By Doug Porter
This week the San Diego Free Press is taking a bit of a pause from our usual routine to focus on Race and Racism. Previous thematic efforts include War and Peace back in November and Guns in the week following the second anniversary of the sandy hook shootings.
While this daily column normally concerns itself with reviewing what other media are covering, I’m taking a minute out to encourage readers to join us on this journey of reflection and discussion. (And, yes, there is other news further down in the column.)
We’ve got an array of perspectives to share with readers this week. Today, Susan Grigsby and Jim Miller are looking into race & racism history, both nationally and locally. Looking into the drafts already completed for the week there are essays on the impact of racism on young black girls, inside looks by several writers on their developing racial consciousness, a late night tour of Old Town along with the ghosts of Cortez and the Kumeyaay and a terrific piece by Ricardo Levins Morales on whites fighting racism.
And there’s more… I hope you’ll read, comment on and share what we’re posting this week. Racism Matters is more than a slogan for us; it’s a core value.
Getting All Post-Racial in Hipsterland
Shaun King at Daily Kos, whose coverage of conflicts with law enforcement is extraordinary, and Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic, whose essay making the case for reparations just won the prestigious Polk Award are writers I follow for their contributions to my understanding of racism.
I maintain that it’s incumbent for anybody writing about conditions and news events in the United States to make awareness of race and racism part of their regular regimen.
The point isn’t that I’m some sort of “post-racial” individual. The point is that I care enough to keep trying..to keep learning..to keep thinking..to keep observing. It should be obvious to anybody who’s paid attention to the outbursts of anger in this country over police actions that there is a huge gap in what is perceived as reality at play.
The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged this gap in a speech given at Georgetown University last week.
It was a start, and significant mostly because James Comey is white; similar language used by the President and Attorney General in the past have prompted a faux outrage amongst the Faux News set obscuring what was actually said.
The FBI Director’s speech didn’t go far enough when it comes to actual actions, as David A Graham at the Atlantic noted:
As my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates and others have noted, black men can do everything right and still end up on the wrong side of an encounter with the police. That’s why carefully worded and well-intentioned appeals to respectability politics such as this are unlikely to reduce racial tension in law enforcement. Similarly, Comey said that one of the reasons for his “affection for cops” is that they’ll come whenever someone calls 911, no matter the situation. But as long as African Americans are worried that calling the police might result in them getting arrested—or worse, shot—that reliability won’t be the same comfort for them that it is for Comey.
Still, Comey’s speech is a milestone in the conversation springing out of Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland. He called Thursday for improved data collection, noting that when unrest broke out in Ferguson, even he couldn’t find out how many African Americans were shot by police every year. He says he wants the FBI to become a leader in gathering and providing better information. Comey has taken the first important step, by recognizing that systemic problems require systemic solutions. The question is whether he will confine his search for such solutions to communities of color, or shift his focus to address the systemic problems with law enforcement itself.
I have a lot of respect for the Guardian with its willingness to publish articles on race and racism. An article by Ijeoma Oluo, published at the Guardian this weekend, discusses well-meaning people who do not consider themselves racist, but do things–like cultural appropriation–that scream racism to many people of color.
A couple of snippets:
The more that I started talking about racism publicly, the more white people started reaching out to me for clarification; they’d say things like, I don’t want to seem racist, but I don’t know how or I was called racist and I don’t know what I did. I started to realize that these people reaching out to me to understand why someone was mad at them still pictured racists as white hooded men and they weren’t wearing hoods, so they thought themselves incapable of acting in a racist manner. I started to realize that my generation couldn’t redefine for everyone what a racist looks like; we have to define what racist actions are…
…Talking about the act and not the person shifts the focus to the racist action and its impact. And while it’s not the job of people of color to educate white people about racism, as a woman of color I think that we need to educate ourselves so that when we do have these conversations, we are having them effectively.
We can update our society’s definition of racism beyond police brutality and hate crimes; we can examine and indict a system that perpetuates low employment, high imprisonment, low cultural representation, poor education and poor health for our black and brown communities; we can identify the individual actions that help support that examination or, alternately, distract from that reality. Only then can we move forward and really get to the “post-racism” that practitioners of hipster racism think we have already achieved.
The Economic Connection
In my mind it’s impossible to separate racism in the US from the development of our capitalist economic system.
(And, yes, there are many different paths followed in capitalist development. The notion that somehow “our” capitalism is better or more correct or even the only flavor is simply another example of the Ugly American mind at work.)
A Bill Moyers article in the Washington Post back in November, 1988 quoting a 1960 President Lyndon Baines Johnson interview gives a terrific explanation of how this works:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Economist Paul Krugman, writing about the fringe economic policies of modern day conservatives (including many presidential wannabes) in the New York Times, gives what I think is a glimpse how racism should be considered an integral part of our capitalist heritage:
You see, in the conservative worldview, markets aren’t just a useful way to organize the economy; they’re a moral structure: People get paid what they deserve, and what goods cost is what they are truly worth to society. You could say that to the free-market true believer, to know the price of everything is also to know the value of everything.
If you can reduce humans to an economic value, it becomes so much easier to sort them by color, creed or ethnicity. (Yes, I know I should write a book-length article on this topic to really make my case.)
And now, to a few news items of note…
Fox5 News’ Graphic Error
It took two days, national news coverage and a viral social media campaign for local Fox affiliate KSWB to apologize after briefly portraying President Obama as a sex-assault suspect on its Friday 10 o’clock news.
From the Times of San Diego, who apparently had a reporter awake and watching Fox5 that evening:
At 10:04 p.m. Friday the 13th, viewers heard anchor Kathleen Bade say: “The only suspect in a sex assault at SDSU will not be charged.” At the same time, a picture of Obama appeared with the legend “NO CHARGES.”
The Obama shot lasted about 5 seconds, but it was noticed immediately in the newsroom, said Mike Wille, an assignment editor.
“Yeah, there was an accident when they had an over-the-shoulder” display, Wille told Times of San Diego. “It wasn’t on purpose.”
The story was reported internationally, in the Daily Caller, Raw Story, the New York Daily News, the Washington Times and the Daily Mail.
…Back to the [now updated] Times of San Diego story:
But at 10:31 p.m. Sunday, Fox 5 anchor Misha DiBono read this statement:
“And we have an apology now. Friday night at 10 o’clock, we inadvertently used a photo of President Obama while reporting on a story about charges being dropped in a local case. We regret the error.”
Earlier Sunday, in response to requests for comment, a top spokesman for the station’s corporate parent acknowledged that Fox 5 San Diego “made a very unfortunate mistake during Friday evening’s newscast.”
Pay Attention to Greece
I would hope that you’re aware of a developing situation in Greece. Here’s the short version of what’s going on…
The Greek people elected a leftist coalition of parties last month. A program of austerity imposed upon the country as a result of corruption and unsustainable economic policies resulted in a collapse of the Greek economy.
As government programs were slashed, unemployment soared (27% overall, more than 50% among young people). We’re not just talking about people losing their homes; actual cases of starvation have become increasingly common.
So the narrative from the western press has largely been along the lines of “the Greeks were bailed out”. In reality it has been more like the banks holding the notes are the ones who have been bailed out.
The new Greek government is attempting to renegotiate its debt payments to a level that no longer suppresses the local economy. The wealthier governments of Europe, frightened by what they see as a spreading anti-austerity political sentiment in countries like Spain and Italy are attempting to squash these negotiations.
This past weekend, some of the bankster’s biggest fears were realized, as mass demonstrations in Greece against austerity were mirrored in Berlin, Dublin, Brussels, Nicosia, Paris, London, Rome other countries.
From Al Jazeera:
Tens of thousands of people gathered in central Athens on Sunday to support the newly elected government’s push for a better deal on Greece’s debt. Similar rallies were held in several other Greek cities, and about 40 other anti-austerity demonstrations were planned to show solidarity across Europe and in Australia, Brazil and the United States.
The rallies came on the eve of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers that will address Greece’s unpopular bailout…
“…We want justice here and now … for all the suffering Greece has gone through the past five years,” 58-year-old Theodora, who has been unemployed for the last three years, told Agence France-Presse.
A protester wearing a mask of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and wielding a large plastic needle with “austerity” daubed on it jousted with a fake Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras, armed with a huge pair of red scissors.
Tweet of the Weekend
If you’re angry about anti-vaxxers who free ride on herd immunity, keep that in mind if you find yourself complaining about labor unions.
— David Waldman (@KagroX) February 15, 2015
On This Day: 1926 – The beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week. 1959 – Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba after the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista. 2007 – Britney Spears shaved her head.
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