Tag Archives: New York Times

How Racist am I/are We?

In his Sunday New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof reports: “To my horror, I turn out to be a racist.”

Kristof had just taken an on-line test called “The Policeman’s Dilemma” from the University of Chicago in which the participant has to decide whether to shoot 100 black or white men who are sometimes holding a gun and sometimes holding a cell phone.  He reports he shot armed black men more quickly and holstered his gun more quickly when facing unarmed whites.  Whites and many blacks who take the test show similar bias, he added.

He then discusses Harvard’s “implicit attitude tests,” which reveal “a stunningly large proportion of people who honestly believe themselves to be egalitarian unconsciously associate good with white and bad with black.”

Kristof then goes on to discuss gender and race bias, and suggests gender bias might be harder to overcome.

I don’t wish to argue that point, but I do want to expand the context beyond what Kristof covered.  The tests Kristof reported on reveal something about individual bias, but from whence comes individual bias?  From our society and culture.  Racism in America is systemic.  It’s been built in since earliest colonial times.  It took America’s bloodiest war and the often bloody Civil Rights Movement to weaken the structure of racism.  Though no longer the mighty edifice it once was, racism still stands.  We can and must change individual attitudes, but only as part of the larger goal of dismantling the system.

 

 

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Let Us Now Praise Dangerous Men

NOTE: This post is my own opinion.  It has not been reviewed by or endorsed by any insitution of the Bahá’í Faith.  For official information on the Bahá’í Faith, please see these sites.  U.S. Bahá’í website and Bahá’í International Community website.

I’ve been bored the past week or so.  Anniversaries of significant dates can bring out the boredom in me.  It’s all the unoriginal things people write and say, in this case around Martin Luther King and the commemmoration of his death.  It is obligatory to wax poetic about “King’s legacy” and the “dream” and to analyze “how far have we come and how far we still have to go.”  If I were a gambling man, I would bet someone a nice sum that I could compile a speech or article about Dr. King using nothing but strung-together clichès, and get compliments about it.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I admire Dr. King and I hope and pray for the further development of his legacy.  I just get suspicious when people across the entire political spectrum can invoke King’s “legacy” or  a few cherry-picked phrases in order to gain some kind of political credit.  When you turn a man and his legacy into clichès, you make him safe and boring.  And Martin Luther King, in his day,  was neither safe nor boring.

King was not assassinated so that school children could write reports about his dream and his legacy, or to make him an icon for fireplace mantles, often next to JFK.  He was killed because he was dangerous.  That now much-loved dream was a nightmare to many.  If justice flowed and righteousness cascaded, that would threaten the unjust and scourge the wicked.  The fulfillment of that dream would have ended the racial power and privilege so vigorously amassed and fiercely defended.  The unfolding of King’s legacy was chipping away at the entire social order, and his moves into economic issues and anti-war activism expanded the threat.  In an op-ed piece in the the Sunday New York Times, King biographer and historian Taylor Branch wrote: “The St. Louis Globe-Democrat called Dr. King ‘one of the most menacing men in America today …’ ” At least one newspaper publically acknowledged King’s dangerousness.

Why was Mahatma Gandhi assassinated?  He, too, was a threat to the social order, indeed, the cultural and religious order.  He was killed by an orthodox Hindu, not an agent of the British Empire, although the empire had fought him and persecuted him for decades.  Gandhi was a champion of the downtrodden, of the Untouchables; he did not respect the ancient, established order.  That made him a threat.  With India’s independence won, Gandhi’s continued presence posed a threat to the interests of many within India.  Gandhi — that paragon of non-violence — was more dangerous than an army with guns and bombs.

Let’s discuss even greater, more dangerous men.  Why was Jesus Christ crucified?  He, too, was a threat.  He was a threat to the Jewish hieararchy and a threat to the Roman Empire and its social and political order.  Anyone who liked the established order didn’t want this Jewish agitator to gain a following.  This man who counseled turning the other cheek, this healer, this friend to prostitutes and all the lowly and despised, was more of a threat than armed revolutionaries.

Why did the Arabs make war on the Prophet Muhammad — peace be upon him — and force him into exile?  Again, he threatened the established order and all its arrangements of power and privilege.  The Messenger of God and his followers exposed the decadence into which the Arabs had fallen.  That made him a threat to many.

Likewise, when The Bab arose in Persia in the 19th century and preached a new revelation, he threatened the power and privilege of the mullahs, and endangered the social order.  He was imprisoned and eventually shot by firing squad (of that incident I’ll have more to say in a future post).

The Bab announced the advent of Bahá’u’lláh.  He, too, was persecuted: tortured, robbed of his considerable wealth, and exiled repeatedly.  That mild-mannered, slight man was a threat to both the Persian and Ottoman empires.  Thousands of his followers were tortured and murdered.  That persecution continues today in Iran.  Baha’u’llah was dangerous.  Those who followed him believed such dangerous things as harmony of science and relgion, indepdendent inquiry into truth, equality of men and women, the oneness of God, religion and humanity — and a new revelation from God.

And so, next January 15 or April 4, or whenever the matter comes up, don’t bore me with more clichès about a pretty dream and a benevolent legacy.  Excite me, stir me up, agitate me — threaten me, with tales of the dangerous man who demanded that Christians be Christians and that America live up to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  On Easter and Christmas or any other day, tighten my guts with stories of that dangerous, yet meek, Jewish man who scared the mightiest empire on earth — and eventually conquered it.

I am a Bahá’í.  I follow a dangerous man, Bahá’u’lláh, who came to unite humanity, who came to drag us from the dungeons of our materialism, who hauls us kicking and screaming from the passions and divisions of our beloved politics.  He brings a world in which “none may exalt himself over another.”  He promises a future in which “these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars, shall pass away and the Most Great Peace shall come.”  He gives a global society: “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”  If nationalism is in your soul, and you don’t have time for the duties of citizenship, then that’s a dangerous thing.

I’m working to bring about these dangerous things.  But I come, as my Lord and Master Bahá’u’lláh commands me,  in love, with open arms.

 

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College Football Big $$$

Last Saturday, I caught a bit of the UGA vs. Auburn game and marvelled at the poetry in motion that is Knowshon Moreno, the Dawgs star running back. The next day, in a Sunday New York Times opinion piece, Michael Lewis asked why college football players are the only parties not making money off the game:

“College football’s best trick play is its pretense that it has nothing to do with money, that it’s simply an extension of the university’s mission to educate its students. Were the public to view college football as mainly a business, it might start asking questions. For instance: why are these enterprises that have nothing to do with education and everything to do with profits exempt from paying taxes? Or why don’t they pay their employees?”

UGA’s football program generated $59 million in revenue recently, Lewis wrote, but the players, whose labor provided that value, got nothing, and they get in trouble if they’re caught accepting almost any remuneration for their labor. “At this moment there are thousands of big-time college football players, many of whom are black and poor. They perform for the intense pleasure of millions of rabid college football fans, many of whom are rich and white. The world’s most enthusiastic racially integrated marketplace is waiting to happen,” Lewis wrote.

The injustice of this situation grows when we consider that so few college football players graduate. The pretense that college athletes are students first and athletes second is silly, Lewis wrote. How many star high school players choose their college based on academics? It isn’t that college athletes can’t learn, Lewis wrote, but that ” … they’re too busy. Unlike the other students on campus, they have full-time jobs: playing football for nothing. Neglect the task at hand, and they may never get a chance to play football for money.”

Lewis suggested paying college players based on the ratio of revenue to payroll in the NFL. Texas Longhorns star quarterback Vince Young would have made about $5 million in 2005, for instance. “In quarterbacking the Longhorns free of charge, Young, in effect, was making a donation to the university of $5 million a year — and also, by putting his health on the line, taking a huge career risk,” Lewis wrote. Moreno would surely be worth a million or two.

So why not set up the paid college sports marketplace, and let those who really want amateur status make the choice, Lewis asked. “The N.C.A.A. might one day be able to run an honest advertisement for the football-playing student-athlete: a young man who valued so highly what the University of Florida had to teach him about hospitality management that he ignored the money being thrown at him by Florida State,” Lewis wrote.

This is a thought-provoking proposal, but I don’t think I want to turn college sports into a totally commercial enterprise. For sports that don’t make money, and for lower divisions, athletics really is a way for students to attend college who might otherwise not be able to go. Football at Fort Valley State, for instance, hardly makes enough money to pay anybody, and for every Rayfield Wright there are hundreds who never went any further as players.

What say you all?

 

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Filed under Auburn, FVSU, New York Times, sports, UGA

What’s Wrong With Political Reporting & Blogs

In my first bloggish post, I take a pot shot at blogs and the sorry state of reporting on politics. As readers have no way of avoiding, there’s a presidential campaign on. I can barely read most of the coverage. Today, my negative example is the hubbub over whether Hillary Rodham Clinton tipped an Iowa waitress, first reported by National Public Radio. Seems Anita Esterday, a waitress in a Toledo, Iowa restaurant, mentioned not getting a tip after Mrs. Clinton and her entourage ate there. Now, people lacking refined journalism sense (insert tongue in cheek) might suppose that either the candidate or some member of her crew meant to tip the lady, but some error on somebody’s part deprived the hard-working single mom of her well-earned tip, end of story. But not in NewsLand!

No, the Tale of the Missing Tip morphed into the millionth tempest in a teapot of an already too-long campaign. The blogosphere, always ready to apply nuclear heat to the teapot, cooked up The Hillary the Cheapskate and Hillary The Exploiter mini-scandal. For instance, look at Propeller, or that pillar of journalistic integrity, The Drudge Report, which dredged up another example of Mrs. Clinton’s alleged chintziness. The Big Dog offers a long list of other stories/blogs on this story.

But Esterday herself had the best take on this idiocy, as reported in the New York Times: ““You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”

I’m now soliciting donations to establish the Anita Esterday School of Journalism at whichever university wishes to host it.

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