News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Civil rights news
•Manson settles harassment suit
A weird claim of sexual harassment will not go to trial. Why do I say 'weird'? The plaintiff, a man, alleged another male harassed him sexually by touching him in a provocative way. A person can sexually harass someone of the same gender, of course, but the circumstances give me pause.
Apparently, something that Kessler did not like occurred. He may have been sincerely embarrassed. But, a couple aspects of his claim are not very convincing. Considering the well-established reputation of Manson, it is obvious his goal was to shock, not sexual stimulation. In addition, the lawsuit seemed designed to benefit from the outrage many straight men apparently feel about a come-on from a gay man. Would Kessler have reacted similarly if Madonna touched him? But, considering the way a jury might have responded to Kessler's allegations, I believe Manson was wise to settle.
Manson says he is heterosexual.
•Female football player alleges rape
A college that is becoming more famous for scandals in its sports programs than for the teams themselves is featured in allegations of rape by a female former student.
If Hnida did attempt to have the unnamed man prosecuted, the case against him would likely founder because she did not report the rape promptly. But, reporting sexual harassment or rape in a hostile environment often results in a backlash against the victim, not the alleged perpetrator. The University of Colorado, particularly its sports program, certainly sounds like just such a milieu. Being raped is often a classic Hobson's choice. Tell the truth and suffer further humilation. Keep silent and let the guilty party get away with it.
I don't believe the college's plan to hire a special administrator to watch its sport programs will make any difference. Most likely, the person, whose loyalty will be to the university and its athletics department, will merely sweep allegations like Hnida's under the rug.
•Republicans continue alienation campaign
At another school, young Republicans are doing their part to undermine the GOP's claimed efforts to increase interest in their party among racial minorities.
I believe these 'bake sales' create hostile environments on college campuses by encouraging white students to hold their nonwhite peers in contempt.
Veteran blogger Trish Wilson addresses the issue in more direct language.
I don't know if it is sheer stupidity that leads the Republicans to taunt people of color and mock civil rights even while they claim to be trying to attract minority voters, or, if the claim to want to increase nonwhite support of their party in itself is false.posted by J. | 11:30 PM
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Part I: The end of racism
People unsympathetic to racial justice here in the blogosphere often claim that racism no longer has any real world effect. We can just ignore it, they say. Anyway, a new generation is growing up that will have no memory of the bad old days, right? Their more hostile counterparts claim there is no racism at all or that nonwhites are the ones who are racist. True, the people who say these things often fail to be able to even define racism -- the belief that one racial group is superior to another or others. Instead, they will assert that if someone mentions race, as in the sentence 'I am an Indian,' he is being a racist. Or, the bigot will trot out some bromide about how everyone in his home, city or state is getting along fine except for when black, Indian or Hispanic 'troublemakers' interfere with the status quo. Stories such as this one lead me to believe not only that those people are lying, but that they are passing their racist beliefs on to their children even as they deny holding them.
I don't believe for a moment that Trevor accidentally entered that competition. Neither do I believe the racists in the blogophere continually 'accidentally' publish bigoted blog entries. One of the worst of them recently made that claim after promoting a site which depicted singer Janet Jackson as a gorilla, and inviting its proprietor to disrupt another weblog's comments with racist ranting. I believe some adult or adults, possibly the boy's parents, who may hold attitudes typical of conservative white South Africans, put him up to it. Their goal was to insult the actual African-American students at that school, creating a hostile environment for them. However, Trevor was coached well. He acknowledges no wrongdoing. Neither would the adults responsible. They might try to shift the blame to the existence of the award or to the school's African-American students themselves. (If you all would just stop existing, we would not feel compelled to harass you.) The blogger described previously tried to shift the blame for his actions to politician Al Sharpton, among others.
I must address what you are thinking at this point: Ms. Blogger, obviously, someone like the fellow you are describing is crazy. Some mental health professionals believe that racism is one of the behaviors that people with obsession-related mental illnesses latch on to. But, most people with a pathological obsession with 'race' are not in asylums, so we must address them as a component of our everyday lives.
I think the discipline Trevor and his co-conspirators were subjected to is appropriate for children who behaved in a discriminatory, hurtful manner. They have been informed that not all adults want them to harass their minority classmates. At the very least, they will now know racism is not monolithic. I am glad the school's administrators did not dismiss the incident as child's play because that underestimates the potency of racism.
But, what is to be done when grown men and women engage in much more abusive behavior and deny they have done anything wrong? In school and work environments, I believe some form of education should be tried first. If there are subsequent incidents, sanctions and insistence on a mental health examination that might identify obsessive behavior focused on race is in order. If the egregious actions continue, the person should be expelled or fired. But, here on the Internet, our ability to influence the behavior of others is very limited. So, my suggestions are modest. If you encounter racist behavior in the blogosphere or at other forums, I hope you will:
•Post a definition of racism and describe how the offender's behavior fits it. (Don't let him redefine it into something it is not, such as merely mentioning race.)
•Emphasize that harm is occurring, in that people in the audience are being hurt by the racist behavior.
•Refuse to let the offender scapegoat his behavior on to the victim or third parties.
Most important of all: Do not remain silent. Speak up even if it is just to say, 'I disagree.' When I observe white bloggers remaining silent while minority bloggers are belittled and abused, it makes me wonder if they are really opposed to what is occurring. Because of historical truth, I think most minority group members are doubtful of a white person's lack of racism unless they see proof of it. In fact, I changed my mind about adding some bloggers to my blogroll this week because I observed them ignore a vicious attack by a racist on a blog. If you don't oppose racism when you actually see it occurring, you are a wimp and I don't want you on my team.
Let's backtrack to the harm caused by racist behavior. The blogger we are using as our specimen here would either deny his bigotry causes pain or mock the pain he has caused. However, racist incidents have a cumulative degenerative effect on the people on the receiving end.
The claim no one is being harmed is a lie and a particularly evil one.
Am I naive enough to believe I can 'solve' racism in our society or even in a small place like the blogosphere? No. Not remotely. But, being unable to solve a problem does not mean we have to let it fester. Someone spoke up about what was occurring at Trevor's school. That person was most likely a child. If a kid can do the right thing when he observes racism, can't you?posted by J. | 5:15 AM