Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Profile

In the comments to this post, Mark Olson and I had a long debate on (among other things) whether racial profiling was just. He said that the only relevant consideration was whether the profile was accurate--that is, does it accurately describe (and thus catch) the people most likely to be committing crimes. I argued that this seems to overlook that criminal organizations can create "anti-profiles" in response to profiling, making the locus of criminal activity simply shift from group to group. In addition, even if the original instinct is right, I gave five additional reasons why I think racial profiling is wrong:
1) I think the distributional burdens outweigh the prospective gains: treating innocent Blacks as if they were criminal is a big harm, and I don’t think it’s outweighed simply by catching more (Black) criminals.

2) It’s self-reinforcing: profiling means we’ll catch more Black criminals vis-a-vis White ones, which will enhance the perceived disparity in crime rates, which will justify more profiling.

3) It tends to exceed its own justificatory boundaries: The rates at which Black people are profiled (i.e., more likely to be pulled over than Whites) tend to exceed the level that they are more likely to commit crimes. Racial profiling lends itself to an exaggeration of the perception of Black criminality, leading to the program exploding beyond any reasonable link to the actual disparities in crime rates.

4) It makes it easier for Whites to commit crimes when police resources are specifically (and publicly) diverted away from looking at them, so the overall anti-crime effect may be marginal.

5) It’s self-defeating: Police profiling of Blacks makes Blacks (rightfully) view the police as their enemy, fueling urban tensions and making it more difficult for serious crimes to be solved.

While doing research on an unrelated matter, I found at least some evidence to support point three, which is the most direct response to Mark's claim. Clarence Lusane points out that "Federal surveys show that blacks use drugs at the same rate as whites, and there is no evidence that blacks are more involved in drug trafficking than whites, yet . . . . in at least 30 major cities, blacks are ten times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites." [Clarence Lusane, In Perpetual Motion: The Continuing Significance of Race and America's Drug Crisis, 1994 U. Chi. Legal F. 83, 146]. Admittedly, this information is somewhat dated, but I've seen and heard no evidence that relative Black drug use (or trafficking) has increased since 1994, or that their arrest rates have gone down.

But one thing both of us assumed is that the "profile" is a stable subject. That is, when the police say they searched or arrested someone because he or she "fit the profile", they are talking about some reasonably static nexus of characteristics and behaviors. A significant portion of Mark's defense of profiling is dependent on this, because he tries to dodge the distributional justice concerns I raise by simply arguing that people can act differently (when I raised the wealthy Black man who gets pulled over in his sports car whenever he doesn't wear nice clothes, Mark said the guy should either wear a suit or buy a Prius). But this post by Columbia Law Professor Michael Dorf seems to put a dagger in that assumption. Far from being a meticulously constructed simulacrum of criminality, some judges have observed that "profile" can be a shorthand for literally any behavior.
[A] canvass of numerous cases reveals the drug courier profile's "chameleon-like way of adapting to any particular set of observations." United States v. Sokolow, 831 F.2d 1413, 1418 (9th Cir.1987), rev'd, 490 U.S. 1, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 104 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989):
Arrived late at night United States v. Nurse, 916 F.2d 20, 24 (D.C.Cir.1990).

Arrived early in the morning United States v. Reid, 448 U.S. 438, 441, 100 S.Ct. 2752, 2754, 65 L.Ed.2d 890 (1980); United States v. Millan, 912 F.2d 1014, 1017 (8th Cir.1990).

One of first to deplane United States v. Millan, 912 F.2d at 1015; United States v. Moore, 675 F.2d 802, 803 (6th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1068, 103 S.Ct. 1521, 75 L.Ed.2d 945 (1983).

One of last to deplane United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 547 n. 1, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1873 n. 1, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980); United States v. Sterling, 909 F.2d 1078, 1079 (7th Cir.1990); United States v. White, 890 F.2d 1413, 1414 (8th Cir.1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 825, 111 S.Ct. 77, 112 L.Ed.2d 50 (1990).

Deplaned in the middle United States v. Buenaventura-Ariza, 615 F.2d 29, 31 (2d Cir.1980).

Used a one-way ticket United States v. Johnson, 910 F.2d 1506 (7th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1051, 111 S.Ct. 764, 112 L.Ed.2d 783 (1991); United States v. Colyer, 878 F.2d 469, 471 (D.C.Cir.1989); United States v. Sullivan, 625 F.2d 9, 12 (4th Cir.1980).

Used a round-trip ticket United States v. Craemer, 555 F.2d 594, 595 (6th Cir.1977).

Carried brand-new luggage United States v. Taylor, 917 F.2d at 1403; United States v. Sullivan, 625 F.2d at 12.

Carried a small gym bag United States v. Sanford, 658 F.2d 342, 343 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 991, 102 S.Ct. 1618, 71 L.Ed.2d 852 (1982).

Travelled alone United States v. White, 890 F.2d at 1415; United States v. Smith, 574 F.2d 882, 883 (6th Cir.1978).

Travelled with a companion United States v. Garcia, 905 F.2d 557, 559 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 986, 111 S.Ct. 522, 112 L.Ed.2d 533 (1990); United States v. Fry, 622 F.2d 1218, 1219 (5th Cir.1980).

Acted too nervous United States v. Montilla, 928 F.2d 583, 585 (2d Cir.1991); United States v. Cooke, 915 F.2d 250, 251 (6th Cir.1990).

Acted too calm United States v. McKines, 933 F.2d 1412 (8th Cir.1991); United States v. Himmelwright, 551 F.2d 991, 992 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 902, 98 S.Ct. 298, 54 L.Ed.2d 189 (1977).

Wore expensive clothing and gold jewelry United States v. Chambers, 918 F.2d 1455, 1462 (9th Cir.1990).

Dressed in black corduroys, white pullover shirt, loafers without socks United States v. McKines, supra.

Dressed in dark slacks, work shirt, and hat United States v. Taylor, 917 F.2d at 1403.

Dressed in brown leather aviator jacket, gold chain, hair down to shoulders United States v. Millan, 912 F.2d at 1015.

Dressed in loose-fitting sweatshirt and denim jacket United States v. Flowers, 909 F.2d 145, 146 (6th Cir.1990).

Walked rapidly through airport United States v. Millan, 912 F.2d at 1017; United States v. Rose, 889 F.2d 1490, 1491 (6th Cir.1989).

Walked aimlessly through airport United States v. Gomez-Norena, 908 F.2d 497, 497 (9th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 947, 111 S.Ct. 363, 112 L.Ed.2d 326 (1991).

Flew in to Washington National Airport on the LaGuardia Shuttle United States v. Powell, 886 F.2d 81, 82 (4th Cir.1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1084, 110 S.Ct. 1144, 107 L.Ed.2d 1049 (1990).

Had a white handkerchief in his hand United States v. Garcia, 848 F.2d 58, 59 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 957, 109 S.Ct. 395, 102 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988).

In our "Looking-Glass" world of drug enforcement, the DEA apparently seeks "to be master" by having "drug courier profile" mean, like a word means to Humpty Dumpty, "just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." [United States v. Hooper, 935 F.2d 484 (1991) (Pratt, J., dissenting)]

In the same case, the DEA also justified its search by saying that the suspect came from a "source city"--which, under questioning, was conceded to be "virtually any city with a major airport." In other words, the "profile" of a drug courier can be asserted to include any behavior, indicating that the entire discourse is pre-textual.

Dissenting in U.S. v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 13-14 (1989), Justice Thurgood Marshall raised similar concerns, and added that reliance on formulaic profiles could dull an officer's instincts for identifying truly suspicious behavior--an ability that undergirds the entire line of cases proceeding from Terry v. Ohio that allows officers to conduct searches in the absence of evidence that would normally rise to the level of "probable cause."
In my view, a law enforcement officer's mechanistic application of a formula of personal and behavioral traits in deciding whom to detain can only dull the officer's ability and determination to make sensitive and fact-specific inferences “in light of his experience,” Terry [v. Ohio], supra, at 27, 88 S.Ct., at 1883, particularly in ambiguous or borderline cases. Reflexive reliance on a profile of drug courier characteristics runs a far greater risk than does ordinary, case-by-case police work of subjecting innocent individuals to unwarranted police harassment and detention.

In this way, profiling not only raises the risk of innocents being subject to police harassment and detention, but also makes the police less effective and thus all of us less safe.

The Pane of Glass

"Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know that he does not see it. Someone who, being placed differently, does see it, does not know the other does not see it." --Simone Weil

The same reality can look quite different to those differently situated. When a person in a different social location remarks on an event or experience that we--despite living in the same "world"--do not perceive, our first response may be to deny or deride them as liars, charlatans, or fakes, for we do not see what they see. It is difficult for us to imagine that our vision may be constrained--especially if one is situated in a position that is treated as if its perspective is universal and whole. Meanwhile, the interlocutor is presented with a very similar problem. When an experience is right there in front of you, a fundamental part of ones existence that can feel, touch, block, or even slay you, it is hard to imagine that your partner cannot see it. The first person's objection is taken to be in bad faith, a manifestation of hostility.

In both cases, the problem is the projection of one's own experiences onto to the other. When this occurs, intellectual synthesis is stunted. Instead, one position--generally, the one whose social power renders his or her perspective as a Universal--dominates the other, banishing its counterpart as fiction, mirage, or (perhaps) an isolated event. Nobody learns from the other, the status quo is maintained, and alternative views of the way it is are sacrificed because they don't fit The Way It Is.

Ideally, both parties should recognize the limitation of their and their partner's perceptual horizons, adopting a stance of humility. She who does not see should nonetheless be willing to accept the other's sight, she who sees should be generous to those whose vision is lacking. The reality that our perspective is constrained by our social position affects us all, and that is something we share with every other body, no matter how far apart we seem on everything else. Thus, our demand should not be for others to see what we see. Rather, we have the right to demand a certain degree of wonder (to borrow from Luce Irigaray) on the part of our interlocutors in social discussions, "Wonder which beholds what it sees always has if for the first time, never taking hold of the other as its object. It does not try to seize, possess, or reduce this object, but leaves it subjective, still free." No matter how complete we feel our experience is, other people remain in some sense beyond us, and only they have the authority to tell the story of their own experience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Threatening Our Very Way Of Life

A Muslim group (the Nation of Islam) is now taking aim at that cherished facet of American life: Street Harassment! Clearly, they hate us for our freedom (to cat-call women on the street).

Via Yglesias


Iris Marion Young!

That is all.

Is He Black Enough Now?

Barack Obama, or "B-Rock", is starting to get name dropped in hip-hop music.

Unfortunately, CNN is probably right that if Obama gets identified with hip-hop music, his opponents in the fall will try to use it as a wedge issue against him. This is true despite the fact that Obama has spoken of the need for rappers to take responsibility for their lyrics. And it's true because, by and large, the critique of rap is not quite bogus, but wildly overstated. There is a lot of racial coding going on in the White suspicion of rap music, which is unfortunate, because good hip-hop can be beautiful, illuminating, and politically conscious in a way few other musical genres are. And I say that as someone who is not, generally speaking, a fan.

Oh, and lest you think this post doesn't adequately link to the title:
Both Common and [Talib] Kweli [both rappers] bristled at one question that Obama's faced at recent presidential forums and debates: whether the candidate is "black enough."

"It's a horrible question," Kweli said. "It's very divisive. It divides us. Obviously that man is black. I think it's utterly ridiculous."

Common laughed and said, "He looks black to me."


Okay, I'm back from my trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Delaware, for those of you who don't know, is a state so small it actually exists only between high and low tides, thus sucking up prime beach property that rightfully should go to Maryland. Actually, I had a very nice time out there, but for some reason I conceptually object to Delaware. For starters, it's a runt. There are very few states I can pick on size-wise, coming from Maryland, but Delaware is one of them. The fact that Maryland is so small is all the more reason why it should absorb Delaware entirely for efficiency's sake (of course, I still want to go to war with Pennsylvania over the Mason-Dixon line. But that's just me). Second, despite being a solid blue state, it has a Republican Representative (Michael Castle) in its one (at-large) district, which is inexcusable. Third, despite occupying prime real estate in the Washington - Boston corridor, it doesn't have any major cities (no, Wilmington doesn't count). To be fair, I also ding Rhode Island for this (Connecticut gets a pass because the entire state is essentially a New York City suburb). But Rhode Island got rid of its Congressional Republicans. Fourth, it has no sales tax, thus forcing me to shop for clothes while on vacation instead of, you know, vacationing.

So, in sum: Rehoboth has an excellent beach, with a great boardwalk, decent restaurants (although, oddly enough, none of the places we ate at gave us silverware until we requested it. It was very strange), and is conveniently located a mere three hours from Washington, D.C.. But it's in Delaware.

I say that Maryland's eyes ought to look eastward, and reclaim the shores that are our birthright.


The FRC's Tony Perkins has found his new favorite boy-toy in "Lt. Pete Hegseth", a "former Princeton grad" (how is one a "former" Princeton grad? Did they strip him of his diploma?) and Witherspoon Fellow who now dedicates his time to supporting the surge in Iraq and "stay the course" policies. That Perkins would fall for such a man wouldn't mean much to me, but I was intrigued by this description of his combat experience:
As a soldier, he's taken on Samarra, Baghdad, and Guantanamo, but no challenge has been greater than his mission as veteran here at home--battling the constant anti-war drone from congressional leaders and reporters.

Putting aside the idea that playing lobbyist is tougher than fighting a war--something I doubt even Hegseth would endorse and certainly a sentiment I doubt is shared amongst his peers--I'm just curious what it means to have "taken on" Guantanamo? Guantanamo is essentially an island prison bordered by the Caribbean on one side and an oppressive dictatorship on the other, where we house mentally broken detainees in sub-par facilities that we occasionally deign to let the Red Cross inspect. Hence, I can only assume that one "takes on" Guantanamo by taking down the various forms of extra-legal imprisonment and "harsh interrogation tactics" that go on there as the Bush administration works to blur the boundaries between us and Cuba as much as possible. But I don't think the FRC would celebrate that. So, I'm drawing a blank.

Run By An Idiot, For An Idiot

I want to laugh at the Fred Thompson campaign. I really should be able to. Thompson is, by all accounts, lazy and an intellectual light-weight. And his supporters, more often than not, also seem to be lazy and intellectual light-weights. It's would be a funny combination. But I can't laugh, because eight years ago that very combination drove a candidate to victory. Hubris and all that.

But even still, sometimes I can't contain myself. Let's take this "critique" of Barack Obama's candidacy by Black Five. In between a lot (no, I mean a lot) of senseless babbling, he gives three main reasons for why Obama is teh suck. The first is that he's inexperienced. Now, this is a spectacularly dumb claim, as Obama has more electoral office experience than Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, Edwards, and Clinton, but it's a common mistake, so we'll let it slide. The second and third are the ones that truly blow my mind. They are that the Columbia/Harvard educated, first Black President of the Harvard law Review, described by Lawrence Tribe as one of the two brightest students he's every taught, is not intelligent, and that the bring-down-the-house "Audacity of Hope" orator is not a good public speaker. Now, I'm as much a fan as anybody of the "slam one's opponents where they're strongest" line of political strategy, to prevent them from building a narrative, but seriously, this is what you've got? Obama is a babbling moron? I guess the problem is credibility. I'm listening to a blogger complain about Obama's lack of intelligence while saying he'll "probably support Fred Thompson just because he sounds like a President should sound...." (and, as an added bonus, he does "actually like the policies he has been talking up"!), which is the mark of someone who really is putting intelligence in the "one" priority spot, and claim that Obama isn't sufficiently eloquent while being a White guy writing phrases like "before you accuse me of hating on light-skinned brothers...."

Meanwhile, Garance Franke-Ruta talked with a prominent Iowa Republican on why he was supporting Thompson. He offered up a comparison to Clinton:
"Can you imagine what debates are going to be like with great big Andrew Jackson-looking Fred and Hillary on her stubby little legs, stamping her feet?" Thompson, if elected, would be the tallest president ever. Republicans are not just looking for the usual John Wayne-type signifiers as they go about selecting a candidate, but thinking about who can best loom over Hillary Clinton and make her look like a shrill, small, silly little woman. Thompson's booming voice will make her "sound like Madame Defarge."

As Kevin Drum notes, Clinton would likely "eviscerate" Thompson in a debate, and watching that happen is the best reason he can think of for supporting Clinton as the nominee. But it amazes me just how much Thompson's support is based on him being tall and strong-looking. Speaking of which, Black Five also trots out the old "nobody would be talking about Obama if he wasn't Black" argument. In addition to referring back to Cass Sunstein's takedown of that point (would anybody have talked about Bush if his last name wasn't Bush?), Thompson is a particularly bad foil for this point, because nobody would be talking about him at all if he wasn't on the cast of Law & Order.

Thompson is the ultimate Potemkin candidate, and the way his supporters embarrass themselves while talking about him just makes his candidacy that much more ridiculous. Voters are not going to make the same mistake three Presidential elections in a row.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Padilla Convicted

Jose Padilla has been convicted on all counts in a Florida Courtroom. The charges had nothing to do with the original "dirty bomb" plot we used to confine Padilla for years in a military brig--there was apparently insufficient evidence to prove anything of the sort. This was a generic "supporting terrorism" charge.

Orin Kerr has everybody's talking points ready to go, so have at it.

For my part, I agree with Steve Benen: Today's case notwithstanding, the entire ordeal we've put Padilla through has been a running disgrace to the idea of "rule of law."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lamb Chops

Apparently, Rudy Giuliani has written ("has written") a foreign policy manifesto for Foreign Affairs magazine. It's called "Toward a Realistic Peace," though in his nut summary, Jim Henley provides the alternative title of "Don't Say You Weren't Warned." Best part of his distillation:
You will not enjoy a day of peace so long as Rudy has anything to say about it. Peace is something we will "achieve" in the distant future when the lion has been clubbed senseless with the lamb.

Now that's biblical imagery!


11-year old Hamas TV star says she hopes to be a "martyr", says all Israelis should be forced to leave. The TV station is licensed by the Palestinian Authority, although the PA has tried (unsuccessfully) to push some of the more hateful shows off the air.

I've scarcely seen anything as depressing as this little girl, a propaganda tool for murderous thugs, already brainwashed to kill herself for the sake of continued violence. It's depraved. But it does show, in sickening detail, the character of the Hamas movement that all those who hope for peace--Israeli, Palestinian, and otherwise--are set up against.

Rehoboth Avenue

Hey y'all. The beach trip is going quite well. We played mini-golf last night, and while my dad won with a sizzling back nine (to finish 9-under par, beating me by three strokes), I did make the shot of the day by getting that "19th hole" hole-in-one, winning a free game. You know the whole type--some impossible set up (in this case, a 15 foot putt to a plank about 2 inches wide leading uphill into a tiny hole), one shot, pure luck. But I drilled it. Family was duly impressed.

I was also more right than I knew regarding internet access. I have it, but it is sporadic. Basically, the motel I'm at doesn't have wi-fi, but the street it's next to is a hotspot. So my room is right on the fringe of that network. It tends to dislike me, but I can surf the net, check email, etc.. In theory, I'm supposed to be studying for my GREs. But I'm probably going to end up blogging instead.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beach Bound

I'm going with the family to Delaware for the next few days (last chance to be together before the younger brother goes to college). Internet access will be spotty, at best. I'll be back at the end of the week, though.

The Strawman that Broke My Back

I try to ignore most right-wing posts that purport to attack "multiculturalism." I know that they have no knowledge of the theoretical or academic underpinnings of multiculturalism, what the movement actual advocates for and represents, or even, beyond a bare-bones caricature, what the term even means. It is a waste of my time, and yours, to highlight every single boneheaded post or article that purports to indict multiculturalism simply by pointing out an instance of somebody doing something stupid or evil, with a racial/cultural component.

But browsing through Powerline, I came across this post by Scott Johnson which just popped my eyes out.
One of the basic tenets of the contemporary liberal faith is the beauty of "diversity." Every day the dogmas of multiculturalism are promulgated relentlessly by our schools, newspapers and media, and public authorities. The transformation of the United States by waves of immigration from non-European countries is always depicted as a phenomenon to be celebrated, as are the immigrants' religions and cultures.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have been deeply affected by the large number of Somali and Hmong immigrants who have made the Twin Cities metropolitan area their home. Their occasionally disturbing cultural practices and the related social costs are rarely discussed.

Despite the liberal dogmas of multiculturalism, for example, one of Minnesota's leading left-wing legislators was responsible for legislation criminalizing the Somali practice of female genital circumcision in Minnesota in 1994. Her feminism trumped her multiculturalism. Female genital mutilation was not much of a problem in Minnesota before Somalis settled here in the 1980's and 1990's.

Normally, I'd skip over some of the minor misrepresentations and just hit my main beefs, but I'm trying to achieve catharsis here so let's go for the whole hog. Briefly:

1) Multiculturalism is mocked by mainstream media sources--it's a running joke of liberalism gone amok. And certainly our schools don't teach it all beyond dull platitudes about how "everybody is special" but really we're all the same (which is kind of the opposite message from multiculturalism, but whatever). Certainly, I became a fan of multiculturalism in spite of my education at the uber-liberal Walt Whitman High School, not because of it. I can scarcely think of anything I learned from my HS curriculum that even remotely pointed towards a multiculturalist point of view.

2) I don't know who is "rarely" discussing problems within immigrant communities. Among conservatives, nothing seems to provide more glee that discussing how backwards and scary brown people are. And among liberals, I've noticed an acute awareness of difficulties in immigrant communities. Attending college in Minnesota for the past three years, I don't think anybody I've seen is not aware of the particular issues and problems faced by Hmong and Somali immigrants. Problems such as female genital mutilation (FGM) are hardly mysteries to American feminist and multicultural groups--I've seen countless discussions about how horrid the practice is, and what are the best strategies for ending it.

3) The idea that, because there are negative elements to a particular group culture, we should decry their presence entirely, is a particularly weird claim to make on a variety of levels. I'd imagine it is true that the twin cities did not have a big FGM problem until Somali immigrants started arriving, but that's about as meaningful as saying America didn't have a slavery problem until White people started arriving. Meanwhile, the absorption of the whole by the part also seems to be a bit of a double standard. Those of us with a bit more intellectual agility than Johnson possesses can believe there are benefits from incorporating a diverse array of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences into our institutions, without approving of each and every cultural practice that comes our way. For example, despite having many cultural practices I find abhorrent, offensive, or just annoying, I am generally pleased when a given institution has at least some American presence, and think the world is a better place when there is at least some American influence. I know that, while the "manifest destiny" mentality, or the long history of racism, or (ironically enough, given the topic of Johnson's post) our relative apathy towards spousal violence (demonstrated by a culture of silence, strong pressures not to go the police, misogynistic views that give men considerable latitude to deal with "their" women, and a general belief that such issues are "private" matters best kept out of the public eye--reasons that will sound familiar if you keep reading....) are all things about American culture that need to be critiqued and reformed, there are also plenty of good things about American culture that deserve to be promulgated throughout the world. Nimbleness is a useful trait to have.

4) This is perhaps the thing that most ticked me off: What evidence does Scott provide that multiculturalists sanction, ignore, or otherwise condone this behavior? Normally, here is where we get some fringe academic taken out of context to do the work, but Scott doesn't even provide that. Instead, he points out a "left-wing" legislator who worked to toughen penalties for FGM. Well gosh, wouldn't that seem to indicate that the defenders of multiculturalism are equally appalled by FGM and wish to put a stop to it? No, apparently it just means that the legislator let her "feminism trump[] her multiculturalism." Aside from the fact that this is the only time you will ever here Scott Johnson use "left-wing feminism" as anything but a swear word, the entire argument is just breath-taking in how far it has to stretch out to make sure it condemns the right people. As we will see below, even the barest familiarity with the multicultural position would show that it takes precisely the culture-conscious position Scott wants it to take, rendering his whole argument a bizarre "12 wrongs make a right" tenor.

Okay, back to the main. Johnson links to this story about an attempted murder of a wife by her husband in a Somali immigrant family. The story delves into how the particulars of Somali cultural practice often make these crimes hard to prosecute. There is a culture of silence surrounding domestic abuse, which prevents reform from penetrating. There are strong community norms that seek to "deal" with such abuses in-house, without informing relevant authorities. Victims are pressured into keeping silent and not going to the police. All of this "suggest[s] a specific cultural component that is uncomfortably subsumed within the category of 'domestic abuse.'" This obfuscation, we are led to believe, is a product of adherence to the multiculturalist dogma.

This, to be blunt, is a spectacularly ignorant claim. Why? Because the multiculturalist movement has been saying precisely what Scott is arguing for decades. Multiculturalists have specifically critiqued how maintaining a universal narrative of such concepts like "domestic abuse" tends to inadequately account for the way abuse plays out in minority communities, thus rendering them particularly under-protected and enhancing their subordinated status. I am baffled as to how anyone with even a remote awareness of the tenets of multiculturalism (and here we may have our problem) could miss this, as the need for particularized analysis of minority-group practices as part of reformist agendas is probably the single most central insight to the entire multiculturalist agenda. For example, here's Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, known as the founder of the Critical Race Feminism movement and certainly someone who would fit into the "multiculturalist" label, on some of the specific cultural barriers that make it more difficult for immigrant women to escape domestic abuse via "conventional" (mainstream, White) means:
[C]ultural barriers often further discourage immigrant women from reporting or escaping battering situations. Tina Shrum, a family counselor at a social service agency , points out that " .... Just to find the opportunity and courage to call us is an accomplishment for many [in the Asian community]." The typical immigrant spouse, she suggests, may live "[i]n an extended family where several generations live together, there may be no privacy on the telephone, no opportunity to leave the house and no understanding of public phones." As a consequence, many immigrant women are wholly dependent on their husbands as their link to the world outside their homes.

Language barriers present another structural problem that often limits opportunities of non-English-speaking women to take advantage of existing social support services. Such barriers not only limit access to information about shelters, but also limit access to the security shelters provide. Some shelters turn non-English-speaking women away for lack of bilingual personnel and resources. These examples illustrate how patterns of subordination intersect in women's experience of domestic violence." [Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, "Intersectionality and Identity Politics: Learning from VIolence against Women of Color," reprinted in Feminist Theory: A Reader 2nd Ed., Wendy K. Kolmar & Frances Bartkowski, eds. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005), pp. 533-542, 535]

Far from ignoring the cultural component to such violence, Crenshaw stresses it as an integral part of determining how to redress it. If our normal anti-abuse measures involve women calling a hotline, for example, Shrum's experience would let us know this will be inadequate for many Asian immigrant women. I, too, have written posts on how knowledge of specific cultural practices is essential if we are to truly to enact a progressive agenda respecting the rights of women in a pluralist, multi-cultural society. Amazingly, this leads to yet another irony--dealing with the "cultural component" to abuse cases (among others) requires a viewpoint that is conscious of these differences and may require different resources and responses for different communities. In other words, it will be (shudder) color-conscious. So it is that, while Johnson is quite willing to pontificate on the problem, he probably will stand in opposition to the solutions that would be indicated by the issues he is bringing up because they won't be "color-blind" (who wants to do an over/under on how often "the soft bigotry of low expectations" will be deployed in that future post?).

I could elaborate on the multicultural prescription for dealing with domestic violence at greater length, but that would digress from the point of this post, which is that multicultural feminists have been doing exactly the work Johnson says we should be doing, for far longer than he's cared about the issue, and will continue to do so long after he loses interest in the plight of Somali immigrant women. Any good multiculturalist will tell you that spousal abuse is a problem in the Somali community, and a problem in the White American community, and that both problems will require different approaches to solve because both problems are tied up in particular cultural practices that change the structural terrain. Know thy enemy, and don't be ignorant. Sheesh.

Kill The Cockroaches

Those were the famous words repeated over on Rwanda's radio stations, words which helped sparked the brutal genocide that took the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. It was also the first thing that came to mind upon reading these comments by the deputy mayor of Treviso, Italy, Giancarlo Gentilini:
"I will immediately give orders to my forces so that they can carry out an ethnic cleansing of faggots," Gentilini told the station in an interview.

"The faggots must go to other [places] where they are welcome. Here in Treviso there is no chance for faggots or the like."

Thousands of people showed up outside his office to protest, and a local prosecutor is apparently investigating Gentilini to see if his comments violate Italy's law against promoting hatred. That's a good first step, but I'd go further: Is there anything that renders this outside the contours of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide? "Ethnic cleansing" is genocidal language, and Article III, section C of the convention states that "[d]irect and public incitement to commit genocide" is punishable under the convention. Italy ratified the convention in 1952, and thus under Article IV is punish anybody violating any of the terms of Article III, "whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals." The only question is whether gays qualify as "a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" under the terms of Article II of the convention.

In any event, regardless of whether it meets the technical requirements of the Genocide Convention, calls for the "ethnic cleansing" of any group is a crime against humanity, and must be condemned and punished in the strongest possible terms.

Via Pam's

News of the Weird

Today, in the front page of the Style Section, the Washington Post had a great article entitled "Eating Right" about an Fredrick Crab Shack whose proprietors still unabashedly proclaim their love and support for President Bush. I love it. Because effectively, its saying that the revelation that, somewhere, in the great state of Maryland, there are people who publicly support President Bush, is a major news story. It's shocking, I tell you, but these people are out there if you just look hard enough!

It makes me giggle maniacally with glee.

Is The Judge Catholic?

Catholic Legal Theory blog Mirror of Justice points us to a disturbing case in Florida, where a judge is being asked to recuse himself due to his "deep religious beliefs." The evidence has a lot to do with his links to the Ave Maria Law School, a Catholic University to which he has donated money to and hired law clerks from.

I recall reading that Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., the first Black judge ever to sit on the federal bench for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was once asked to recuse himself from hearing a racial discrimination case because he was Black, and thus, presumably, could not be unbiased. He responded:
I concede that I am black. I do not apologize for that obvious fact. I take rational pride in my heritage, just as most other ethnics take pride in theirs. However, that one is black does not mean ... that he is anti-white.... As do most blacks, I believe that the corridors of history in this country have been lined with countless instances of racial injustice....

Thus a threshold question which might be inferred from defendants' petition is: Since blacks (like most other thoughtful Americans) are aware of the 'sordid chapter in American history' of racial injustice, shouldn't black judges be disqualified per se from adjudicating cases involving claims of racial discrimination? [Commonwealth v. Local Union 542, International Union of Operating Engineers, 388 F.Supp. 155 (E.D. Pa. 1974)]

He then refused the motion, and heard the case.

The judge in this instance should do the same. Obviously, it is conceivable that a judge's "deeply held beliefs" could render him incapable of handing down an impartial, objective decision in a legal case (insofar as there is such thing). But simply noting one's affiliation with a variety of Catholic institutions is wildly insufficient to establish this, and fantastically offensive to boot. This sort of religious hostility cuts to the bone of what prejudice means, and I hope that the judge draws from the experience of Judge Higginbotham to reject it firmly.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Overheard in New York

I had to repost this one:

In Fact, I Strongly Suspect We're an Invention of the Liberal Media

Black boy #1: Yo, how come there's only white people in these paintings?
Black boy #2: Mmm... Guess they were painted in 1750-something. They didn't have no brothers back then.

--The Met

What Might Have Been

All the people who said Barack Obama should have waited a cycle before running for President should take a close look at the case of former Wisconsin Governor and Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson. Thompson was considered a potential front-runner for the GOP nomination in both 1996 and 2000, but he declined to run. This time, he threw his hat in the race, and proceeded to get completely annihilated before withdrawing today after a bad performance at the Ames Straw Poll.

Moral of the story: Don't miss your window.

Is Huckabee the Republican Jed Bartlet?

I just finished season seven this weekend, so hopefully you won't have to endure any more West Wing analogies from me. But ever since his better than expected finish at the Ames Straw Poll, I haven't been able to get the Huckabee/Bartlet comparison out of my head.

Those of who are equally geeked-out on the show as I am will recall that Bartlet entered his first Presidential race as a prohibitive underdog, with little money, little support, and no chance against the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, Senator John Hoynes (D-TX). But with a few nifty moves and a "tell it like it is" style, he did surprisingly well in some early primaries, giving him the momentum he needed to catch and eventually surpass the front-runner. Bartlet's big advantage was that he was charismatic, and that he appealed to the hearts of the base--who only needed some persuasion that he had a shot of winning before they flocked away from the centrist Hoynes.

In Huckabee's case, he also has seen little money or momentum, and in his case struggled to enter a conversation that, at various points, has included up to four "front-runners" (Fred Thompson, Romney, McCain, and Giuliani). But even without institutional backing or really being given a shot by anybody, he's managed to surprise some folks along the way and has earned his place as a legitimate contender. Huckabee's big advantage in this field is that his voters actually want to vote for him. Unlike the former Big Four, he is not the lesser of however many evils to his supporters. That gives him a lot of room to move. And his charisma makes him surprisingly threatening in the general for a right-wing fan boy. That's why liberal commentators such as Kos and Steve Benen have, in so many words, labeled him the Democrats' most-feared candidate (another fact which Huckabee can use to his advantage).

So, in short, Huckabee has a lot of advantages. But he has one big thing playing against him. Huckabee is not the Republican institutional candidate. And in politics, it is approaching the level of a truism that, in GOP presidential nominations, the house always wins. Once Huckabee is seen as a threat, I think you'll see him either co-opted by the institutional elements of the party, or you'll see a very concerted campaign to take his candidacy down.