Friday, October 31, 2008

Too Much Credit

I may have been too kind to Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) the other day, when I jokingly interpreted a CNN headline as him claiming to have been "vindicated" by a federal jury convicting him of seven counts of corruption. But no, he's going there, claiming that he has "not been convicted yet", a point he reiterated in a debate with Democratic candidate Mark Begich: "I have not been convicted of anything."

It's like Alaska politicians don't even comprehend the meaning of investigation. First Gov. Palin, and now this? It's utterly bizarre.

Alaskan Dave Noon translates for the rest of us lowlanders.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bargaining Power

46% of Florida voters think "violent" is a good descriptor of Blacks, but large majorities also find them "dependable" and "hard working". As Ta-Nehisi Coates remarks, that sounds like a recipe for a raise, if anything.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Call it a Win

The CNN headline says "Stevens sees vindication". What they mean, of course, is that Stevens is promising he'll be exonerated upon appeal. But what I preferred to interpret it to mean is him pulling a Sarah Palin, and claiming that the jury verdict which convicted him of eight counts of corruption actually showed he was perfectly ethical at all times.

Daughter of a Slave Votes for Obama

It's hard not to smile at this. It's amazing that we are still that close to the emancipation proclamation (not to mention Jim Crow barbarity).

I Know Who You Know

Gov. Sarah Palin: "It seems that there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama," referring to Columbia University professor (formerly at the U of C) Rashid Khalidi.

Look, any politician who spent time in public life is going to have some unsavory associations. For example, I hear John McCain is well acquainted with a pathological liar who is out on the campaign trail building yet another bridge to nowhere. Such is politics.

Anyway, as far as I can see, Prof. Khalidi seems rather tame (although not someone with whom I would necessarily agree with). What he does have is a few superficial signifiers that might make some Jews uneasy -- being part of Columbia University's Middle East Studies program (which is a war zone between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine forces), and the fact that his endowed chair is named after Edward Said. But he was not, as the McCain campaign is saying, a spokesperson for the PLO, and most of his active criticism of Israel has come at the level of policies which are certainly in-bounds to be criticized (even if I disagree with the particulars).

Civil Rights Roundup: 11/29/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The White House is asking its (now totally apolitical!) Justice Department to hamper 200,000 Ohio residents from voting.

Black voters are really nervous about the integrity of this election.

A Black Brazilian immigrant gets a lesson in racism upon arriving in America.

Lawyers have finally secured access to a top-secret Guantanamo Bay camp where we hold high-ranking terrorist suspects.

The total number of hate crimes dropped slightly this year, with falls in race and religion-based attacks making up for rises in targeting based on sexual orientation and ethnicity/national origin. As far as I can tell, this means we're no longer hating based on being Black or Muslim, now the problem is being Gay or Latino.

It's also not a great time to be a Jew.

A judge in Ohio has required the state to allow the homeless to register with addresses that are not buildings.

The LA Times calls for the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons.

Anita Hill (of all people!) says racial amnesia may be the cure for our racial ills.

Nearly 20% of New York City's Asian population lives in poverty.

Criminals are targeting illegal immigrants, whom they see as easy marks because they're afraid to go to the police.

The 11th Circuit upheld sectarian prayer hosted by local governmental agencies, so long as the process was open to people of all faith backgrounds. Amazingly, this is actually an improvement over the 4th Circuit, which held that the state could host prayers and then proactively exclude those from disfavored minority faiths.

An Orthodox Catholic group is protesting Fordham University (a Jesuit school) giving an ethics award to pro-choice Justice Stephen Breyer.

Dreadful Jury

Seriously, y'all need to stop giving me these cases, if only to check my terrible puns. Anyway, the Supreme Court of South Carolina has ruled 3-2 that an attorney striking a juror on account of his dreadlocks constituted an impermissible race-based challenge and is unconstitutional. Courts have been rather resistant to protecting so-called "performative" aspects of one's racial identity, which is a problem, because race-linked cultural tags provide an easy way to circumvent anti-discrimination protections while still claiming to be following the letter of the law.

Even if one is not consciously trying to game the system, in an environment where it is "wrong" to hold negative opinions of people by virtue of the race, those sort of sentiments will be shifted towards "acceptable" prejudices that serve much the same function. "I don't dislike the juror because he's Black, I dislike him because he has dreadlocks" serves as psychological rationale that lets one maintain their status as a good person. If the man didn't wear dreadlocks, it would be something else (baggy clothes, afros, rap music). And for those African-American folks who have nothing tagging themselves as Black to the outside world -- well, sometimes they'll make it through (proof that we're fair after all), and sometimes we'll simply fall back on flimsier abstracts ("he just didn't feel right to me").

There's an extent to which this is all unavoidable. But there's also an extent to which we can clearly say "the law doesn't have to help". If people are going to use proxies to actualize their prejudices, at the very least we can make them be more creative about it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Racialization of False Accusations

As the echo of Ashley Todd's false claim of being assaulted by a Black Obama supporter fades into the political background, I found in interesting to observe how the incident was racialized. There did not seem to be any doubt amongst the commentariat that this was an effort to spark a racial response in the electorate. But Ms. Todd's actions were not seen as a signifier or example of White character as a whole. Her accusation was not something "they" (White people) do. It was a "callback" to a bygone era, or it was an aberration from general White practice.

Contrast that to how, for example, the fictive claims in the Duke Lacrosse case, or Tawana Brawley, were treated. They were racialized as well, but unlike Ms. Todd they were used to make broad, sweeping statements about what "they" (Black people) do with regards to putative racism -- namely, just make stuff up. It was not seen as exceptional, or aberrational. It was a valid measuring stick from which to look at all claims of racialized White-on-Black violence.

The instinct, I feel, in Ms. Todd's case was the proper one. Take note of how race is being used by the perpetrator of the fraud to create a certain reaction, and condemn those who exploit that sentiment without proper verification. But don't impute the event wholesale onto the entire race. White folks do not want Ms. Todd's frame-up to become the standard by which we are measured. But fair is fair -- if we want the benefit of the doubt, we have to give it when faced with parallel situations on the other side of the racial divide.

Stevens Guilty On All Counts

The prosecution did its level best to botch the case, but nonetheless a jury has found Alaska Senator Ted Stevens guilty on all seven counts of his federal corruption trial.

Sen. Stevens indicated that he will seek a new trial. My guess is that the amount of screw-ups in the prosecution's handling of the case will, at the very least, keep them tied up in appeals for years. Even still, this is hardly good news for his re-election chances.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Backyard Brawl

The Anchorage Daily News endorses Obama -- a development that is utterly meaningless but for the deliciousness of it all.