News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Opinion: Fear of blacks is not justified
Veteran African-American journalist Eugene Robinson recently published an editorial at the Washington Post in which he called for a dialogue about race. He was influenced by former Secretary of Education William Bennett's revealing remarks linking race and criminality. Robinson said:
The blogger at Noahpinion has accepted Robinson's proosal, sort of. He says he would like to have such a conversation, but then goes on to make the offer conditional.
My initial reaction to reading Noah's entry was to be rather catty. I composed a comment only to discover that his blog does not accept comments from non-members. I wrote:
The people most at risk of being raped, assaulted or murdered by any man (black, white, yellow, brown or albino) are (with the exception of albino, which isn't a race) those of the same race. Furthermore, the person who does any of these things is likely to be a family member, a friend or an acquaintance. Rationally, people should be most afraid of their associates and criminals of their own race. So, it seems to me that your perception -- that millions of white people are soiling their undies in fear of being attacked by black men even as we speak -- suggests that white people are irrational. Is that your point?
But, let's consider Noah's opinion more soberly. First, make no mistake about it, I believe that persons convicted of violent crimes should serve lengthy sentences. If the offenses are bad enough, I don't shed any tears if the death penalty is invoked. Still, I believe Noah's biases are showing. As already noted, relationships are key components of victimization more than half the time. So, the high incidence of some types of homicide among African-American men is mainly a risk for other black Americans. It is not rational that white people would believe that they are at risk of murder by these criminals. Indeed, the risk of homicide even within the African-American population is significantly lower if one controls for class, location and involvement in the criminal subculture. Criminals, regardless of race, have a tendency to kill each other.
Related to a skewed perception of who is likely to be victimized by whom is Noah's failure to consider that when it comes to some kinds of crime, white males, well, excel. If white people are as easily frightened as he claims, why aren't they fleeing whites in their workplaces (85.2 percent of people who go postal at work fit that demographic), or dumping that drink 'John' gave them at the party behind the ficus bush (80.6 percent of poisoners are white}? With all due respect to Noah's fellow white male blogger, Joseph Duncan, do we even need to discuss the likely race of serial killers? If Noah believes that the existence of higher rates of some types of homicides is grounds for fearing blacks, but existence of higher rates of some types of homicides is not grounds for fearing whites, we are back to that old American tradition. His viewpoint is being determined by prejudiced beliefs about race, not reality. Researchers have discovered that it is easier for a white felon to find a job than it is for a black man with no criminal record to do so. Noah has provided insight into why that might be true. He believes black people's crimes count, but white people's crimes don't.
A final note. I can't speak for other folks, but I am offended when white people or men or the privileged begin their dialogues with the nonwhite, women or poor by ordering them to behave in a certain way. There's an assumption of superiority in that. Noah's entry is an example. He has told African-Americans what the topic is and what they are allowed to say. Why? Aren't people of color capable of reaching their own conclusions about what they want to say and then expressing themselves?
Ironically, it appears that Noah considers himself a liberal. With friends like him. . . .posted by J. | 2:25 PM