Saturday, June 10, 2006

Up Up and Away!

I'm travelling this weekend and (gasp) am not bringing my computer (or at least am not planning to). I'm taking a train back home Monday, but I start work Tuesday. Presumably I should be able to blog at nights still (but you remember how I rolled last summer).

Friday, June 09, 2006

The McGwire Paradox

Via the always insightful Belle Lettre, we have an unusually sharp analysis of anti-discrimination law through the lens of Baseball.

The article specifically focuses on the hostility Barry Bonds has faced while chasing Babe Ruth's 714 home run mark. What does it stem from? Well, one candidate is racism: Hank Aaron certainly encountered his fair share of if it when it became clear that a Black ballplayer was about to bypass the Sultan of Swat for the title of home run king. Alternatively, one might argue, Bonds is being targeted because of his suspected (a word which teeters on the line of getting quotation marks) steroids use. Or, of course, it could be a mixture of both.

The trouble is disentangling the legitimate anger that a baseball fan might have over cheating, and the illegitimate resentment that is engendered by Bonds' race. In today's society, few people are overtly racist, or would admit to racist motivations. This does not mean racism is "over", only that it has been driven underground.

Belle asks:
You have to wonder though--do white players get as much heat for their alleged steroid use? Do new fathers get short-shrifted at work as much as new mothers? How much do stereotypes about gender or race affect how the employee's performance is perceived? Do we have different expectations for members of certain races or genders, such that when the members do not perform to our expectations we treat them differently than other groups? If a woman handles a client with professionalism and courtesy but lacking a demure manner, is she evaluated based on such stereotypical expectations? Is a man allowed to be more abrasive or outspoken? Is any transgression by a black or latino employee treated more harshly than someone in the good ol' boys network?

Where racism is not made overt, the only way to discover it is to look comparatively. To take one example, while one would not expect to find an elementary school teacher openly professing white supremacy, if a given school system more frequently fails black students than white students of similar backgrounds, that would be suggestive that there is still something racially wrong in the system: a problem with the pedagogy, or the metrics, or any number of factors which are having a racially disparate effect.

What's important to note here is that this can still be operative even where the baseball fan (or school system) has perfectly plausible explanations for its individual actions. It is, after all, quite legitimate to dislike Bonds for using steroids. But it is indicative to see how he is treated compared to White athletes in similar positions. This is what I am calling the McGwire paradox. McGwire also was pursuing a beloved home run record while under the shadow of steroid allegations. And let's be clear: he got his fair share of negative press. But my recollection includes nothing comparable to what Bonds has endured: a universally hostile media, booing fans, consistent deriding. This is anecdotal and based entirely off my recollections, but I simply don't recall the same level of vitriol then compared to now. So I'd submit that while there are non-racial reasons to praise or disparage both Bonds and McGwire, there are precious few non-racial reasons to treat McGwire with at least respect while slamming Bonds.

This dovetails off my adored Gaertner and Dovidio study (summarized by me here), which says that racism is primarily operative when people can attach it to a superficially non-racial reason. In other words, if Bonds was a perfect human being, we'd respect him even though he's Black. But as a deeply flawed man, we cast scorn upon him--more than we'd give to a similarly situated White athlete.

We're Watching We

Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to install night-vision camaras on the Mexico border, then have citizens be able to call a toll-free number to report illegal immigrants crossing the border.

There is a point to be made here about how the people can be recruited to create their own security state, but I'm too depressed to make it. Who needs Big Brother when we each can act as each other's spymaster?

This is like the evil twin of the wisdom of crowds. We're participating in our own Panoptican.

Via Jason Mazzone

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Become Thy Enemy

Cathy Young is must reading on the slide of some conservatives into scary levels of anti-Muslim (not anti-Islamo-fascist, but anti-Muslim) rhetoric--including sympathy for Slobadon Milosivic's genocidal actions in Bosnia, because the victims were Muslim:
On March 12, the group blog Infidel Bloggers Alliance ran an item titled "Memorable moment in the Milosevic trial." It described, without further comment, an episode in which Milosevic tried to portray himself as fighting the same forces of terrorism now threatening the West. Co-bloggers chimed in with such comments as "Wouldn't it be strange if Milosevic ends up being remembered by history as a hero and a kind of prophet?" and "Ever since 9/11, one question after another about whether we were on the wrong side in the Bosnian conflict has come up. The only thing you can trust a Muslim to be is a Muslim." (Including, it seems, the famously secularized and nonradical Bosnian Muslims, some 100,000 of whom died in Milosevic's assaults of the 1990s.) Similar attitudes, somewhat less stridently expressed, could be found on Jihad Watch, FrontPage, and other popular right-wing sites.

That is appalling. Once you start endorsing genocide, you become, in my mind, indistinguishable from any other terrorist sympathizer.

Conservatives need to start purging these barbarians from their ranks, and fast.

H/T: Eric Muller

No Mo Po-Mo

Via Rob Vischer, I find that Florida has officially declared post-modernism a theory non grata. My initial reaction, inspired by Sandy Levinson, is that the average member of the Florida legislature could not even give a coherent definition of what post-modernism means. But perish the thought that they reflect on that for a moment before using it as a stand-in for all that is evil and wrong with academia.

Post-modernism actually defies easy definition even among its adherents, which makes it nearly impossible to discern what the average Florida legislator thought she was doing when she voted for this law (my definition is that post-modernism represents a critique of meta-narratives). But the supreme irony is that Florida's account of what American history "is", is in fact quite relativist in its own right:
The history of the United States shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth. American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.

I think it is rather fanciful to say that the new nation was based even "largely" on the principles of the declaration of independence. The truth-value of that statement is relatively high from the perspective of landed White male, and relatively low from the perspective of nearly anybody else. Ask any woman, Black person, Native American, or even landless White male what they think of that statement. I pretty confident that we've hit well over 50% of the population with those groups. Manifest Destiny? Trail of Tears? Slavery? Jim Crow? Japanese Internment? America was and remains a work in progress, and the universalist principles undergirding the declaration have not been achieved even today, let alone at the founding.

I can't get Richard Rorty out of my head: "Truth cannot be out there - cannot exist independently of the human mind - because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there" (Contingency, Irony, Solidarity at 5). The way we describe the world is a construction, so how can we pretend like we are uncritically reflecting a world that is out there? I remember learning about both the Battle at Wounded Knee, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Which is it? To say that these constructions are just academic playthings is just naive.

Of course, as Levinson notes, we could just bar David Hume and Thomas Kuhn and nearly every development in modern philosophy from Mill on out. That would significantly disadvantage the academic progress of Florida students. But I've gotten the distinct feeling that Republicans are actually hostile to academic achievement--since they think that higher education itself is biased against them. Well, maybe it is--colleges and universities have pretty well bought into the principles of equal humanity and dignity that the GOP (with their lovely FMA) continues to war against. But they really can't pretend to be pro-education at the same time as they try and sabotage it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Endo Symposium

Japanese Internment expert Eric Muller just hosted it over at his blog. The subject is Ex Parte Endo, an overshadowed sister case to the infamous Korematsu decision. Unlike Korematsu, however, Endo won her case: the government cannot indefinitely detain citizens it admits to be loyal.

Contributions were made by Jerry Kang, Patrick Gudridge, and Greg Robinson, with an introduction by Professor Muller.

It's tempting to treat the Japanese Internment as a--in the words of one conservative activist--"historical footnote". In today's climate, we must resist this temptation. Ms. Endo was subjected to much of the same stick-and-carrot treatment that allowed the Bush administration to evade review in Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi's case. She was shuffled from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to prevent her argument from being heard. She was offered an immediate release from detention if she dropped her case. To forget her story is to lose an important piece of our collective history, one which has proven all too ready to sacrifice the rights of detested minorities in pursuit of fictive security.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chick-Sexing and Lawyering

Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan's message to his graduates is provocative and thought-provoking. You have to ask: When conservatives use law to hurt people, is it part of the job? Or why they took the job?

They have a choice. Don't let them forget that.

H/T: Orin Kerr.

Why Are We There?

I was under the impression that we are still in Iraq in order to help the people and government form a stable, representative democracy. This would mean that the where there is a war "in" Iraq. Not, as Rush Limbaugh put it, a war "against" Iraq. If you're saying that we are still "against" Iraq today, then you've either a) been asleep for the last 3 years or b) engaging in Freudian slip and are actually part of the bomb the Iraqi people into rubble camp.

It would be interesting to see who is still using the rhetoric that places America in opposition to Iraq, especially among those who argue that our presence there is for good.

At Home, Out of Action

So I'm done with finals and back at hoem in Bethesda. But I'm having trouble getting my computer re-connected to our network, so my internet access is limited. Hopefully I'll be back in action soon.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Conversation Between Blacks and "The Law"

I just want to have this excerpt from Alan David Freeman's article "Legitimizing Racial Discrimination Through Antidiscrimination Law: A Critical Review of Supreme Court Doctrine" (62 Minn. L. Rev. 1049 (1978) preserved online for my future perusal. I think it pretty well shows the bewildering array of obstacles the law has put in the path of Black Americans who take seriously that racial discrimination is now illegal.
The Law: "Black Americans rejoice! Racial discrimination has now become illegal."

Black Americans: "Great, we who have no jobs want them. We who have lousy jobs want better ones. We whose kids go to black schools want to chose integrated schools if we think that would be better for our kids, or want enough money to make our own schools work. We want political power roughly proportionate to our population. And many of us want houses in the suburbs."

The Law: "You can't have any of thsoe things. You can't assert your claim against society in general, but only against a named discriminator, and you've got to show that you are an individual victim of that discrimination and that you were intentionally discriminated against. And be sure to demonstrate how that discrimination caused your problem, for any remedy must be coextensive with the violation. Be careful your claim does not impinge on some other cherished American value, like local autonomy of the suburbs, or previously distributed vested rights, or selection on basis of merit. Most important, do not demand any remedy involving racial balance or proportionality; to recognize such claims would be racist." (1049-50)