President’s Day Open Thread [2.17.14]

Filed in Open Thread by on February 17, 2014

Late on Friday, Michael Dunn (the middle-aged white man who shot a black teenager who wouldn’t comply with his demand to turn down his music) was convicted on 4 of the five charges:

Dunn, who is white, fired 10 shots into an SUV, killing Jordan Davis, 17, who was black. The shooting in a convenience store parking lot in Jacksonville erupted after Dunn asked the teenagers in the vehicle to turn down their music.

Dunn was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into a vehicle in the Nov. 23, 2012, shooting. The jury couldn’t reach a decision on the first-degree murder charge, but convicted on the other four.

So the jury finds this guy guilty of trying to kill the kids in the car his missed, but they couldn’t find him guilty of the actually killing the kid he did hit. Dunn could get up to 75 years for the charges that he was convicted of and it seems that the prosecutor may retry on the murder charges. It is still utterly appalling that this kid’s life could be so easily forfeit and devalued. Ta-Nehisi Coates provides the appropriate response (I wish I could post the whole thing — please go read it in it’s entirety):

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge. I insist that the G.I Bill’s accolades are inseparable from its racist heritage. I will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting to which, likely until the end of our days, we unerringly return.

Right.

In other news, George Zimmerman is working up his conservative cred by claiming that he is a victim of President Obama. He’ll have his own wingnut talk show soon.

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  1. V says:

    It does little to quell the outrage (which is deserved), but I saw a comment that pointed out that the jury was given the option of lesser includeds (2nd degree murder/manslaughter) and that possibly one or more jurors was convinced it was premeditated (1st) when everyone else thought it was 2nd degree or vice versa instead of the idea that one or more jurors thought this act was justified.

    Also I can’t find it, but Jezebel posted photos of Travon Martin’s mother conforting Jordan’s mother after the verdict. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the movie theater shooting case after these two.

  2. Dave says:

    “I insist that racism must be properly understood as …as a default setting to which, likely until the end of our days, we unerringly return. ”

    Well, I’ll agree that as long as there are human beings, there will be racism, culturalism, nationalism, and a whole host of other isms. I disagree that all human beings are members of the “we” and can be stereotyped in such a manner. Of course, we may have meant that “society” is the “we.” Regardless, if he is generally accurate and that it is the default setting and it will continue to the end of our days, what are we to do?

    The concept of the “melting pot” was assimilation; becoming more homogeneous, and melting into a harmonious whole with a common culture. Yet this concept has somewhat died off, being replaced with multiculturalism, which tends to highlight cultural (and racial) differences. I wonder if multiculturalism has contributed to maintaining the default setting?

    Still his assertion, if true, would suggest that we are tilting at windmills when it comes to dealing with racism.

  3. fightingbluehen says:

    How does a Brian Sandoval, Condoleeza Rice ticket sound for 2016?

    A young, vibrant, African American woman, and Hispanic man , against a rich old white lady, and probably Bill Richardson.

  4. liberalgeek says:

    FBH – Like a bit of theatre. Wait until either of them step off the Don Ayotte reservation…

    Here is a great blog post about the “evil, socialist, etc” French healthcare system.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/anya-schiffrin/2014/02/12/the-french-way-of-cancer-treatment/

  5. Frank says:

    Really, FBH? Condoleeza Rice, who is complicit in George the Worst’s Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq?

    Words fail me.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    The concept of the “melting pot” was assimilation; becoming more homogeneous, and melting into a harmonious whole with a common culture.

    This “melting pot” has always had its multicultural aspects. You can look at surviving Little Italy’s and Chinatowns and even Orthodox Jewish communities to see that immigrant communities keep some of their traditions and community anchors. But as always, there is multiculturalism that is respected and there is some that is not.

    Still his assertion, if true, would suggest that we are tilting at windmills when it comes to dealing with racism.

    Did you read his entire piece? Because from the eyes of an African American parent, with a young African American son that he can’t protect from the Michael Dunns of the world (and nor can he count on the American justice system to treat his son with any value), this is less about tilting at windmills than a betrayal of the promise.

  7. Dave says:

    Yep. Read the whole thing. One could interpret it as a betrayal, macht nichts. He was still unequivocal that we are titling at windmills. And if he is correct, my question stands – what are we do?

  8. cassandra_m says:

    Well you tell me. How is he supposed to protect his son from the Michael Dunns of the world?

  9. ben says:

    A de-segregated society is still a relatively new thing for humanity. I think we have to evolve into it.
    Now, when I say “new” I mean in terms of how old our cultures are. It wasn’t that long ago when Italians weren’t the right kind of “white”.
    But that is the other thing…. no one here has said, or hinted at this, but for the purposes of my point…. White people aren’t the only ones who are disgusting bigots. Ethnic majorities aren’t the only ones who are bigots. This could have just as easily been an Israeli killing Palestinian kids; or a Hutu man killing Tutsi boys.
    To characterize America as a “melting pot” was a nice idea and rooted in good intentions, however I agree with Dave that it is also rooted in assimilation. We shouldn’t be pushing assimilation. Not the way a lot of Americans (in America… like Brits in England and so -on) understand it anyway. Cultural diversity can be a scary thing to a lot of people and many of them don’t handle it well.
    The good thing is, and our country proves this… no matter how long it takes, no matter how many backwards steps happen….. the long cultural diversity exists, the more tolerant people become of it.
    In a couple generations, the Dunns and Zimmermans of this country will fade away…. oh there will still be racism. We’re hard wired to fear other people and visible differences are the easiest thing to focus on…. It will fade though. 40 years ago, there wouldn’t have been a trial. Hell, the survivors of Dunn’s rampage may have been charge with something just to prop up his defense claim.

  10. Dave says:

    “Well you tell me. How is he supposed to protect his son from the Michael Dunns of the world?”

    I don’t know. But whatever we are doing now, it doesn’t seem to be working, according to Coates. Or, referencing Ben’s comment, it’s working very, very, slowly. I guess you have to decide whether Coates is right. Since you posted the link it suggests that you think Coates is correct. Or that Ben’s view is more accurate and that change does happen, but it is truly incremental. If it is incremental, I would keep on keeping on. If it’s not, I wouldn’t be playing Don Quixote.

    Of course, I think race and culture are intertwined. If I meeting a woman who generally dresses in today’s styles and happens to be a Muslim, I have a different reaction than if I met the same person and they are dressed in a burka, regardless of their race. Cultural differences may even evoke stronger feelings than racial/ethnic differences.

  11. pandora says:

    First:

    “Of course, I think race and culture are intertwined. If I meeting a woman who generally dresses in today’s styles and happens to be a Muslim, I have a different reaction than if I met the same person and they are dressed in a burka, regardless of their race.”

    It’s that reaction that has to change. Your reaction. (general “you”)

    I agree with Coates, as well. My heart breaks for him, because there’s nothing he can do. We have to change our reactions – which come with a whole host of unfounded judgements. That’s what I would change. We need to call ourselves out every time we look at someone and then set expectations due to their appearance. And Ben is correct – times are changing, but a whole lot of people have to die off first. (ouch!)

    I have a very diverse group of friends which makes it very hard to stereotype. That’s a good thing, and as a white woman I cherish that experience. Allow me to pass on what I’ve learned… when a person in the minority (race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc.) tells you of their experience… SHUT UP AND LISTEN. Seriously, if you aren’t part of this group you have NO CLUE about their experience and have NOTHING of value to add.

    In two days my daughter will celebrate her 1 year anniversary with her boyfriend. (Too cute) Her boyfriend is black, and over the last year I have faced concerns I have never dealt with – especially when we had him at the beach house in Sussex. I was frantic. Luckily, I have a great friend on this blog I turned to for advice. Thank you, friend. I was definitely in over my head. Yep, I was frantic, and I don’t live this existence every flippin’ day.

    This really isn’t an intellectual exercise for people who live it every day. I’ve had a really small taste of this reality and couldn’t sleep at night. So Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article isn’t really open to debate – It’s his daily life.

  12. Dave says:

    I’m glad that you faced your concerns in a mature manner. My reaction to my daughter having a black boyfriend was a bit different. The only thing that really mattered to me was maturity level, prospects, and how he treated her, after all he was her boyfriend not mine. Ditto my son’s Hispanic (Mexican actually).

    The intellectual exercise is not Coates’ experience rather his insistence that the racism he and others experience is “…a default setting to which, (is) likely until the end of our days…” To which I pose the intellectual question – if that is true, what are we to do? Listening is all well and good, but honestly, I hear that a lot. So I’ll pose another intellectual question. Shut up and listen to what end? Until our reaction to – not like us – changes? The human experience is so diverse in terms of culture that we will always be faced with the need to understand and then celebrate that diversity. It’s not automatic. It never will be.

    I’ve been giving some thought to the Morgan Freeman concept, in response to Mike Wallace’s thought “How are we going to get rid of racism until …?”

    FREEMAN: “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?

    (http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/blackhistory.asp#1K2sWuQSthKcExam.99)

    p.s. I would vote for Freeman as President, just because of his voice! He could sell me anything.

  13. pandora says:

    You’re glad I faced my concerns in a mature manner? Seriously? You don’t find that response a bit patronizing and condescending? I do.

    And let me point out that your concerns for how your daughter’s boyfriend treated her – and only how he treated her – was your luxury and privilege. Just sayin’. You really need to listen more. Just sayin’… again.

  14. ben says:

    Pandora, It is good that you reacted in a positive way. It would be better if that reaction weren’t something notable. Not something even worth mentioning because it is just the way it is.
    The fact that parents get to stick a progressive feather in their cap when they AREN’T racist or homophobic about their children’s partners means we have a LONG way to go. Not that you’re BRAGGING per-say, but you did want us to know it as a qualifier for how open minded your household is.

    I will always respectfully disagree with the statement that
    “… when a person in the minority (race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc.) tells you of their experience… SHUT UP AND LISTEN. Seriously, if you aren’t part of this group you have NO CLUE about their experience and have NOTHING of value to add.”

    I actually think, and bear with me here, it allows straight, white, christian men to claim victim-hood…. seeing as they are, by those rules you laid out… the only ones with “nothing to add”. Being oppressed and victimized is being oppressed and victimized. Are you saying a white kid who gets horribly bullied… for being short, or fat, or weak, or poor…. isn’t allowed to speak on what it is like to get singled out? I highly doubt it. Back away from the absolutes and +or- assumptions about how we relate to each other. It only divides.

  15. pandora says:

    If you aren’t short, fat or weak, then shut up. You can’t relate.

    And if you think my point was about bragging, then you have an agenda. Ya think? My point was about how out of my depth I was – so out of my depth that I turned to a friend who lived this. And you know what? I shut up and listened. You might want to give it a try. It’s quite enlightening.

  16. cassandra_m says:

    I don’t know. But whatever we are doing now, it doesn’t seem to be working, according to Coates. Or, referencing Ben’s comment, it’s working very, very, slowly.

    Seriously? Then what is the point of this exchange, then? Coates is very specific about his son still having to live with an ancient danger here in the US. If we can’t be specific about how black kids can be safe from the demands of whiteness from grownups, then what is the point?

    It is perfectly fine to stop talking about racism. The *talking* isn’t the problem, though, right? It is kids dying as a result of it and a justice system that can’t seem to get justice for them that is the problem.

  17. ben says:

    I didnt say you were bragging. I even said i didnt say you were bragging. You just brought it up, and I said it would be nice to advance our society to the point where it isnt even worth mentioning because it is so common and accepted….. BTW, mixing your genes with VERY VERY different (human) genes is good for our species.

    Maybe you ought to “shut up”,( although I really loath that command… it really flouts a lack of respect for the person/group you’re saying it too. and no, i am not saying you have to respect my maleness… in any instance, “shut up” is .. ugh. its just the worst). …and listen to other opinions on the matter.
    Of course I don’t know what it is like to be…… well, anything but a bullied Jewish kid (wasnt bullied because I’m Jewish, does that mean I’m not allowed to identify with anti-Semitic persecution?) When does the relation end? Are American Jews not allowed to talk about American racism post 1950 since we didnt experience it as badly as others? Or is the fact that it is in our history allow us to comment on the larger issue of systematic racism BY anyone TOWARD anyone?

    But to be told “you cant possibly have a valid opinion” is, well, only Sith deal in absolutes, Pandora…. and i dont think you’re a Sith. I hope not.
    You dont know if that White guy who’s opinion on African American life in our times you say is oh so invalid, was adopted and raised by black parents in a
    You dont know the history of the person you’re talking about and to make blanket statements shows… to me an MY experience, which you arent allowed to comment on… i dont think anyway… a lack of interest and sensitivity for the fact that people dont fit so nicely into the categories of which you speak.
    You dont know how much “shutting up an listening” people have done either. My views on gender/sexual equality could have been shaped by exclusively women who voted for Sarah Palin, and I may be just regurgitating everything the instilled in me. You’re gonna disagree and tell me to shut up an listen… but to YOU. to YOUR truth.

    I think the hardest thing is… i mostly agree with you. MOST white guys dont have the life experience to sympathize with (fill in the blank) It doesnt mean they arent capable of relating and empathizing. It doesnt mean they cant use their brain to understand and form their own opinion. And if we are really trying to push for equality, the absolutes and black and white (no races, but yes/no right/wrong) comparisons have to stop. Just try and realize that wisdom can come from many places. Heh.. it’s like a job that requires work experience, but the only way to gain experience is to have the job.
    Or maybe my expectations of internet discourse are just way off base.

    But to the real discussion. I dont think anything can be done to protect young black men from this culture we’ve created. Not RTFN anyway. Racism has to be phased out.

  18. pandora says:

    Ben, as a Jewish man who has listened to stories by his Jewish parents, grandparents, relatives, etc., I defer to you when it comes to the experience of being Jewish. No matter how many articles I read on being Jewish I’ll never match your “lived” experience. It’s as simple as that. And if a white guy who was raised by black parents wants to comment on that experience, I’ll defer to him, as well.

    One of my problems is people treating the actual events other people live as “intellectual” discussion. That’s a luxury and a privilege that needs to be acknowledged. It’s the equivalent of “let’s form a committee!” Meanwhile, actual kids are dying. Just yesterday another black child was shot dead by a white guy. She was playing a prank on a friend and the friend’s father killed her. This has to stop.

  19. Dave says:

    “You don’t find that response a bit patronizing and condescending? I do. ”

    No, I don’t. It was intended as a compliment. Many parents would act in a very immature manner. Facing one’s fears is a sign of maturity and courage. I’m sorry you feel it’s condescending.

  20. Dave says:

    It is not the equivalent of let’s form a committee (which is an example of being condescending by the way). Intellectual discussion ought to be a prerequisite anytime someone says “here is a problem.”

    You pose logical incongruencies. “You can’t understand” so “Shut up and listen” Huh? Why? What would be the point? An intelligent discussion would attempt to ask and answer Coates’ charge – that racism will always be with us and there is nothing we can do about it. Such a discussion would delve into how to make justice truly blind to mitigate the effects of racism, yadda, yadda. That would be a discussion.

  21. Frank says:

    I hate to quibble (actually, I love to quibble, but this is an important quibble).

    A de-segregated society is still a relatively new thing for humanity. I think we have to evolve into it.

    Actually, the concept of race is the “relatively new thing” for humanity, dating from the late Renaissance and the age of European expansion. To a large extent, it was a self-serving European construct evolved to support empire and colonialism and the subjugation of persons who looked different.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/race/#HisConRac

    Without the fiction of “race,” the concept of “segregation” could not exist. The concept of “race” evolved as a justification for conquest and exploitation.

  22. ben says:

    Frank, you’re absolutely right. and before that, when there was “other humanity”, our ancestors likely killed them off…. or at least assisted in their extinction.

    I’ll gladly acknowledge that that it is a “luxury” to have to be told what certain negative experiences feel like… rather than have to experience them. That is what I think this boils down to.
    But 1… why not make it an intellectual discussion? Emotion based decisions and conclusions aren’t usually very good in the long-run… Besides, liberals are the intellectual pragmatic ones, right? :)
    2… I realize this is one I keep coming back to… How different is the oppressed experience of one person’s ancestors from that of another person, who’s family experienced it in a different place at a different time? Inequality is inequality. Many feel it currently. A lot of people, over many cultures, at least have living family who were victims of some oppressive majority. Can white gay men living in Alabama not have a deep appreciation for Jim Crowe? Can they not be valid sources on what Separate and Unequal means? Further division by not allowing people to openly relate… which is kind of what I feel the “shut up and listen” mentality pushes…. wont help anything. There is totally a time, probably most of the time, where people should stop talking and try and gain a better understanding.

  23. Tom McKenney says:

    Segregation bases on race is thousands of years old. It may not be based on skin color, but tribalism and nationalism pre date history.
    In general, class differences matter more than race differences.

  24. ben says:

    Also.. The latest incident you bring up. Are you referring to the Arkansas man who killed the girl who egged his car? (that is the only story like this I am aware of right now… if there’s more, I’m sick to my stomach) If so, just double check how you described it.. the person involved. Im not trying to make a point, or “prove anything” but wrong info is wrong info and shouldn’t be used.

  25. cassandra m says:

    This is what P had to say:

    when a person in the minority (race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc.) tells you of their experience… SHUT UP AND LISTEN. Seriously, if you aren’t part of this group you have NO CLUE about their experience and have NOTHING of value to add

    She didn’t just say SHUT UP AND LISTEN as our local intellectuals would have us believe.

    The theme here is to check your privilege and hear what the other person is saying to you. This is a tough message, since it requires a level of empathy and even intellectual openness that is rarer on the ground than the privileged tell themselves.

    An intelligent discussion would attempt to ask and answer Coates’ charge – that racism will always be with us and there is nothing we can do about it.

    So then where *is* this discussion? Frankly I still think that this oversimplifies what Coates is communicating here, but apparently this gives some cover to the folks who are convincing themselves they are having an intellectual discussion. Even interrogating what could be done about the situation doesn’t produce much more than the usual handwaving.

    You’re not in a position to take P to task here until you up your own game here, seriously.

  26. pandora says:

    You’re right, Ben. I meant to cite Renisha McBride. Sorry. Yesterday was a bit crazy around here. That said, trigger happy older men are a serious threat to black teens.

  27. ben says:

    you’re right about that, Pan. How bad is it when we have to say “which one”?

    “our local intellectuals” sounds like something a GOP congressperson would say in snide reference to Bill Nye. Well, i know what side of that debate ID rather be on.

  28. Tom McKenney says:

    It is more important to engage is serious dialog with someone,, witch includes both questioning and listening, than to just sit and listen. While I will listen to somebodies experiences, that doesn’t mean, I am buying everything they are saying. Christian fundamentalists claim they are the victim of serious prejudice, I don’t buy that.

  29. cassandra_m says:

    Interesting the Shut Up and Listen gets focused on. If you are talking about a dialog (not an interrogation) attentive listening is a prerequisite. There isn’t much of a dialog when one party is asking questions from his or her preconceived notions, rather than from the conversation spinning out in front of you. Which of course isn’t about shutting down conversation or questions — it is about making sure you are in the conversation in front of you.

    Christian fundamentalists *can* be victims of serious prejudice, but it isn’t often that you talk to one who has been in a part of the world where this is a serious issue. The fundamentalists who are spinning up a prejudice or victimization story and have never left the US are trying to capitalize on narrative that they think will get them some room for whatever BS is being peddled. The never grapple with the idea that for other people a narrative of prejudice is the fabric of daily life.

  30. Tom McKenney says:

    I agree the most important part of communication is listening. I see nothing wrong with asking questions about conceived notions. In fact I find it important. It lets the other person address those notions, that is an important part of resolving our prejudices. I remember PBS in the late sixties running a program where a group of young people, who thought they were free of prejudice spent time together. They found that they indeed had many prejudices, but came understand themselves and others better.

  31. Frank says:

    I find the conflation of racism and tribalism to be an intellectual trick. They are not the same thing.

    Tribalism is “us versus them.” Racism is “us versus anyone who looks different.”

    Not the same thing at all. Consequently, the argument is excluded as a sophistry.

    I refer you to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohm2aUfbcXQ

  32. pandora says:

    Thank you so much for posting that video, Frank! I love Elon James White… almost as much as I love Jay Smooth! This video of Jay’s is worth watching. All his videos are worth watching! I’d also suggest his two videos on the Gwyneth Paltrow controversy.

    Also, 100% agree with your comment about racism and tribalism. I’m uncomfortable adding “isms” to the end of words and lumping them all together. To me, that dilutes the discussion.

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