Thursday, May 04, 2006

Clear as Day

It's rare to see racist ideology presented as clearly in today's day and age as it is in this Mark Noonan post. Wowzers.

Before I begin, I want to stake out my position on the use of the terms "racist" and "racism." There are people (though far fewer than the Right would suggest) who throw at the label "racist" at any hint of anti-progressive ideology dealing with racial matters. There is also a section of academia which wants to expand the definition of racism so that it encompassing all acts which preserve racial hierarchy, while concurrently recognizing that not everybody who participates in such an act should be subjected to the type of social ostracism that typically accompanies being tagged "racist."

I subscribe to neither camp. I believe that the term "racist" should only be used in the most serious cases, either in terms of specific acts of hate, violence, or prejudice, or ideologies which overtly proclaim one race to be manifestly superior to others. I think that more "moderate" cases should still be addressed, and addressed seriously, but I think that they are best met with terminology other than "racist." Using racism to address the non-extreme cases, in my view, devalues the term and reduces the credibility of the anti-racial hierarchy movement. If you want more on this, check out Lawrence Blum's spectacular book: "I'm Not a Racist, But...".

So basically, I'm not a raving leftist who tags people as "racist" at a drop of the hat. When I use it, I take it seriously. And this definitely qualifies.

I'm just going to excerpt from the parts that are the most, well, insane. Which, to be perfectly frank, is just about all of it:
There was, though, a certainty in the world in ages past - a century ago, it was taken as a natural that Europeans (and their American and Australian offspring) had developed not just a high civilization, but the highest civilization - a civilization so manifestly superior to all others in existence that it must be the result of some special ability on the part of those who built it[....]

It had its good and bad points, as all human constructs do - the most glaring bad point, of course, was the disgraceful way it treated non-white people, and even those white people who didn't measure up to an alleged Anglo-Saxon ideal. The largest good point, however, has been lost entirely - what has been lost is a conviction that the civilization is fundamentally good. Confronted with the crimes of racism and imperialism and deformed by the monstrosities of communism and Nazism, that European - or white, if you will - civilization has entirely lost the ability to look at itself and see something good. This sort of attitude is more prevalent on the political left, but I think that nearly all white people feel it to some degree...some sense that we got from point A to point C only by walking all over people at point B. Our success, as it were, is ill-gotten and thus not something we should ask anyone to emulate...better, especially in the mind of the leftwing elite, if we just leave well enough alone and, indeed, pretend that we've something fundamental to learn from other civilizations whom we once oppressed.

As Mr. Steele points out, this has led to a bit of half-heartedness on the war - We are, in a sense, afraid to apply our full might because that would seem to be a bullying approach...and unfair way to deal with people from other civilizations which never managed to advance themselves until they were forced into modernity over the past century.

As it is, I believe in the civilization I belong to - I believe, indeed, that it is a dispensation granted to mankind by a benevolent Providence. Our civilization is designed, especially in its American form, to liberate and advance all of our brothers and isisters [sic] who continue to labor under oppression, ignorance and poverty. It is this belief of mine which sustains me through the difficult day to day of the War on Terrorism - just because my civilization is excellent, it doesn't mean that the barbarians don't have a trick or two up their slieeve [sic], but knowing that my civilizations produced civilized soldiers while their produces nothing by murderous villians, I am encouraged.

In reading Mr. Steele's piece I began, I think, to better understand my leftwing readers - at bottom, they simply must be of the opinion that we are not the best, that American civilization, far too tainted with guilty white people, simply cannot be correct, and thus anyone we fight must have right on their side. Its a default mental mode, and I don't think we'll be able to shake them out of it - but at least Mr. Steele has given us a way to understand them, and thus work around them if we can't work with them.

The emphasis is my own--the ellipsis not in brackets are Mr. Noonan's in the original.

There are really two types of idiocy present above--the blatantly racist stuff, and the shoddy argumentative maneuvering that supports it. They're interconnected, but distinct in that the first is a moral failing on Noonan's part, and the second is a logical failing.

I object to three specific claims by Noonan in the "moral" category. First:
Our civilization is designed, especially in its American form, to liberate and advance all of our brothers and sisters who continue to labor under oppression, ignorance and poverty

The problem with this statement is that it is empirically denied, rather harshly, by the facts of the last two centuries. I don't even need to make the radical claim that the War on Terrorism is just Western imperialism run amok (because I believe the exact opposite in fact). Let me just run through the list that nobody denies: Slavery, colonialism, lynching, Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the slave trade (which, given its likely 8-figure death toll, deserves independent recognition from slavery), communism, the My Lai massacre, fascism, anti-semitism, misogyny, spousal rape exemptions, segregation, the Native American genocide, reservations, the Dreyfuss affair, the eugenics movement, Japanese internment, and child labor. I could go on. All had relatively prominent roles in Western civilization at points in the last 200 years. This isn't to say that any given one of those wasn't present elsewhere. But it's just not intellectually plausible for Noonan to dismiss all of this as a historical footnote or aberration from Western civilization. We're talking about procedures of death and destruction that led to a body count well into the 9-figures. One can recognize positive contributions made by the West to the global community while still realizing that these horrors cast doubt on the West's claims to being designed for liberation (more on this later).

pretend that we've something fundamental to learn from other civilizations whom we once oppressed.

people from other civilizations which never managed to advance themselves until they were forced into modernity over the past century.

The former claim is almost too idiotic to address. I'll just give out a reading list: W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Fredrick Douglass, Kenji Yoshino, Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. should get you started.

As to the latter, I'm tempted to just refer Noonan to W.E.B. Du Bois, but I'll chime in with a few points of my own (still--read Du Bois. You might learn something from a person we had oppressed). For starters, I don't know what "modernity" means in this context. I'm assuming that Noonan is referring to the Enlightenment philosophical model developed from the 17th through the 19th century, focusing on individualism, the autonomous self, and the rights of persons. If that is indeed what he's talking about, then he is probably right that South America didn't have was not "modern." But then I have two questions.

First, with the Enlightenment model under attack from both the right and the left as being philosophically insufficient, why are we so happy to claim it as a perk? Again, there are loads of good things about the Enlightenment, but as commentators from throughout the political spectrum have noted, there are problems too--the emasculation of religion, the devaluing of communities and traditions, the destruction of solidarity, the myth of an atomic self, the inability of negative rights to secure positive liberty, and the persistence of subordinating ideologies even amongst the most "enlightened" civilizations. Why are we proclaiming our owe for a philosophy we (Republicans and Democrats) are in the process of rejecting--or at least heavily modifying? That moves me to the second problem: sure, Zanzibar probably didn't have a full panoply of rights prior to European colonialism, but it didn't have them during it, nor after it. And more importantly, neither did we. America was not and cannot be described as a "liberal" (in the philosophical sense) state while in the throes of Jim Crow and segregation. The response is always "well, we were liberal except for that," as if the official political suppression of millions of American citizens was just some afterthought we can cast aside. I'm sorry, but there is no way that can be considered a compelling argument. At best, the enlightenment model is an ongoing project that nobody has come close to achieving. And listening to the voices of oppressed peoples, their stories and analysis, might teach you that.

knowing that my civilizations produced civilized soldiers while their produces nothing by [sic] murderous villians, I am encouraged

How on earth does Noonan justify this without admitting naked racism, I have no idea. "Nothing [but] murderous villians"? If racism is defined (and I think this is a pretty restrictive definition) as the belief that a given civilization as a whole is completely and totally inferior to one's own, then saying that other civilizations produce only murderous villians leaps the bar without trouble. It's not even clear if Noonan is restricting this sweeping generalization to only Arabs (if not, see the above list), but even if so it's hardly warranted. Ibn Khaldun springs immediately to mind, and Saladin was without question both less murderous and less villainous than his Crusader counterparts. I'm not an expert in Arab history, but I'm sure I could go on here as well with only a cursory review. But there is no justifying this statement. At all.

The logical failing is simply an inability to grasp a middle ground between "always being the best" and "always being wrong". It's present in several places throughout the piece, but this excerpt works particularly well because the slide occurs within a single sentence:
at bottom, [liberals] simply must be of the opinion that we are not the best, that American civilization, far too tainted with guilty white people, simply cannot be correct, and thus anyone we fight must have right on their side.

Let me spell it out. We aren't always "the best", which doesn't mean we "cannot be correct." I think we've been correct on plenty of issues--one of which, incidentally, is overthrowing oppressive regimes like Hussein's and the Taliban. We've also been wrong (incorrect) on plenty of cases--like enslaving millions of people. So I can applaud the introduction by the West of a canon of Universal Human Rights, while decrying their introduction of the ideology of scientific racism and the blueprints for gas chambers. Recognizing that we've been both right and wrong, liberals believe that American policies should be evaluated a) case-by-case, rather than just assuming that because America does it, it's correct and b) with humility, because (inter alia) six million Jews, over a hundred million of Blacks, and countless other peoples know what happens when we get it wrong.

Burke might call this sort of prudence and caution a virtue. But what would he know about conservatism?

This is the rare post of its type that left me, not angry, but horrified. Here's where a more partisan blogger would go into the "this represents the modern Republican party" rant. I won't indulge, because I don't believe that most Republicans fit this mold. I'm willing to believe that most Republicans, presented with this throwback to our most evil ideologies, would be quite willing to codemn it as immoral. I take a lot of flack from my liberal pals for being more willing than they to ascribe good motives to most conservatives, and their deep opposition to racism and racist ideology (even if I think their tactics on opposing it are misguided). I know conservatives read my blog, so I'd appreciate a chance for some confirmation. Prove me right, and my critics wrong.

Breaching the Dike

I thought my post on Shelby Steele's explanation of our Iraq failure (short version: we were too soft on them) was pretty good. But Hilzoy and Glenn Greenwald put me to shame.

What's amazing, as they point out, isn't the piece itself so much as the incredibly positive reaction Steele's argument has elicited in the conservative blogosphere. It's like a dam has finally broken, and the right can finally extract itself from the humanitarian rhetoric they've wrapped this war in ever since the WMD case fell apart. We failed in Iraq because we were too concerned with being humane (you really have to read the excerpts Hilzoy and Greenwald collect to get the full brunt of their argument here). If we had just blown apart a few cities, then we'd have won by now--but liberal political correctness doesn't allow it. Greenwald elaborates:
Looking at the bright side of this deranged rhetoric, it is, in a sense, refreshing to see that many of these war supporters, in their great frustration, are finally relinquishing their solemn concern for the Iraqi people and the tearful inspiration caused by the Purple Fingers. Instead, they are now just calling for some good old-fashioned carpet bombings and mass killings. As Jeff [Goldstein] tells us: "there are times when we really should turn off the 'smart' bombs."...
To sit and listen to people who have spent the last three years piously lecturing us on the need to stand with "the Iraqi people," who justified our invasion of that country on the ground that we want to give them a better system of government because we must make Muslims like us more, now insist that what we need to do is bomb them with greater force and less precision is really rather vile -- but highly instructive. The masks are coming off. No more poetic tributes to democracy or all that sentimental whining about "hearts and minds." It's time to shed our unwarranted white guilt, really stretch our legs and let our hair down, and just keep bombing and bombing until we kill enough of them and win. Shelby Steele deserves some sort of award for triggering that refreshingly honest outburst.

Of course, this "outburst" is nonsense. It's not just that such a tactical effort wouldn't have worked, it's that it couldn't have. "Victory" over a smoldering crater is not a "win" under any moral standard America can rightly hold itself to. Hilzoy furthers:
[T]here is a difference between being hamstrung by guilt and being restrained by principle. The former is a sign of weakness; the latter is a sign of strength. Our principles are our own. We do not follow them because we are afraid of what someone else will say, but because we believe that they are right. The day we come to confuse our adherence to morality with timidity and fear will be the day we lose whatever virtue and strength we have, and forfeit our claim to anyone's respect.

Before we claim to be "winning", we need to take stock of what we've won. If we've crushed the Iraqi people into submission, but done it at the expense of our own soul, I think that's properly cast as defeat--defeat of a particularly tragic sort.

Ultimately, Greenwald gets the last word:
Escalating the use of military force in Iraq by indiscriminately killing civilians and eradicating whole cities would contradict every single statement we have made about why we are there, what we want to achieve, and what our plan is in that region. We're not refraining from those acts because of white guilt or a fear of what European diplomats will say about us. We're refraining from them because the wholesale indiscriminate slaughter of thousands or tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis -- all because we have grown impatient and annoyed with our pet little democracy-building project and just want to bomb the whole place into submission -- would be both morally reprehensible and, from the perspective of our own interests, an indescribably stupid thing to do.

Amen to that. Something ugly has been released in the hearts of the American right with this article. They better snap out of it, because what they're beginning to advocate now runs perilously close to utter depravity. Unlike what Jeff Goldstein says, we do not have to believe that the right actually "luxuriates" in the deaths of innocents to be appalled by their position. It's the indifference to the carnage, not the celebration of it, that is stunning. Wrapped under the guise of "professionalism" and "strength", this basic moral apathy represents a far greater degradation of one's ethical character than even active celebration of the deaths of terrorists. As Mirage said in The Incredibles: "Valuing life is not weakness, and disregarding it is not strength."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Stinking Water

I really don't know what to make of this.
Ike Brown is a legend in Mississippi politics, a fast-talking operative both loved and hated for his ability to turn out black voters and get his candidates into office.

That success has also landed him at the heart of a federal lawsuit that's about to turn the Voting Rights Act on its end.

For the first time, the U.S. Justice Department is using the 1965 law to allege racial discrimination against whites.

Brown, head of the Democratic Party in Mississippi's rural Noxubee County, is accused of waging a campaign to defeat white voters and candidates with tactics including intimidation and coercion. Also named in the lawsuit is Circuit Clerk Carl Mickens, who has agreed to refrain from rejecting white voters' absentee ballots considered defective while accepting similar ballots from black voters.
The Justice Department complaint says Brown and those working with him "participated in numerous racial appeals during primary and general campaigns and have criticized black citizens for supporting white candidates and for forming biracial political coalitions with white candidates."

Noxubee County - a rural area along the Alabama line named for a Choctaw word meaning "stinking water" - has a population of 12,500, 69 percent black and 30 percent white.

Whites once dominated county politics here, but now only one white person holds countywide office, and he says Brown tried to recruit an out-of-county black candidate to run against him three years ago.

I really detest racial appeals in voting, but as David Bernstein points out, I have no idea if they're illegal (or even if they are, whether such a legal interpretation would be consistent with the First Amendment). Also, of course, in cases like this there is always the question of whether or not the target is being selected for his political skill, rather than any violation of the law. And of course, there is serious concern that similar acts by white political operatives get the ol' wink and nod from the DOJ:
"The main concern we have in the civil rights community isn't necessarily that that DOJ brought this case," [Jack] Greenbaum says. "It's that the department is not bringing meritorious cases on behalf of African-American and Native American voters."

Justice Department records show the department's last voting-rights case alleging discrimination against black voters was filed in 2001. Since then, six cases have been brought on behalf of voters of Hispanic or Asian descent in five states -- plus the case involving white voters in Mississippi.
But [Brown's Defense Attorney, Black Republican Wilbur] Colom criticizes the Justice Department for filing a complaint against a black political consultant while ignoring similar behavior by white political operatives in Mississippi.

"It has overtones of politics and that's the wrong road for Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department," the attorney says. "It's going to destroy their credibility the next time they ask black people to listen to them."

Hmm...the last case alleging discrimination against Black voters was brought forth in 2001. What could have possibly engendered a major shift in DOJ policy in 2001? Coincidence, I'm sure.

In any event, assuming that these allegations are correct, I think such tactics are quite sleazy and deserve condemnation. Would that you'd ever see such condemnation when White political leaders engage in the activity, though.

What On Earth...?

Georgia History Professor James Cobb relates the following story:
After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods(one of them consisting of a visit from Taylor Branch) discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained, "we never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher's sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postscript, "I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"

I don't even know what that complaint is supposed to mean. What exactly did you learn in high school history? Never mind, I probably don't want to know.

I might, in the humblest way possible, suggest that a through grounding in the successes and failures of the American civil rights movement is something that Americans of all political persuasions might benefit from.

H/T: Eric Muller

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Just Another Honest Joe

Often times, when a big blogger links to a little guy (like myself), the recipient of the link feels a compulsion to acknowledge his benefactor (I do it here for Kevin Drum, for example). It's relatively commonplace, but it always seems to be linked to a big/small blogger dynamic. So when "My Election Analysis" welcomed my readers, I was understandably flattered. I'm a big blogger boy now!

But lo, even the titans have to pay proper respect. The Volokh Conspiracy is surely among the blogs which I would give a virtual welcome to, should they deign to recognize my humble internet homestead. But here is co-conspirator David Bernstein, welcoming readers from that insatiable beast, Instapundit! I guess even the largest bloggers are, on the inside, just like you and me (except Glenn Reynolds, who is apparently immortal).

It's a good post too (Bernstein's); giving an interesting update to a Penn State censorship controversy involving an art exhibit about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. You should go forth and read it.

And maybe (perchance, to dream?) Bernstein will give me you a warm welcome in deference to my patronage.

King of the Rubble Hill

Spencer Ackerman dissects the latest expression of irrational exuberance regarding Iraq, this time from conservative commentator Shelby Steele. Our problems in Iraq, Steele argues, stem from the fact that we are too restrained, a byproduct of "white guilt" toward our imperialist and racist past that makes us curiously unable to unleash the full brunt of American force and power against our enemies.

I too, am concerned about the concept of "White guilt" (albeit for wholly separate reasons than Steele), but this is ridiculous. Yes, we restrain ourselves from unleashing our full might--and it's a good thing too. Imagine the alternative! Ackerman writes:
Steele, in a meme that seems to be taking root on the right lately, suggests that we should apply "the full measure" of our non-nuclear military muscle to the insurgency. If this means anything, it means destroying cities like Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, Baquba, Tal Afar, Mosul, and let's not forget Baghdad--in other words, anywhere insurgent-supporting Sunnis live. One can also imagine this means flattening anywhere Shia militias operate. Basically, in this telling, victory in Iraq means that anywhere south of Kurdistan ought to be a smoldering wasteland.

Aside from the fact that this awful tactics (what exactly are we "winning" if this is the upshot?), I can't really figure out how this wouldn't be a return to an imperialist and racist past. Invade a country, topple its government, occupy its territory, and then burn its towns to the ground? This is morally repugnant to civilized sensibilities. Thankfully, this isn't our policy or position right now. But heaven forbid it ever becomes it.

The point is that American power is not justified by its own exercise. It is justified when it falls within particular moral confines, both deontological and teleological. It has to create good consequences (which defeating Islamic radicalism surely qualifies as), but it also has to be constrained, yes constrained, by certain moral limitations. Among them: No targeted killings of civilians. No torture. No indefinite detention without showing of cause. No burning villages to the ground. No limitless occupations. No rampant human rights violations. We've mostly (though not entirely) managed to avoid these sins thus far. But there is no reason to assume that they are entirely beyond our capabilities--especially if we "take the gloves off."

Steele concludes his piece with the following statement:
Possibly white guilt's worst effect is that it does not permit whites--and nonwhites--to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities.

This is a fact that must be integrated into our public life--absorbed as new history--so that America can once again feel the moral authority to seriously tackle its most profound problems. Then, if we decide to go to war, it can be with enough ferocity to win.

He just doesn't get it, does he. The "goodwill" Whites have managed to find for minorities (I'd prefer an actual respect for their dignity as human beings, rather than just vague positive wishes, but whatever) stems directly from the fact that we no longer are willing to treat them ferociously in service of our external ends--moral or not. Break down that moral barrier, and the whole edifice will come crashing down.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Slightly Less Than Wonderful News

Ethan Leib links to a piece in the New York Review of Books that claims Hamas' political wing might take the following positions:
- Members of Hamas's political directorate do not preclude significant changes over time in their policies toward Israel and in their founding charter, including recognition of Israel, and even mutual minor border adjustments. Such changes depend on Israel's recognition of Palestinian rights. Hamas will settle for nothing less than full reciprocity.

- Hamas is not opposed to negotiations with Israel, provided negotiations are based on the provision that neither party may act unilaterally to change the situation that prevailed before the 1967 war, and that negotiations, when they are resumed, will take the pre-1967 border as their starting point.

- Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel's statehood.

- Hamas is prepared to abide by a long-term hudna, or cease-fire, which would end all violence. Here again, complete reciprocity must prevail, and Israel must end all attacks on Palestinians. If Israel agrees to the cease-fire, Hamas will take responsibility for preventing and punishing Palestinian violations, whether committed by Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Intifada, or its own people. Hamas understands that it cannot demand recognition as the legitimate government of Palestine if it is not prepared to enforce such a cease-fire, in the context of its responsibility for law and order.

- Hamas's first priority will be to revitalize Palestinian society by strengthening the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers between various branches of government, and the professionalizing and accountability of the security services. It will aim to end corruption in government and implement new economic and social initiatives that are appropriate to the Palestinians' present circumstances. (My Hamas informant told me that well before the recent legislative elections, Hamas had commissioned teams of experts to prepare detailed plans for the economic and social recovery of Palestinian society; he said that the implementation of these plans would be Hamas's highest priority, but he did not discuss their content.)

- Hamas will not seek to impose standards of religious behavior and piety on the Palestinian population, such as the wearing of the veil or the abaya, although Hamas believes that certain standards of public modesty--but not of religious observance--should be followed by everyone.

Leib calls the agenda "heartening." Maybe I'm just ornery, but I find it difficult to get too excited over this. For one, the caveats Leib notes, that the Hamas official outlining these points refused to go on the record, that the status of Jerusalem under pre-1967 borders is likely a no-go for Israel--as well as one that he doesn't note, that this is the political wing of Hamas, which has not shown any interest in restraining its military wing--seem to absorb a lot of the benefits I might otherwise take from this.

But also, I'm kind of underwhelmed by this proposal even at face value. This point, in particular, grabbed me:
Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel's statehood.

Is this supposed to be comforting? First of all, theology's record at accommodating temporal realities for more than a small period of time is spotty at best. Second, I don't like the mix of theology into political negotiation. Jews can stake an equal theological claim to all of Palestine, and while I wouldn't presume to tell any religion what it's theological stances should be, I don't think Israel should put that position as a "caveat" to its secular bargaining. Third, the rhetoric is really scary here. It does not guarantee Israel's existence, it merely will "accommodate" its existence as long as a notoriously weak (and hostile) international legal schema requires it. Israel is reasonably strong now, and has enough powerful friends to keep its enemies at least at arms length (except maybe the growing sociopathic demon that is Iran), but there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. I read this statement as only a commitment to delay Israel's destruction, not abandonment of the principle. How is this something upon which long-term security can be staked?

A brief counterpoise, if you'll indulge me: A 16 year old American citizen is in critical condition after being caught in the Tel Aviv suicide bombing. Both the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade and Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility, was thrilled that Daniel Wultz was injured, though it expressed regret that he wasn't killed. From Islamic Jihad:
"The meaning and the goal of our lives is to fight the devil spiritually and physically. The Jews are the expression of both kinds of devil. No mercy for devils."

[Islamic Jihad Leader]Abu Ayman expressed regret Wulz [sic] wasn't killed in last week's terror attack.

"The only sorrow that I feel is that the Jewish parents of this Daniel Wultz did not suffer like an average Palestinian family who lost its child. Maybe if their child was killed they and the Americans would have to pay attention to the suffering of thousands of Palestinian families who lost their children."

And from the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, affiliated with the "moderate" Fatah:
"I want to use this occasion of speaking to the American people to tell them that the unfair support of your people to Israel is the reason that you are targeted almost everywhere in the world. Second, I want to bring to your knowledge that the most cruel settlers are those who came from America. It is known that the Jews are sly and not honest, and they are leading into this trap of the Middle East in order to carry out their plan of controlling the world."

Oh yeah. This is going to turn out great.

Computer Update and Reading Material

I brought in the laptop to the Student Computer Service today. I was wildly over-optimistic--they said to expect it to be fixed by the end of the week.


Printed off Sumi Cho's article "Redeeming Whiteness in the Shadow of Internment: Earl Warren, Brown, and a Theory of Racial Redemption," 40 B.C. L. Rev. 73 (1998), which I will (hopefully) read today. It's very long, but I'm really only interested in the second half of it. Also, I wrote an 8 page introduction to Critical Race Theory on Thursday, in case anybody is interested in getting a background on the subject so near and dear to my heart. It's too long to blog, but I'd be happy to email a copy of it to anybody who wants one.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Boycotting as Tactics

I've been vaguely supportive of the May 1st "Day Without Immigrants" protest as a concept. The intelligentsia knows that our economy depends on these immigrants, so watching things go *splat* without them should act as a wakeup call for the rest of the country. But a recent post by Kevin Drum raises doubts. He quotes Marc Cooper, a veteran of the protest and activism movement:
With the Senate back in session and struggling to agree on liberalized bipartisan reform, with President Bush finally (but still not forcefully enough) bringing some of his clout to bear, with public opinion polls showing new majorities in favor of much of what immigrant advocates have been lobbying for, I can't think of a worse time to stage a confrontational boycott like that planned for May 1.

There is a definite time and place for this sort of tactic, and it isn't here or now. Boycotts are powerful and volatile weapons used as a last resort to bust open dams of dogged resistance. You don't use them when the political tide is even vaguely flowing in your direction.
That's why the larger institutional players in the pro-immigrant movement prefer an after-school (and after-work) rally over an intentionally punitive boycott and walkout. They argue that such an escalation could alienate lawmakers and the public just when political sentiment is shifting more toward immigrants. The positive message of demanding inclusion in the United States would be replaced by a more negative and divisive signal.

Hmm...maybe. I mean, I can definitely see where he's coming from. On the other hand, I have two questions:

1) How will this "backlash" ignore the economic price that this boycott will bring into sharp relief? Can that many Americans really act on emotion when the punishment to the pocketbook is so clear?

2) What does Cooper think of the Darfur rallies going on today? On the one hand, one could argue that on the legislative front, Darfur might be stuck in a logjam that needs to be broken. On the other, it seems like "the political tide" is at least vaguely (Cooper's words) flowing in our favor.

Still, it's a legitimate point. I hope Cooper's wrong though.

Update on my computer situation: I'm hoping it will be up and running by Tuesday. Basically, the techie folk here sent me a nice email telling me that I had a virus, had been temporarily removed from the network, and that they'd be happy to fix my computer anytime from 9-5, Monday through Friday. The problem was that they sent this email at 5:30 Friday afternoon. Grr. And since this weekend is mid-term break, the computing service probably won't be open on Monday. So assuming this clean up won't take crazy-long time, Tuesday is my target date.