News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
In the news
One of the Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct has been murdered a year into his decade long sentence for child molestation. He was tried and convicted in one case, though there are 130 accusations that he sexually abused children during his 30-year career.
Pedophiles, or "short eyes" in prison parlance, are said to be at the bottom of the pecking order among inmates. Geoghan's notoriety may also have played a role in his swift demise. However, I can't condone vigilantism. I believe even the worst criminals should be allowed to serve their court-mandated sentences instead of being resentenced by their peers in prison. An investigation should be conducted to make sure Geoghan received a reasonable degree of protection from other inmates during his incarceration. The prison system should be held responsible if his murder could have been prevented.
Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory has a novel view of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech forty years ago, according to columnist Clarence Page.
I was not available to record anything at the time, but Page was, and he vouches for the at least partial accuracy of Gregory's observation. The entire country was on edge and there was even talk of declaring martial law. Many African-Americans, in both the North and South, were just plain fed up.
Page asserts that King's own mood in the speech encompassed that anger and disgust, though it has receded from memory in subsequent years. The great man wrote, unabashedly, of African-Americans as a group of people cheated by America -- sent a check not backed by funds.
The columnist observes that the second, more optimistic part of King's speech is what is usually applauded by Americans, including those who oppose most mechanisms to achieve racial equality, now.
I find Page's interpretation of King's "I Have a Dream" speech convincing. To have championed equality while ignoring the work needed to achieve it would have been stupid and Dr. King was not a stupid man. I believe he envisioned a future in which people of color would finally receive payment of the debt owed them, instead of being cheated again by by a society that pretends to be color-blind, but is not.
Read Page's column and form an opinion of your own.
Mr. Whitney Houston, aka Bobby Brown, is in the hoosegow again after failing to comply with the terms of his sentence in a conviction for drunken driving.
I am conflicted when I read stories like this one. I know Brown's antics will be used as fodder by racist sites such as American Renaiisance and Gene Expression. They will argue that his propensities are representative of all African-Americans. It will be said that you can take 'the black' out of the ghetto but not the ghetto out of 'the black.' Some of the self-described (but unproven) smart people there will ascribe Brown's behavior to genetic deficiencies.
However, I cannot denounce reporters for covering the story. I, a former reporter, would have covered it, too, because the misbehavior of a celebrity is news. My objection is to to how the news will be misrepresented in some quarters, not the coverage itself. The solution to this problem is to judge Bobby Brown the same way one would judge a white celebrity with the same proclivities. His skin color is not the issue, his actions are.posted by J. | 9:25 PM
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Around the Web
John Hawkinsof Rightwing News has sent out another of his surveys. I again 'rassled,' as they say in my native Southland, with the thing. This time he wanted to know who "The Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century" are. Previously, he had asked us to identify the worst figures in American history.
Roger Ailes considers John's polls too vague. After completing a second one, I must agree. I've put my finger on the problem. It is that I don't think in chunks. Instead, I organize data into categories or packets. (Kind of like coding, I just realized.) So, in answering the question, I found myself looking for people in certain fields, including politics, science and literature. For example, for medicine, I selected Charles Drew and Jonas Salk. Literary choices included John Dos Passos and Sinclair Lewis. The same process was applied to other fields. For me, at least, John's surveys would function better if he narrowed his descriptions to specific areas of accomplishment and smaller historical epochs.
Hispanic voters in California have become aware of Arnold Schwarzenegger's ties to a group considered racist by many. The B-movie actor sits on the board of U.S. English, an anti-immigration organization. It claims to be mainly interested in assuring immigrants learn English immediately instead of receiving bilingual education. However, in reality, USE and its allies oppose immigration of non-whites period. John Tanton, the organization's leader, doesn't bother to mask his bigotry in private communications. He says:
The shortness of the campaign period for the California recall effort seems to have led Schwarzenegger to believe he can finesse difficult questions about his past. However, some Hispanic voters are on to his connection to USE.
I wonder if the actor can wiggle out of this.
Brian Flemming is conducting an excellent Schwarzenegger watch on his weblog. Read it to stay up-to-date.
I found some of the expectations expressed in print and broadcast about the great Northeast and Midwest blackout disturbing. Some folks seemed to be assuming people of color have a natural inclination to riot. I suspect they may have been disappointed when the peace was easily maintained in cities such as Cleveland and Detroit and districts such as Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy in New York City. Ironically, there was some significant looting -- in Ottawa.
Curiosity led me to read about the 1977 NYC blackout and contingent looting. I discovered the factors most determinative of who participated in the looting were income, previous criminal record and area of the city. The poorer people were the more likely they were to be involved in second or third stage looting, meaning they joined in late in the process. First stage rioters were likely to be longterm criminals, often residents of SROs --single room occupancy hotels. SROs often house parolees and/or people with substance abuse problems. The more economically depressed and blighted an area was, the more likely its few businesses were to be stripped and burned.
To learn more about the 1977 blackout read Blackout looting: New York City, July 13, 1977, by Robert Curvin. The report, also released as a book, is available online as a series of PDFs. Newsweek also published a special edition on the blackout. Get it at Magazines Online.posted by J. | 7:57 PM