Modern Racism

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Cross-posted at Medium

In the old days, when it was still cool to be a racist, people felt superior to other people because of the color of their skin. A white person was automatically better, smarter, more worthy than a non-white person and the average white person thought this was acceptable. This resulted in slavery, segregation, vigilante justice, and the dehumanization of black people.

Luckily, we have progressed as a society to the point where that kind of thinking is abhorrent and is considered wrong. That’s the good news.

However, we have also spawned a new form of racism. This is a much more subtle racism but equally nefarious.

In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial we have seen strong reactions from some members of the black community decrying the lack of justice for Trayvon Martin. There is an equally strong counter-reaction explaining that it’s okay to suspect black people of crimes because the statistics support suspicion. This latter group are the modern racists.

6122894190_64c17ede01_bThe statistics show that black people commit a higher proportion of crimes than white people. Leaving aside the difficulties presented by the bias of selective enforcement and selective prosecution, I argue that using these statistics at all is an example of modern racism.A statistic is only meaningful if the data being used is a factor in the conclusion. For example, (and this is completely fictional) if I were to show that the majority of red haired women possesed below average intelligence, that statistic would not be meaningful unless I showed a causation between hair color and inferior intelligence. If I can’t show that, the statistic is meaningless. Even if the statistic is “true” it still doesn’t tell me anything about other red haired women. It just means that red haired people are not a significant group with enough specific traits to be classsified as a group with particular characteristics and predictable tendencies.

Categorizing all black people as one large group where the acts of one black person in Florida somehow tell us something about a different black person in Seattle is racist. Even within the same community it can be offensive to group people together because they share a skin tone. If the only thing two people share is skin tone then we cannot make any meaningful inferences from one person’s behavior to the other person’s behavior.

If we make judgments for the entire arbitrarily created group, we are being racists. There is no reason that the act of a black man in Texas should mean more about the potential acts of a black man in Michigan than his acts should inform us about a a white Norwegian woman or an indigenous Korean man. The only reason to connect the imaginary dots between all people of color is because there is a fallacious assumption that all people of color share some attribute that makes what one black person does meaningful in the analysis of what another will do. This is racist.

It’s not racist in the old fashioned lynch mob way. But it is still racist to presume one knows things about one black person simply because another black person or group of black people act a certain way.

I find that this is a very difficult concept for some people. These people clearly think that there actually is a black predisposition toward illegal or dangerous activity.

We must not tolerate that kind of thinking in 2013.

I’m looking at you Pat Buchanan.

  • vladimir

    Russians are much more racists than any nation in the planet. On the winter of 1978, in the Moscow grocery store I was viciously attacked by the majority of the Muscovites standing in the line for the frozen chicken, when I let an old black woman to get ahead of me. There were than maybe only a dozen of the black women of her age in the entire Russia. Thank you, Rabbi, for the ‘swimming against the current’.

  • anon

    Don’t fool yourself that the “old racism” has disappeared. Today, I heard how Martin was “aggressive”, Zimmerman was right in his actions, blacks are monkeys, blacks are animals, why does Obama need to speak, and other odious remarks

    • That’s nothing like Old Racism.

      • anon

        It’s far more similar to it and much more dangerous than what you refer to as new racism. There’s dehumanization and racial superiority (although one there also right-wing policies siding with Zimmerman and against Obama)

  • ana

    This study sees things very differently about the black and white war we have going on in america. Cant help but wonder if black people exaggerate about so called racism or if white people are not being heard at all when they say they are being discriminated against. check it out– http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/whites-believe-they-are-victims-racism-more-o

  • Tuvia

    i live in nyc. everyone is a little bit racist. everyone is a little bit prejudice. i am an astute observer of the scene in nyc. black folks are just as good at prejudging as whites. it’s all pretty subtle — and to my eye? totally normal, human, and fair (mostly fair.) Every day, there are millions of interactions between whites and blacks that come off without a hitch in this city. Every day in NYC there are thousands (tens of thousands?) of interactions between cops and blacks that come off without an injury. I live in a “tough” neighborhood in Brooklyn — like all of NYC it is NOTHING compared to the bad old days — but it is still very tough relative to other areas. I have watched many dozens of fraught interactions between cops and blacks. Even violent ones. More than a dozen that ended in arrests. Some where police were attacked by blacks or latinos. Never has one ended in tragedy. I watch cops EVERY week or month de-escalate situations. No more “I’m the toughest MFer on the block” is the cops credo. They de-escalate sometimes VERY fraught situations.

    Then one kid tragically, wrongly, is killed. And what do we hear? “All cops are racists who want to kill you.” There are LITERALLY millions of fraught encounters per year in NYC between cops and tough kids, poor kids, ex-cons, mentally ill young men, angry young men, depressed, end-of-their rope young men of color.

    Every four or five years a tragic ending. A mistake. A shiny object is misidentified. A cop fires in fear. Hears a bullet, sees another cop fall. Turns out it was a firecracker, the other cop tripped on the curb — and tragedy results.

    Five million fraught encounters. One horrible mistake (that will completely destroy that cop’s life forever — he will never go anywhere in his career, he will be sued, he will spend two years on trial — NO cop no matter HOW racist would EVER WANT to commit murder of a member of a race he hated this way — unless he is TOTALLY SELF-DESTRUCTIVE and wishes to see his own life turned into LIVING HELL.)

    Blacks who act badly are everywhere in NYC — many are poor, depressed, undiagnosed, angry, scared, overlooked, poorly raised, drug addicted, drug involved, at the end of their rope, afraid to back down, sick of having nothing, of being nothing, of being packed into bad housing — that I totally understand. It sucks to be or feel any of the above. In NYC virtually EVERYONE is ready to “go off” in a split second. It is only by virtue of upbringing, prozac, the summer house, the good job they can’t jeapordize, the kids they need to be role models to, their realization that they are too old or weak to win a fight with the guy who is breathing all over them in the packed 110 degree subway — that people decline to lose it.

    change the stand your ground laws. they are accidents and fatal encounters waiting to happen. They need rewriting.

    Tuvia

  • Moshe

    People are also organized into communities that share characteristics and some responsibility for each other. The communities are sometimes based on religion, shared heritage, country of origin, or race. If the Black community in a certain place is plagued by crime, then it might not be unreasonable to look suspiciously at the members of the Black community in that city. If the Jewish community in a certain city is plagued with dishonesty or tax evasion, then people in that place will judge the Jews based on that community characteristic as well.

    The liberal imperative to judge each person by themselves without reference to their community is so counter-intuitive that it is seen as unrealistic. This hurts the anti-racism cause because it makes people think that “in reality” racist views are true, but that a person is asked not to express them because they are not acceptable.

    Instead, we should be allowed judge people as individuals and as members of their communities with the following caveats:

    1) We need to suppress discriminatory policies towards members of a community in hiring practices, courts of laws, government policies, even if it is realistic to suspect community members of specfic problems

    2) We need to judge people only by communities that they themselves identify with.

  • bigfreakingdaddy

    More gibberish from a secular Jew whose religion is Liberal Party Politics.
    If we accept your premise that we can’t draw any connection from one black to another, then there is no such thing as a Black Community.

    Almost all black leaders use the term. What do they mean when they say ‘Black Community’ if not people connected by just ONE thing – being black?

    After all, blacks are each individual persons with their own
    inherent set of characteristics. They live in different cities, states…even countries.

    Therefore, using the ‘rabbi’s’ crackerjack logic, the use of the term ‘black community is racist.

    Not sure if it’s old racism, new racism or new coke.

    But, just remember that the next time you hear your favorite Democratic
    race hustler use the expression ‘Black Community’ or the equivalent.

    You know, like Pres Obama did in his recent Trayvon speech that had you liberals panting like groupies. He’s a racist. Which is what we’ve been trying to tell you blind liberals for years. So, thank you ‘rabbi’ for bringing the left and right together on this very important point.

    BTW, I know liberals well enough to suggest that our ‘rabbi’ will now try to weasel out of what he just said by clarifying (read contradicting) or justifying the racist terms I’ve identified as being a result of the history of oppression by whites against blacks. IOW, it will STILL be whitey’s fault.

    PS This kind of brainless piece is very typical of the Liberal Community. And yes they ARE all violent….towards the truth.

    BAM.

    PS This black is a LIAR. But, it doesn’t mean that all blacks are.
    Well, her husband is too. He lied under oath.

    • Obviously a real rabbi would be conservative. It’s bfeirush in shulchan aruch.

    • MarkSoFla

      Nate? 🙂

      • I love when commenters are all tough in the comment and then they don’t sign their name.

        • bigfreakingdaddy

          And I love it when I so OWN that the only substantive rebuttal is…well…there IS no substantive rebuttal.

          • Not even worth my time.

            • bigfreakingdaddy

              FAIL.
              But, thanks for playing…

              • I made my argument in the post. No sense in restating the same thing over and over again.

                • bigfreakingdaddy

                  Right, and I exposed the folly of your argument which is why you resort to devoid of substance derision.

                  • No you didn’t.

                    • bigfreakingdaddy

                      Of course I didn’t.
                      Why? Because you said I didn’t.

                      Man, being a liberal has GOT to be so much fun…

        • daized79

          Did he call you a secular Jew? 🙂 I don’t agree with the post, but secular Jew???

          • I’ve been called worse.

            • daized79

              Okay I really have to stop reading your posts and get back to work. 🙂 Yes, I’m still at work…

              • I’m happy to help you waste you time whenever you like. Read the Required Reading posts linked on the sidebar.

                • daized79

                  Definitely a compliment. 🙂

  • bigfreakingdaddy

    Folks,

    Since I’ve apparently stumbled upon a real ‘select’ group of…ahem…scholars, let me remind you that Travyon Martin is an Affirmative Action Hero.

    Liberals looking at the case judge him according to an ENTIRELY different set of standards. Why? Because He’s black.

    George Zimmerman called the police before he did ANYTHING that fateful night.
    He repeatedly called them and did TWO post-incident interviews without an attorney.

    But, the ‘terrified’ cute, cuddly little middle schooler being ‘stalked’ by this menacing angry MMA expert, NEVER called the police. He never asked his friend to call the police, nor did he knock on a neighbor’s door asking THEM to call the police. But, Trayvon didn’t have to.

    Why? Because He’s black.

    George Zimmerman never uttered a SINGLE racial epithet. This despite MSNBC doctoring one of his calls to make him appear racist and ABC using 1000x audio amplification to ‘find’ an epithet that never happened.

    OTOH, Trayvon, as revealed by his good friend and star witness for the prosecution, used EVERY vile racial expression in the book that night.

    But, that’s OK. We don’t hold Trayvon’s expression of overt racism against him. IN fact we’ve already FORGOTTEN about it.

    Why? Because He’s black.

    George Zimmerman who had lived almost twice as long as Travyon at the time of the incident, had a few brushes with the law. Even though he was never found guilty of anything, we hold that against hi

    Seventeen year-old Trayvon was discovered to have stored pictures on his cell of under aged naked girls (aka kiddie porn), him illegally holding a firearm, and tons of ‘weed’ shots. He was suspended from school MULTIPLE times and, at one point, was found in possession of all kinds of nefarious contraband.

    But, we have given Trayvon a pass for that.

    Why? Because He’s black.

    What? you thought Affirmative Action was just about granting LESS deserving applicants better jobs or spots in incoming freshman classes?

    Silly You! That’s the OLD Affirmative Action…..

    • MarkSoFla

      Post wasn’t about Martin, it only obliquely mentions him, and even implies that he did wrong (which indeed the jury found that was the case – he beat someone up and got shot and killed in defense). So why are you going on and on about him here?

      • He’s just very excited to have an audience.

  • yossiF

    You made 2 points here.

    1. More crime may be due to selected enforcement. Which I happen to agree with.

    2. Since we can’t find a correlation between skin color and crime the data is meaningless. This I disagree with. I think you are using statistics in a way it wasn’t meant to be used.

    When a coin is tossed we expect 50/50 heads or tails. Obviously it is meaningless when determining what the next toss would bring. More so when the coins results are 60/40 with a significant amount of tosses we declare the coin not fair. Regardless of whether there is or isn’t a known reason for it. All we can say is with a certain level of certainty is that the coins is not fair.

    Just because we don’t know the exact property that causes a disproportionate amount of crime from a certain segment of the pop. does not mean there isn’t one. Rather we can say more likely then not with a level of certainty, there is one. That is if it is statistically significant.

    The second problem is that you assume there is such a thing as truly understanding causation. We can never truly find the causation of anything. We can’t find the bridge. All we ever have is that cause X is followed by effect Y. Never do we find the connection all we have is the observation.

  • ana

    Sheriff Mike Scott is my hero. If only more people were like him, then perhaps we’d have a much safer America– http://www.scribd.com/doc/155482407/Sheriff-Scott-Ltr-to-NAACP-1

  • JewishInsurgent

    I love this post, and I agree for the most part, but…

    Market research, planning, public outreach, etc., recognize common traits in specific ethnicities and races. Granted, these traits are not present in every individual, but those traits do exist. The traits are most likely due to cross correlation, such as stating that a higher percentage of Black Americans are below the poverty line, or a higher percentage of inner city residents are Black Americans, or it could sinply be corrolated with a culture. However, there is a statistical significance to being Black, If I were to be able to prove that there were some trait that was prevalent at a statistically significant level for red heads, it would be logical to react to that in some way. That certainly does not mean that we should punish or be suspicioius of people for simply sharing a trait, but we cannot be entirely unaware of the correlations either.

  • daized79

    It’s culture, not skin color, and the relationship is causative. Most African-Americans (not speaking about Africans in any other place) largely belong to a similar culture that is different than the dominant American culture. Or different enough that it produces these results. Many rise above it or reject it. So, like lashon hara, take precautions, but don’t believe it until you know it to be true about any individual African-American. In contrast, most redheads do not belong to a particular American subculture or see themselves as belonging to it.

    As for Zimmerman, I honestly don’t think he was skin color motivated as much as he was culture motivated. Martin displayed his culture by his clothing (hoodie). I am scared of people in hoodies, pale or dark. It’s suspicious when someone has their face and head all covered up at night. In Florida. I guess I’d have to know the temperature if people were otherwise walking around with scarves. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Zimmerman was influenced by the skin color. The tragedy happened not when he took silent precautions and called the police, but when he took matters into his hands and got out of his car. I accept the jury’s verdict that he didn’t start the fight, but he was imprudent to say the least.

    My b’rakha is that we all (darker-skinned and pale-skinned people alike) become color blind and join in a dominant American culture of faith and righteousness.