking?!”

    • Both, I guess, except I want them to be ranked from worst up…If I did that with the Rationalizations, “It’s not the worst thing” would keep changing numbers because its the worst of the worst.

  6. I would like to add a variant ofkafkatrapping to the list. The link goes more in depth, but the basic idea is: Your failure to acknowledge your racism is proof of your racism. It’s never actually stated that directly of course.

    For the purposes of this list I can easily see someone claiming you are racist because you are disputing their claim of racism.

  7. I have three items. the first, not very serious: under which item on the chart does having a race-baiting chart fall under? 😉 2) some of the examples you state can indeed indicate racism when considering specific examples. Politicians using code words is actually quite prevalent. (Gov. Walker and use of the word Urban stands out for me, specifically considering the geography of Wisconsin). But where is the line? Maybe you could modify the entries to more clearly identify a method of actually differentiating the race from baiting. it’s not all black and white (pun intended). 3) There currently is a real life situation for examining this phenomena occurring in Denver. The police (mostly white) are mad at he the police chief and mayor (both black) for following a de-escalating strategy with protests instead of the traditional more direct (and often violent) strategy for dealing with protests. I have read many of the articles and reader comments and have yet to see any ‘race baiting’ on either side. While lots of name calling is going on, none of it has been racial. YET. we all know there are some people that are thinking it, and some of them are actually racists. When will they reveal themselves? and looking at your chart, how can we tell a racist from an opportunist?

  8. I’m thinking your approach for this list is too narrow. I believe ‘race-baiting’ is just a subgroup of a larger ‘culture-baiting’ classification. Most people identify with their own cultural group. Similar to race-baiting, culture baiting is using ad hominem attacks unrelated to the topic at hand that reference a cultural sub-text that members of the particular group understand and their buttons can be pushed to influence that group towards a certain goal.

    As we move to a ‘majority-minority’ country, it is important to consider that race is just one small component of the cultural geography for unethical politicians to exploit.

  9. This may be subsumed into No. 5 Blame Game, but I think any mention of “the legacy of slavery” is ipso facto playing the race card (the retort to which is probably best summed up by “Law and Order S.V.U’s” John Munch’s sardonic: “Hey, I sold my plantation and all my slaves years ago.”) and deserves its own number.

  10. The “I know you are, but what am I?” rule. Where any pointing out of racism automatically means that speaker themself is a racist.

  11. The double standard should include a Michael Richards situation, where an “edgy” comic, egged by audiences to be ever edgier, crosses an invisible line and sees a firestorm erupt in front of him/her.

    A special case of the Blame Game is when historical events are referenced as the cause of a group’s current condition, while the claimant is willfully ignorant of the obstacles that history presented to other groups

    A special case of With Us or Against Us is the notion that being in favor of equal protection under the law is proof of being opposed to equal protection under the law.

    • In describing the attributes of the ‘blame game’, You have pretty much described every group in the world. there is the Irish, Jews, Palestinians, Armenians, indigenous people everywhere, USA confederates, anyplace colonized by the British,…the list is very long. I feel it is unethical to single out American Blacks for this behavior when it actually seems to be part of the human condition.

      When I go visit my relatives in Ireland, some of them still rant and rave about ‘English this, Cromwell that’, and Irish foreign policy often appears to have been constructed solely to poke the English in the eye. When I visit my southern USA relatives, some of them still rant about ‘Yankees’, etc.

      So if American Blacks as a group are really just behaving similar to other cultural groups in the world, why are they being singled out for this behavior? What is the motivation there? The way some people answer this question is the source of the overly broad and erroneous charges of racism originate. But it is understandable. After all, our constitution still has in its text the original math of slavery. It might be difficult to get past that for some people.

      • “So if American Blacks as a group are really just behaving similar to other cultural groups in the world, why are they being singled out for this behavior?”

        You’ll notice that I wrote what I did without mentioning any specific group, and I used the singular “claimant” to talk about the person who is saying such a thing. Each and every individual who makes such an argument on behalf of any group is wrong to do so.

        • Ok. Sorry for the misunderstanding. As our country moves forward, I see that every cultural group will be jockeying for position. The use of various blaming tactics is already going on by all of the groups, including mine. I think it is just going to get worse, unless all the groups want to work together. I agree with you that the ‘claimants’ whatever the group, need to be called out.

      • ARRRGHHH! One of those repeated misconceptions that I have vowed to correct whenever or wherever it arises!

        The supposedly infamous “3 fifths a human being “math”, as you put it, was a smart, anti-slavery provision that was part of the grand bargain between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states. It was the latter that wanted slaves to count as 100% citizens (but without citizens’ rights) to swell the Southern representation, and power, in Congress. The anti-slavery states knew that if the South got that kind of edge, legislative limits to slavery would be politically impossible. The “math” was not disrespectful of blacks, but intended to free them over time. Freed blacks were sill counted the same as whites, by the way, so the provision did not express racist sentiments.

        The use of this compromise is another example of how mistaken understanding of history undermines racial accord and progress. Don’t let people get away this false narrative—any people who “can’t get past it” need to get some education and stop forming opinions based on their historical ignorance.

        • That still does not explain why the cultural group known as American Blacks is singled out negatively for behavior that all cultural groups engage in. That is the ethics part, not our respective interpretations of the initial version of the constitution. This is an ethics oriented blog, correct?

          • Huh? First of all, check the rationalizations list. You’re nicking about six of them. Second, the entire Obama administration has been based on a validation of this particular race-baiting. Yes, we’ll see gender-baiting if Hillary runs. Yes, the stupid “chink in the armor” controversy was Asian race-baiting. But there is no network on cable with multiple commentators who engage ins race-baiting literally every day, multiple times, about black racism. The Attorney General of the US and the Congressional Black Caucus and the Minority Leader in the House have only been race-baiting of one sort for six years. Nobody claimed that the tea party spat at Asians.

            That said, I will fix the list to easily apply to the use of the tactic by Hispanics and supporters of illegal immigration, and make the designations as neutral as possible.

            • I can not disagree more with “But there is no network on cable with multiple commentators who engage ins race-baiting literally every day, multiple times”. All of them do it all of the time, IMO. It’s how they get their ratings. It is so bad. Race baiting also includes Caucasians. We have our own set of code words and dog whistles.

              • That’s because the sentence was supposed to read, “But there is no network on cable with multiple commentators who engage in race-baiting literally every day, multiple times, about black racism.”

                If you think so, I need to see some evidence. I’m looking, and I haven’t yet.

          • “That still does not explain why the cultural group known as American Blacks is singled out negatively for behavior that all cultural groups engage in.”

            One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be a member of the group to make a claim on behalf of the group, so even with respect to the slave trade, slavery, and Jim Crow we’re not specifically talking about claims or other behavior by Black Americans.

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