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March 21, 2008

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For those who watch the extended clip of Rev. Wright's sermon, here is the transcript of the Fox News interview with former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck, that he referenced.

Hilzoy: The problem is that they are static: times have changed, and it's not clear that Rev. Wright's views have always changed with them.

Trent Lott was also born in 1941. (As KCinDC reminded me to check.) And while times have changed enough that Lott did have to resign, three weeks after he said he thought the US would have been a better country if Thurmond had won in 1948, the fact that he said it and clearly didn't expect to be condemned for it, says that the US still needs people like Wright.

Times have changed. But not enough.

Great post Hilzoy.

My take on this is that while times have changed, people have not. Humans fundamentaly dislike/mistrust people who look or act different from themselves. You can educate them out of exhibiting some of the offending behavior if you catch them young enough and make the effort. The underlying facts of human nature still remain.

Today, mostly because of force applied from the outside, the white people of Mississippi can no longer get away with acting the way they could during Emmett Till's lifetime. I think it would be naive to assume that there isnt a large minority of Mississippi natives that still wish they could have that power back today.

Being from Mississippi, I don't know if what Frank says about wanting power is necessarily true. People being what they are, and power being what it is, it wasn't those with power who were the most egregious in their behavior, it was those on the lower rungs who were given someone who they could despise in order to maintain the hierarchy. And who wish they could have power back probably never had power to begin with.

What is cause and what is effect is always difficult to sort out, but Noel Ignatiev's book _How the Irish became White_, though having little to do with Mississippi, is a very interesting book in this regard.

I think it would be naive to assume that there isnt a large minority of Mississippi natives that still wish they could have that power back today.

On what basis do you say this? Given its past, the south is without question my least favorite region of the U.S. And there are undoubtedly still some hardcore racist dead-enders there. But to assume that a "large minority" of the people wish it was still legal to murder and terrorize black citizens is both ludicrous and offensive. 28% of white voters in Mississippi Democratic primary voted for Obama. The governor of Louisiana is an ethnic Indian. Harold Ford was nearly elected to the Senate in Tennessee in 2006. Do you seriously believe that any of these things would have happened in 1955, had it even been possible for black people in the south to vote then?

By any metric, the most racist demographic cohort in America is old people. The least racist is people under 30. Every year, more and more of the former die, to be replaced in the population by more and more of the latter. Virulent racism, being socially unacceptable, is not an attitude that tends to survive from generation to generation. Prejudice and bigotry are indeed a part of human nature. But I see no reason to believe that racial violence need be. I do tend to cut Wright a lot of slack, given the era in which he was raised, and personally, his association with Obama is not a major strike against the latter for me. The history of race relations in America really is horrible. But it is history. There's no reason we need to live in it today, Wright's excusably outdated views aside.

Xeynon, virulent racism might be getting less prevalent generation to generation, but institutional racism is still with us -- huge disparities in prevalance of poverty, discriminiation in housing and jobs, and the nightmare prison system.

The problems that feed racial resentments and racism aren't going to melt away just with the passing of the generation that grew up during legal segregation.

Wasn't it sometime within the last 5 or 10 years, Xeynon, that the board of directors at Texaco or somesuch was tape-recorded making racist jokes about "black jellybeans" in the boardroom? Wasn't a famous radio host recently fired for vilely insulting a group of women who had done nothing more than do well in a basektball tournament? It's real easy to attribute all of this to "the past" when you're not black -- which I have to assume you are not -- but for black people, a lot of it is still occurring in the present.

And, to back up Frank, there's Jena.

Wasn't it less than 18 months ago, Xeynon, that a bunch of American high school kids started getting into fights over whether there could be a "whites-only" shaded area in their high school grounds? And the white kids hung nooses on the tree that provided shade, and the white principal and the white district attorney instructed the black kids to STFU? I believe I recall, too, that after actual fights started - since telling the black kids to STFU had the conciliatory effect you would expect - only the black kids were charged: one black student was tried for attempted murder and sentenced to 22 years in jail, while white students who had attacked black students with broken bottles, or pulled a shotgun on black students, were released without charge. Is this so quickly forgotten?

Of course, that was in Louisiana, not in in Mississippi. You might find this video of interest, too.

Things may have gotten better for U.S. citizens (though things are certainly still problematic, as earlier commenters have noted), but racism, fear, and abuse of government power are still a daily fact of life for some people.

yave begnet: but racism, fear, and abuse of government power are still a daily fact of life for some people.

...and sexism/misogyny. I read that story through to the end, where the woman's husband walks out on her because he's mad at her for being raped. *deletes language in breach of posting rules* But the WTF? is... the immigration authorities stopped providing contact information for reporting complaints because they were getting too many complaints. WTFWTFWTF?

Humans fundamentaly dislike/mistrust people who look or act different from themselves. You can educate them out of exhibiting some of the offending behavior if you catch them young enough and make the effort. The underlying facts of human nature still remain.

Sorry, but I don't buy this. If that were true, if there were some hardwired part of us that distrusted the other, then we wouldn't have made progress in race relations. The logical extension of your comment, Frank, is that we're all just hiding our true feelings beneath the surface, and that we're only doing so because of societal pressures, and that's just silly. If there were no change in us, those societal pressures wouldn't have come into being in the first place.

What I think is true about Frank's comment, Brian, is that children can be - and are - easily taught to regard a specific group as "us" and everyone who does not belong in that specific group as "not us". They can also be taught to rank people in the "us" group, and they can learn to regard certain specific "not us" groups with especial prejudice. They can learn all of this from listening to and observing how their family, their teachers, and their peer group speak and behave.

There is no reason in the world why the "us", "not us", "enemies" teaching has to be based on any one or more of gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnic origin, religion, lack of religion, political affiliation, nationality, disability, ability. We know the historical origins of basing "us", "not us", "enemy" on skin color/ethnic origin: even if slavery no longer exists, the justifications that enabled white people to regard black people as property still exist.

I think it probably is natural in human beings to set up "us" and "not us" groups in their minds: to create discriminations in the real world that are based on deciding that a person is "us" or a person is "not us".

In what you could call our "natural" state - an extended family/tribe of people no larger than a couple of hundred, "us" was everyone in that group, whom you knew by sight and smell and sound: "not us" was everyone outside that group. We can guess that people could move from being "not us" to being "us" and vice versa, because modern hunter-gatherer societies do allow for adoption/exogamous marriage/etc.

But the multitude of ways we have invented to justify placing a person in "us" or in "not us", are not natural at all: they're inventions to make it easier to extend "us" and "not us" from a few hundred to a few million.

LJ- In answer to your comments real power is retail. The ability to physicly beat those you hate, or even sweeter the ability to make the lessors sweat, knuckle their brow and call you sir.

Xeynon- You are quoting numbers from within the democratic party. They dont prove what you think they do. Hint: Most of the white voters in Mississippi are Republicans. And they are Republicans for a reason. I'll leave it to you to try and figure out what that reason is.

Incertus- We have made progress because we are (to some extent) training youngsters out of it. Humans have reason which is why we can overcome our instincts sometimes, but its not the dominant force, as politics over the last 10 years has shown.

Excellent post.

It occurs to me that this same blindness to the not so distant past regarding race relations, is the same dynamic that has and is causing so much trouble with our Middle East relations. Our countries refusal to acknowledge our part in the destruction of cultures is coming home to roost.

Frozen: It occurs to me that this same blindness to the not so distant past regarding race relations, is the same dynamic that has and is causing so much trouble with our Middle East relations.

Exactly.

It occurred to me when commenting yesterday in the "Five Years" post - that if foreign soldiers had fired on a peaceful demonstration in a US city, killing some of the demonstrators, and those soldiers had been protected by their country of origin and not punished for their crime - in fact, if the crime had been regarded as a non-issue and the killing defended by the authorities - then it would hardly be regarded as surprising if soldiers of that foreign army were at risk of hostile attack in that city.

Yet apparently, Iraqis are supposed to feel quite otherwise.

In answer to your comments real power is retail. The ability to physicly beat those you hate, or even sweeter the ability to make the lessors sweat, knuckle their brow and call you sir.

Being as far on the left as I am, I tend to view the true holders of power as the ones who don't get their hands dirty.

I'd also point out that while Mississippi is rightly considered a red state, Democrat Gene Taylor has been able to hold the Mississippi 4th congressional district (Trent Lott's former district) since 1989. He's certainly one of the most conservative Dems around, and he has a reputation for political independence, but it suggests that things are not as clear cut as you suggest.

Given its past, the south is without question my least favorite region of the U.S. And there are undoubtedly still some hardcore racist dead-enders there.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map is a useful resource in thinking about this. It doesn't cover just racially based hate crimes, but it's still a useful snapshot of where the hating goes on.

The American southeast, the traditional heart of dear old Dixie, is well represented, but the mid Atlantic and rust best states hold their own, too. No flies on them.

California, of course, is the big winner with 80 recorded violent hate crimes.

MI, IN, ID, and WA have long been centers of white supremacist groups.

When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, marching band competitions between primarily (meaning almost exclusively) white and black schools frequently devolved into melees. Ditto basketball games, etc.

And, of course, good old Boston, the home of elitist northeastern liberal elitism, hosted more or less daily riots over enforced school busing a mere thirty or so years ago.

It is, and has been, everywhere.

Thanks -

Incertus- We have made progress because we are (to some extent) training youngsters out of it. Humans have reason which is why we can overcome our instincts sometimes, but its not the dominant force, as politics over the last 10 years has shown.

Frank, when you say that people fundamentally distrust the other, you're not talking about something that can be trained out of a person. You're talking about something that's hardwired in our being, and that's what I take issue with. There's nothing inherent in humans that requires we be tribalistic, especially on the basis of how another looks or acts--that's all learned behavior. And what can be learned can be unlearned, which is why we've made progress.

As for the comment about the last ten years, I can only assume you're talking about teh fight or flight instinct, which has little to do with othering people based on skin color or cultural differences.

LJ- You are undoubtedly correct sir. People often find my suggestions are without merit. I didn't mean to say it was simple or clear cut. Just that there is a real human phenominon there. One that doesn't just have to do with words or definitions. It is just what it is.

I'm just a northern liberal by upbringing, but I've lived in West Virginia for a lot of years now. One reason I'm so pessimistic is that part of what makes the stats for young people look good is that they've learned how and when to pretend not to be racist.
(Juking the stats for Wire fans out there.)

Brian- Well here we are getting into a different area. If you said I was just asserting my opinion and had presented no evidence you'd be correct.

It seems to me that you are similarly asserting your opinion. You subscibe to a more Tabula Rasa take on human nature. Ok fair enough. I don't think we can settle this debate either way here and now.

I get the appeal of your theory. To tell the truth I'd prefer to believe yours. My experience won't let me though.

Blessings for a(nother) gorgeous piece. In fact I’m a tad puzzled by the moderation, as I read it, of the praise here. Not that I doubt its depth, but it seems so moderate.

I’m not yet steeled to follow the links; so my comments at this point are limited.
One thing I find disconcerting if not disturbing is that, being only two years younger than Wright, but white, the events hilzoy describes made only a glancing impression on me, almost as if they happened in, say Iraq or Zimbabwe. My Lai and Kent State changed my life. Emmett Till didn’t. Racism? I think so.
Not that I didn’t feel aggrieved for black oppression. But it wasn’t visceral, as it was for Wright, Bond, and Ali.
Special appreciation to Jes for the commentary. Incertus, there is as far as I’m aware a consensus among evolutionaey biologists that distrust of otherness is in fact part of our inherited neural programming.

NPR has been having a series of Storycorps pieces running; this morning's bit was about a woman whose great-grandmother dared, in 1910 or so, to wear fingernail polish. A white shopkeep tore her fingernails out for her audacity to paint herself up "like a white woman".

The secondhand recounting is quite wrenching; I'd recommend a visit to NPR to give it a listen. And, yes, I do realize this is (on the scale of racially-motivated atrocities) fairly minor (in that the victim lived).

Being from Boston, I don't feel inclined to feel smug about racism in the north. (Emmett Till was killed before I was born; the Boston busing crisis, however, happened when I was in my late teens.)

I think, as people have said, that it seems to come naturally to a lot of people to think in terms of us and them. But it makes a world of difference whether, given the social structures that exist around them, they tend to express this by having cliques in school or by lynching people.

I'm not sure racism is unacceptable everywhere in the US. I am sure it's a lot less acceptable than it was, and will probably get even less acceptable as time passes. This is a wonderful thing.

But we will have people, on both sides, for whom this past is their past for quite some time.

felix culpa: Blessings for a(nother) gorgeous piece. In fact I’m a tad puzzled by the moderation, as I read it, of the praise here. Not that I doubt its depth, but it seems so moderate.

I fear that we have grown so used to Hilzoy writing wonderful, thoughtful posts that we have lost the immoderation of our early appreciation.

*applauds Hilzoy immoderately*

*blushes*

*giggles*

Again; the issue with the nature/nurture of fear of otherness is that our inherited neural nature is governable. Hence civilizational progress. The unitary individual is composed of internally conflicting forces. The struggle for justice is both external, directed towards social alignments, and internal, directed towards personal unjust predispositions.

My Lai and Kent State changed my life. Emmett Till didn’t. Racism? I think so.

I don't necessarily see racism in this. There was, I think, kind of generational shift between the civil rights movement of the late 50's and early 60's, and the anti-Vietnam student protests of the mid 60's through very early 70's. Depending on your age, it's highly likely that one will be part of your own felt experience, while the other will be, to you, history.

Not directing this at you, felix, but more generally: a stronger evidence of the racial blinders we all wear is that everyone has heard of, or remembers, Kent State, but if you say "Jackson State" most folks will reply with "Huh?".

Thanks -

Russell,

Interesting map. Not trying to minimize the groups in the south, but I want to point out that Florida is barely southern.

I know that wasn't your point. Your point being that groups are all over the country. But, I think some who post here aren't really familiar with the entirety of the US and might be working off the assumption that Florida is culturally southern like Georgia or South Carolina, while in reality is it is very different.

Jesurgislac,

Wasn't it less than 18 months ago, Xeynon, that a bunch of American high school kids started getting into fights over whether there could be a "whites-only" shaded area in their high school grounds? And the white kids hung nooses on the tree that provided shade, and the white principal and the white district attorney instructed the black kids to STFU?

No. Every statement you made is either inaccurate or flat out incorrect. There are plent of accounts of this story.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1024/p09s01-coop.html>http://www.csmonitor.com

And if I'm not mistaken Michyl Bell is back in jail yet again.

Now the good news! I have proven yet again I am not the "typical" white.

I was leaving an office park late last night and heard a scuffling behind me in the parking lot. I was surprised to find a person there. I tried to be sly and watch him out of the corner of my eye. Once I discovered he was huge and scruffy I wallked a little quicker.

I hope everyone will be glad to know that I didn't even take the time to see what race he was, which we all know would have been what a "typical" white would have done.

Now I wonder, f he had been black, would have been offended if I had really given him the once over.

I am looking back upon it and realize I was foolish and careless. I should have checked him out completely regardless of what race he was. Why should I put myself in that kind of danger just because I don't want someone to be offended?

LJ- You are undoubtedly correct sir. People often find my suggestions are without merit. I didn't mean to say it was simple or clear cut. Just that there is a real human phenominon there.

I didn't mean to completely dismiss your point. But if we assign racism to a fixed, unchanging aspect of people's character, the steps we need to take it out are quite different than if it were something that was not necessarily inherent after a certain age, but was pushed on people in some way.

I tend to think it is the latter, because people tend to be followers. People tend to go along with the crowd, as the Milgram experiments show, so what is important is to make it very costly for people who sit back and utilize racism to maintain power. These are not the people who are doing the retail, to use your turn of phrase, these are the manufacturers and wholesalers who never need to come into the dirty grubby world of retail.

As to people pretending not to be racist, one of my favorite books is Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night, and the philosophy is based on this epigraph ""We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." While Vonnegut it talking about the problems of pretending to be evil, I think that the opposite is also the case.

God knows I'd love if if some of these guys had to answer for their crimes.

I was trying to express part of why racism was rewarding enough for people to be as enthusiastic about it as they were.

I agree completely about ultimately becoming what you pretend to be. Still the natural tendencies which created the problem in the first place will always still be there, ready at any time to create new problems when the conditions are right.

There are always people just looking for an excuse.

I'd also encourage everyone to go ahead and click through to see the picture of Emmett Till's dead body. Perhaps especially those who are inclined to think that American blacks really just need to get over it all and move on.

I'm not picking on folks who think that way, because there's a reasonable point in there. It just is my very, very humble opinion that it's useful to understand the actual history we're all talking about.

If you do click through, reflect on the fact that what you're looking at is the body of a fourteen year old boy.

Thanks -

There are plenty of accounts of this story.

There is a response to Craig Franklin's story here. (The first point, which rather goes to discredit Craig Franklin's claims that his wife, a white teacher at the school, is an impartial witness: is that the Jena High courtyard was always segregated - Franklin's claim that a black student asked a pointless question to "stretch out assembly" may have been how a white teacher at the school perceived it, but it was evidently not how the black student or his friends perceived it.) Craig Franklin's claim that the nooses hung on the whites-only tree were a harmless white-on-white prank appears to have been an after-the-facts cover-up story which, again, Franklin's wife may very well have preferred to believe.

Your assertion that all my statements were false is unjustified. Your reliance on a white journalist and a white teacher being more accurate witnesses than black students and black parents is, I fear, part of the problem.

But, I think some who post here aren't really familiar with the entirety of the US and might be working off the assumption that Florida is culturally southern like Georgia or South Carolina, while in reality is it is very different.

Parts of Florida are culturally southern. Northern Florida is very southern. Even Central Florida is kind of southern. I'd imagine you can find a healthy number of southern redneck types throughout Florida, although there's obviously lots of other types, especially in South Florida, which has lots of Jews and Cubans.

(Sorry: My comment was addressed to grey.)

I think it would be naive to assume that there isnt a large minority of Mississippi natives that still wish they could have that power back today.

I think 40-60% of white Mississippians are certainly prejudiced against blacks, but living here, I can't really buy that there's a "large minority" that really want things rolled back to lynching days.

Guess it's how you define "large minority," but I would have to say under 10%, and those mostly old, rural, and out of the way.

Miss. has plenty of race problems left, but nobody not on the nut fringe is really nostalgic for segregation.

Mr. Anderson- I recomend that you look up the wikipedia entry on "overton window."

I'm guessing you don't spend a lot of time talking to bigots about how things would be if they were running them.

I hope everyone will be glad to know that I didn't even take the time to see what race he was, which we all know would have been what a "typical" white would have done.

Personally, I could care less one way or the other. I think we have less fascination with your internal thought processes than you imagine. I sure do.

If I were interested, I would say that I don't know who this "typical" white is, nor who you believe thinks he is "typical," nor why it is characteristic of him to look squarely at a potential mugger, nor how you can look at someone enough to see his size but not his race, nor why it put you in more danger to respond to his size and location irrespective of his race.

But whatever, enjoy the internal mind games. Be sure to keep us posted on whether you're stepping on cracks and breaking your mother's back when you walk around town, too. It's endlessly fascinating.

hilzoy's post talks about a number of well-known incidents, and these are certainly worth remembering.

But let's remember too that these were not sudden and unexpected events that took place in a society in which blacks generally enjoyed normal lives. Blacks were not just regarded as inferior to whites, they were also regarded as legitimate objects of hatred. They were denied mundane privileges like eating a sandwich at a lunch counter or trying on clothes before buying them. They faced dismal educational and economic opportunities, and had no political power. And of course they were always exposed to violence. It's simply impossible to do the state of things justice in a blog comment. I doubt the effect of these daily indignities has disappeared.

I used to think it unnecessary to recount all this, but, like hilzoy, some of the things I read, not only about Wright, make me think otherwise.

I used to think it unnecessary to recount all this, but, like hilzoy, some of the things I read, not only about Wright, make me think otherwise.

Oh, you mean like comparing him to a Klansman?

I think, as people have said, that it seems to come naturally to a lot of people to think in terms of us and them.

It probably is natural. But the generation coming into college now includes as "us" a much broader range of people than ever before. "Us" includes people of all skin colors and goes beyond our boarders. Reminders from the past are important and condemnation of the present (like Jes' reminders) are too. But things are changing.

But we will have people, on both sides, for whom this past is their past for quite some time.

My generation where I grew up is not anything like those that perpetrated the atrocity on Emmett Till or the most recent events Jes notes. And I'm not sure what "both sides" means, but I think I know. Listening to Michael Meyers on NPR yesterday was thought provoking on this issue. His op ed is here.

The problems that feed racial resentments and racism aren't going to melt away just with the passing of the generation that grew up during legal segregation.

But they are melting away. They're not all gone, but they're going.

if foreign soldiers had fired on a peaceful demonstration in a US city,

If peaceful demonstration includes carrying M-16's and firing on the foreign soldiers then maybe the rest of this comment makes some sense. But to equate the Iraq war with racism in America IMHO does disservice to both issues.

I was born a year before Pastor Wright, and grew up on the VA/NC border. It was normal for us to have black servants during my early years, and some of them actually lived in the house with us. This was no mansion, either, so the living was literally right in amongst us. I am not sure that I remember this correctly, but there was a small half bath off the kitchen, and I think they were required to use that, rather than the family bathroom. We really were not equipped for "live-in" maids as many larger houses were. Knowing the times, I cannot imagine that it would have ever been acceptable to share a bathroom with a black person, even though she was charged with taking full care of one's children! What a disconnect that seems to me now.

In later years, we had servants who came in during the day, and at one point we had a woman, Anna, who cooked for us. Anna was a large black woman with a heart as big as all outdoors. I loved her, as did my sister. After she married, she moved to the original farmhouse on our farm where my father had constructed a cabin down by the creek where we went on weekends and during the summer. I don't remember how long Anna lived there, but one trip I remember vividly. My sister and I were out hiking, and stopped by Anna's house to say hello and see her. She cried. It was a simple and thoughtless thing that we did, yet it moved Anna to tears. It was my first real introduction to the different points of view in being white versus being black.....

I wish I could claim that it had been a life-altering experience and that I was able to lay aside my prejudice from that moment on. It was nowhere near that easy, and took me many years of questioning before I could say that I had. Yet, even so, it would/will rear its ugly head every so often. I can recognize it now, and refuse to listen to its voice, but the voice remains there within me.

Reminders from the past are important and condemnation of the present (like Jes' reminders) are too. But things are changing.

If I'm not mistaken, something like one in ten black men between the ages of 18 and 40 are in prison.

I'm not saying your comments here are not true, bc, because they are, and we should be welcome that. I'm just saying there's more to the picture.

We're not out of the woods quite yet.

Thanks -

The Present:

The statistical evidence does not support the modern premise that whites are unfair to blacks. The numbers actually indicate that whites tend to give blacks quite a bit of slack.

In the US as a whole, whites generally run the justice system. In this system, a black man is 7.4 times as likely as a white man to be incarcerated. Ah ha, whites are racist, the premise goes.

But if you look in Washington DC, where blacks run the justice system, a black man is 29.3 times a likely as a white man to be incarcerated. Meaning that black people are 400% more racist than white people against fellow blacks.

Source: Human Rights Watch (you had to dig deep to get this statistic from their home page; here’s the short-cut):

http://hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/race/pdf/table2a.pdf

One more reason why Reverend Wright is wrong and Obama’s judgment should be questioned.

Meaning that black people are 400% more racist than white people against fellow blacks.

There's an error, here. I bet you can find it, if you look. Hint: conditional probabilities.

'nother hint, along the same line:

What is the relative concentration of black people in Washington DC, as compared with that of the US. You'll find an interesting ratio, there.

Meaning that black people are 400% more racist than white people against fellow blacks.

It could also mean that blacks in DC make up about four times as much of the general population as they do in the nation as a whole. Don't know if that's true or not, it's just an equally (if not more) reasonable conclusion to draw from your stats.

Folks can squint at this any way they like, but the plain fact of the matter is that black people are treated differently than white people in this country. Even in those contexts where they're treated preferentially, it's cause for resentment among others.

They're not the only ones. Over the years, and in many cases still to this day, pretty much anyone other than middle to upper class WASPs has taken their share of crap. But the black experience in this country is kind of unique.

Thanks -

Don't know if that's true or not

It is, actually. Ratio is actually 4.4. I'd bet income to poverty statistics in DC aren't, for much of the black population in DC, better than for the rest of the country.

Bill....

Is it possible that your statistic just shows that Washington DC is a city with a very poor black population and a relatively well to do white population?

It could also mean that blacks in DC make up about four times as much of the general population as they do in the nation as a whole.

Hm. Census figures say blacks make up 57% of the DC population and 12.5% of the US population.

Even now, there's the simple fact of being the have-not class. I recall one party I went to in DC (which is South, tho not Deep South), where all the liveried staff were black and all the guests were not. In many parts of the country, a black person at a ritzy social event is probably serving the drinks. Housekeepers, nannies, maids -- they're not all black, but blacks are a lot more likely to be one than to hire one.

And sure, there are lots of exceptions (like Wright and Obama themselves), but those people have to move in a world where they know the people who look like them are the servants, not the masters. That must sting, just a bit, each and every day.

There's a story in The Brethren about a tourist couple at the Supreme Court who got into an elevator with Justice Marshall and matter-of-factly told him to take them to the third floor. Justice Marshall responded in good humor: he said "Yowsah, yowsah," operated the elevator, and then exited and walked straight into his chambers. But I wonder how often somebody at a civic fund-raiser asked Wright to take her coat, and how that made him feel.

Is this thing on?

Incarceration ratios are independent of raw population numbers. Mathematically one has nothing to do with the other.

The only real variables in the Washington DC area are the prosecutors and the makeup of the juries. The difference in incarceration ratios is undeniable.

Incarceration ratios are independent of raw population numbers. Mathematically one has nothing to do with the other.

Ganz falsch. No one said anything about "raw" population numbers. We're talking about relative concentrations of blacks vs. whites, in DC and nationwide.

Aw, no....innumerate, too...

Run the numbers, Bill. Assume 50% of blacks are male, then use nationwide incarceration rates, and see how many wind up in prison, blacks and whites. Divide one by the other.

The answer isn't a nice tidy result like I expected, but it's substantially different from what you're claiming.

Another factor is DC has substantially higher percentage of households below the poverty line than the nation as a whole. I'm guessing there are other factors that could be taken into account, too, but I don't think the black-on-black racism claim is even worthy of incidental regard, without some legwork.

Random data point re Florida and racism in general. One of my college friends is from Northern Florida. I knew he had a redneck past; I didn't realize, though, just how racist a past it was until he drunkenly confessed it to a mutual friend. Apparently, he and his family -- in fact, his entire town -- invariably referred to "niggers" and institutionalized this racism in the town laws (though thankfully not to the point of outright violence). It wasn't until he got to college that he realized just how wrong this was.*

This would have been in the 80s and 90s.

So yeah, racism is alive and well. The flip side of the story, though, is once he had come to the realization of how wrong racism was, he stopped. Literally. I don't know how he managed to do it but I think it was something like what jwo said above, a continual process of not letting his past determine his future. Like de-Nazification, it's hard to erase the habits of a lifetime -- let alone of generations -- but it's possible, and people like my friend can, I hope, show the way.

* The particular... I don't know, catharsis? Epiphany? was when he confessed that he had never truly regarded blacks as people until he went to college. Hearing that in 1996... that really opened my eyes, that's for damn sure.

Just wanted to echo what Jes said about race not needing to be a category. I grew up mostly in international schools but came back to the US for high school. I was really struck by the difference.

Yes, it's human nature to think in terms of 'us' and 'them'. I'm sure that's true everywhere. But in the international schools (mid-80's to early '90's), race simply wasn't been a relevant category. Nationality was. (Though even the Israeli and Arab kids were generally pretty comfortable around each other.) Taste in music was a big us/them thing. Perhaps clothing. And there were others. But 'race' was no more important than, say, eye color, hair length, or belly-button shape. That's not to say people there were kinder. I witnessed an awful lot of social cruelty there. But 'race' didn't cause it (or create enough group solidarity to protect you from it).

When I moved back to the US (to public HS in Arlington VA) it was really jarring that all of a sudden I was supposed to add the 'race' category to how I saw people. I never saw any racial incidents, and I can only remember one racially derogatory comment. But despite that, there was a lot of self-segregation.

At first I really didn't understand why that was. If no one was forcing people apart, why were they apart? But I came to believe that a lot of it was because of the past. It takes a lot of time to build familiarity and trust and to undo what was done.

One sees this generationally as well. Many older people that I know think that avoiding racism simply means never saying or doing anything based on someone's race. But inside they still have negative thoughts about people of other races and still find it harder to trust people of other races. I don't say this to denigrate them - I think they're doing the best they can. They were raised with certain prejudices and they consciously fight against them. That's noble.

But they shouldn't lose sight of the fact that because they suppressed some of their internal racial prejudices, they created a space in which their children would internalize fewer prejudices to begin with, and so some younger people can really be a lot freer from not only from active racism, but even from subconscious internal racism.

As hilzoy said, Obama understand this process of slow change. People who grew up in Wright's time (in the US) may almost inevitably have racial biases; they'll either act upon them, or not. But we don't have to be stuck in that position. If one generation fights its battles (externally against institutional racism, and internally against personal prejudices) the next generation will grow up freer from that baggage.

Sorry for the long post. But one of my pet peeves is the solemn proclamation that "there is a racist in all of us." That's just not true. Certainly there is cruelty towards others, selfishness, clannishness, and so on, latent in all of us. But it doesn't have to be about race. That part is taught.

Regards,
Beren

I can believe that, Anarch. When I moved to Alabama in the early 1990s, I heard from quite a few people that a town not far south of Huntsville had, until very recently, a sign at the city limits that warned darkly-complected folks to stay away after sundown. Might be urban legend, I suppose.

More than that, though, I can believe it because 1980-ish, I told my last racist joke. I think I even stopped thinking Polack jokes were funny. There's nothing like sudden, deep shame to make you rethink what you're doing.

My in-laws, though...it's so bad that they don't see their black friends as black, anymore. Atypical, you see. It's so blinkered that they think of my daughters as white girls. Seriously. There's the black kids, the Mexican kids, and my daughter is the only white kid. Both in-laws were raised in Central Florida, pre-boom.

Wierd. People are absolutely baffling, me inclusive.

“Run the numbers Bill.” OK

Say Spokane has 10% blacks and a DC jury system:

Enter:
-1000 blacks
-9000 whites

Likelihood Ratio:
-Blacks: 1 -(1/29.3) = 1 – 0.034 = 0.964
-Whites: 1/29.3 = 0.034

Black/white prison ratio:
-Black 1000 * .964 = 960
-White 9000 * 0.034 = 310
= 960/310 = 3.1

But in practice, Washington State has a white jury system that benefits blacks when compared with DC (6.5). Running the numbers with the Spokane jury pool yields

Enter:
-1000 blacks
-9000 whites

Likelihood Ratio:
-Blacks: 1 -(1/6.5) = 1 – 0.154 = 0.846
-Whites: 1/6.5 = 0.154

Black/white prison ratio:
-Black 1000 * .846 = 846
-White 9000 * 0.154 = 1386
= 846/1386 = 0.6

Now say Washington DC has 50% blacks and a 29.3 black/white incarceration likelihood ratio. There will be 964 black prisoners to 34 white prisoners with the DC justice system. If Washington DC seated Spokane juries, the ratio would be 846 to 143. Incarceration ratios are independent of raw population numbers.

I argue that the reason Obama does better in caucuses than primaries is the same reason that blacks do better in front of white juries than they do DC juries.

Which is that whites tend to give blacks the benefit of the doubt in the modern group dynamic. And why Reverend Wright is wrong.

Anarch: The flip side of the story, though, is once he had come to the realization of how wrong racism was, he stopped. Literally. I don't know how he managed to do it but I think it was something like what jwo said above, a continual process of not letting his past determine his future.

1. A few years ago, when I was one of the volunteer staff at an LGBT organisation, I got to their office to discover that the lock on the front door had broken. I called an emergency locksmith, and my selection was wholly random - based entirely on which business was able to promise someone would be out to fit a new lock inside an hour and that the job would be complete the same day. The workman who arrived did a good job, and asked curiously what we did: I told him (taking the usual inward steadying, because you never know when someone's going to react to that with immediate, hateful abuse) and was startled that he immediately said "Good for you! Good job!" He told me, as he completed the job, that he'd been a soldier, that a buddy of his in the army had come out as gay after he'd left the army, and that this had wholly startled him but made him rethink a lot of his attitudes: that when he was a teenager he and friends had used to "go out looking for gay guys to beat up", and now he wondered why the hell he'd done anything like that - it seemed completely alien to him now. He told me again, before he left, how much he appreciated the work organisations like ours were doing. I think about him a fair bit: he was exactly the kind of guy I would have expected to be mildly homophobic - I wasn't in the least surprised to learn that as a youth he'd been a gaybasher. And yet - he changed.

2. An article I read a few years ago on Martin Luther King Day, that made me weep: a white man whose great-grandfathers had been slaveowners, whose grandfathers had been KKK members, whose father was a segregationist, who himself had worked hard all his adult life to not behave or speak in a bigoted way but who had to admit that he would never be able to be completely comfortable around black people - but he was determined he was not going to transmit this discomfort to his children: he wrote about seeing his daughter playing with her best friend from kindergarten at a big holiday picnic, and thinking that in this event Martin Luther King's dream had a tiny fulfillment: he was seeing at this picnic the children of former slaves and the children of former slave owners sitting down together at the same tables in the red hills of Georgia.

This is where people who argue that it won't make any difference having laws against hate speech, laws requiring positive discrimination, are missing the point.

Even if the laws only ensure that a whole generation of white people learns that they have to pretend not to be bigoted against black people: the pretense itself can make a difference to their children.

Changing entrenched attitudes is for the long haul - there's no point complaining that long-term solutions don't seem to have any short term effect. The locksmith who fixed our door quit being a bigot because his buddy in the army could come out after he left - and that change took a good twenty years from decriminalization.

PS: bc: If peaceful demonstration includes carrying M-16's and firing on the foreign soldiers

Certainly the US military asserted this as a defense for the 17 Iraqi dead and the 75 seriously injured: but there was no evidence that anyone in the demonstration had carried guns or had fired on the US soldiers. As usual, the Pentagon's investigation apparently consisted of asking the US soldiers to justify killing 17 Iraqis, and taking their word for it that this was how it had happened, regardless of how improbable it was in one of the most peaceful cities under American occupation. Very much as investigations of white hate crimes used to consist of finding a reason to find the white person who committed the crime innocent.

Interesting. I'm looking at the HRW page, and it says DC has one of the lowest incarceration rates of blacks in the country; just over a third of the national rate.

The incarceration rate for whites is far and away the lowest at one-thirteenth of the national rate. And hispanics are in the slam at about a quarter of the national rate.

How do you explain that, Bill? Looks to me like all of the DC statistics are badly out of whack, as compared with the nation as a whole. You can't draw conclusions from the data if you can't explain the data.

the children of former slaves and the children of former slave owners sitting down together at the same tables in the red hills of Georgia.

Then again, many of the children of former slaves are also the children of former slaveowners. Which is why Obama's approach to the race problem as a dispute *within* a family makes so much sense.

When I moved to Alabama in the early 1990s, I heard from quite a few people that a town not far south of Huntsville had, until very recently, a sign at the city limits that warned darkly-complected folks to stay away after sundown. Might be urban legend, I suppose.

I believe that would be Cullman. Not sure if it's true or not, but even if so, I think the sign came down decades ago. I heard the same story when I lived in Huntsville in the early 70's.

"But it doesn't have to be about race. That part is taught."

An inspirational, almost lyrical, thought!

"When I moved to Alabama in the early 1990s, I heard from quite a few people that a town not far south of Huntsville had, until very recently, a sign at the city limits that warned darkly-complected folks to stay away after sundown. Might be urban legend, I suppose."

Sundown towns.

"Sunset towns" persisted in many places, not only the south, until the 1970s at least. Orcinus had a post on the subject in the last year or so.

“How do you explain that, Bill?”

The reason incarceration “rates” are so low in Washington DC is because the Citizenry is overwhelmingly law abiding. Nothing to do with a system that is breaking down.

But nonetheless, the incarceration "ratio" is 29.3 in Washington DC; nearly twice the ratio of the next highest bastion of white supremacy- New Jersey at 15.3. Alabama comes in at 5.8.

Beaten to the punch, and with a link. Thanks, Gary.

I was just thinking about 'South Pacific' as well. Because I think a child's natural reaction to somebody 'different' is likely to be as much excited interest as fear. I grew up in a very white part of Southern England and I can remember my fascination in going to Heathrow airport and seeing people of all races there. In fact I suspect I had much in common then with African children a few decades previously who have never seen whites and wondered whether their skin colour would wash off in the bath. And when I was slightly older I thought it would be terribly romantic to be part-Jewish or Hungarian or French or something not quite as commonplace where I was as white Anglo-Saxon. All deeply ignorant, of course, but not malicious.

I would like once again -- please forgive my repeating a past suggestion yet again -- to really really seriously recommend that everyone give a try to reading Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963, if not all three of the America in the King Years volumes, if you haven't. Your local library is sure to have copies.

If that's too much, and it is a lot, I urge, and I'd urge this as much or more, in any case, everyone to make a great effort to see all of Eyes On The Prize, at least the frist set. It's also, as I've said many times, extremely powerful and movie. (Unfortunately, it's not currently available to consumers in DVD, but library copies are available.)

Please forgive me for repeating myself.

The reason incarceration “rates” are so low in Washington DC is because the Citizenry is overwhelmingly law abiding. Nothing to do with a system that is breaking down

Oh, Bill, you're killing me. This is Washington DC, correct? Second-highest murder rate in the country?

I believe that would be Cullman.

Arab, actually. Pronounced Ay-rab, for those who live outside the South.

"...at least the frist set. It's also, as I've said many times, extremely powerful and movie."

That's what I get for rushing. I was not, in fact, recommending the special Bill Frist Endorsed set, but the "first" set.

And I was trying to suggest that the series is deeply emotionally "moving," not "movie."

Hurrah for incoherency! Let's all srwecticferzle!

Eyes on the Prize is amazing. I was spellbound by it when it originally aired, and have been disappointed that it was not released ... apparently there were some licensing issues with the soundtrack.

At any rate, I was thrilled to see the first couple episodes again during the recent rebroadcast on PBS (missed the later ones due to travel). I heartily second Gary's recommendation.

In case anyone didn't do the obvious.

One might venture the thought that the disparity in America today between those to whom knowledge of sundown towns is largely new information, and those to whom sundown towns are vividly a part of extremely recent history, still a concern when traveling, and as part of what one sees when one sees America, is not something that is in the past, at all.

This week, my brother and I watched "Black Magic", an ESPN documentary about the history of basketball at black colleges.

It showed footage of a celebratory march held in Mississippi when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Apparently the murder of a "N*****-Loving President" was something that made a lot of people happy back then.

Pastor Wright, of course, would be old enough to remember that as well.

Gary, I've got the books on hold at the library now, thanks to your recommendation.

I'm honored, Bruce.

Here is a review by Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Also, Branch's own page.

Eyes On The Prize gives irreplaceable sight and sound and faces, though, and shouldn't be missed by anyone.

I daresay it rewards considerable rewatching, too, if one can bear it. It makes me cry numerous times every time I see it, frankly.

"Pastor Wright, of course, would be old enough to remember that as well."

I'd like to note that Wright was so overcome with hatred of America, in the face of its racism, that:

[...] The son of a Philadelphia minister, Wright was in the Marines from 1961 to 1963, and then became a Navy medical technician until 1967.
According to this:
[...] Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and enrolled at by attending Virginia Union University, with the intention of doing graduate work at the historically black seminary. But disenchanted by what he felt was an inadequate Christian response to the civil rights movement, he abruptly ended his pastoral pursuits and joined the U.S. Navy.
But only the worst America-haters do that, I'm sure.

I grew up mostly in international schools but came back to the US for high school. I was really struck by the difference.

I had an almost identical experience, with almost identical results: I simply don't get (American) racism.* It just doesn't make sense to me; there are so many perfectly good reasons to hate people, why pick something so... arbitrary?

* I do, however, get other forms of racism: Nazi-style Judenhass, Chinese-style cultural racism, colonial oppression, etc. There's something peculiarly American about race relations in this country, though, in a non-trivial way that I can't identify; whatever it is, that's the part I don't get.

Jes: Certainly the US military asserted this as a defense for the 17 Iraqi dead and the 75 seriously injured: but there was no evidence that anyone in the demonstration had carried guns or had fired on the US soldiers.

So, to get this straight in my head, solid citizens of Fallujah, pre-Saddam's death, chanting "With our souls and our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Saddam," having already fired into the air outside the mayor's palace and been told to disperse on threat of deadly force (because their actions were threatening), are telling the truth when they say they were unarmed when soldiers of the 82nd Airborne opened fire. All the soldiers were lying. This is what you call "no evidence."

Apparently, there were at least three witnesses that said some of the crowd were armed. There were also witnesses that said the crowd was armed outside the mayor's palace. The three witnesses, however, said they were only firing into the air. Forget the fact that most of the soldiers were on the roof and the second floor. And that this was happening at night. The Iraqi pro-Saddam testimony is perfectly credible.

So there WAS at least evidence from Iraqi's that some were armed. And there is the testimony of the 82nd Airborne that they were being fired on.

But you ignore that and accuse the actions of the 82nd Airborne as being motivated by racism and the subsequent investigation as being akin to the prosecution of "white" hate crimes?

And this advances the discussion of racism how?

Jesurgislac,

Your assertion that all my statements were false is unjustified. Your reliance on a white journalist and a white teacher being more accurate witnesses than black students and black parents is, I fear, part of the problem.

Funny, I was almost thinking the exact same thing about you. I assume you are aware that Bell had a history of violence. I could link other accounts, but this link is the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC-EJ0gv9Xo>you tube

John,

Parts of Florida are culturally southern. Northern Florida is very southern. Even Central Florida is kind of southern. I'd imagine you can find a healthy number of southern redneck types throughout Florida, although there's obviously lots of other types, especially in South Florida, which has lots of Jews and Cubans.

So you are agreeing with my observation? Florida is a different kind of southern state. For a second there I thought you were disagreeing.

Most people in North Florida don't even have a southern accent. Many of the people who live in North Florida aren't even from Florida. That's why its not fair to classify it the same way as Georgia or South Carolina.

Nell,

"Sunset towns" persisted in many places, not only the south, until the 1970s at least. Orcinus had a post on the subject in the last year or so.

I am sure you are aware of these observations also.

This was another surprise for Dr. Loewen. Sundown towns are actually rare in the traditional South (this doesn't include Texas or Arkansas because those states were highly contested between Union and Confederate).

and

So contrary to the popular notion of Northern enlightenment, Dr. Loewen says, most sundown towns are actually in the Midwest and North – and in "disputed" areas like Texas.

and even this

According to Census data, the most segregated city in the country today is Milwaukee.

Gary,

One might venture the thought that the disparity in America today between those to whom knowledge of sundown towns is largely new information, and those to whom sundown towns are vividly a part of extremely recent history, still a concern when traveling, and as part of what one sees when one sees America, is not something that is in the past, at all.

I agree it is important to know about the truth of these towns especially where they are located. Is there any guide today that would help people know about these kinds of towns. Maybe, "An African-American's* guide to small towns in America."

*By using the term African-American I do not mean that they are not included in with the rest of Americans.

Anarch, just to take a stab at why it is different based on my experience, I think it is the way American rhetoric collides with racism, which, when coupled with American assertions that they are only viewing things logically, gives that unique frisson that American racism generates. You see it in how the tipping point phenomenon is heightened. With something like Chinese style cultural racism cum nationalism, you actually never get to talking to logic, so you don't get the extraordinary pretzel twists. Thus, you have the author of the Bell Curve praising (in good faith, I'm sure) Obama's speech and the whole enterprise of tokenism that is difficult to really see (at least in the depth and feeling) in other forms you mention.

Anarch, I'm probably going to regret asking this, but why is Judenhass more understandable than American racism?

I don't see much difference myself. Judenhass had many convergent roots (ingrained Christian dogma, the need to find a scapegoat for losing World War I, etc.), but perhaps the primary focus during the Nazi era was that Jewish identity was seen as an intrusion on German cultural homogeneity at a time when the Volk felt a great need for unity. But this factor mixed freely with the even less rational factors, and the hatred extended in every respect even to Jews who were completely culturally assimilated -- in other words, the Germans turned a cultural difference into a racial one in their minds, and indulged thereafter in sheer racism.

So American racism seems very like Judenhass to me. American blacks stand out among the mainstream by appearance even more than swarthy Jews in Aryan Germany, but both can generally be spotted by those looking for it. Blacks, like Jews in Germany, were not originally of the majority culture and were never quite allowed to become part of it. Like the German Jews, they have long been a convenient punching bag (literally), so that hatred for them, and its expressions, has been a beloved cultural tradition (think of the caricature Black garden gnomes, school slave-sales, n1gger-beating as high-school sport and carnival game, the whole structure of the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Klan in their heyday, etc.) As with the Jews, their differences were exaggerated to the point where scientists seriously proposed separate evolutionary origins and substantial biological differences in ability. As with the Jews, non-scientists found justification in the Bible.

So they seem alike to me, and I wonder what makes the one clearer to you than the other.

. I assume you are aware that Bell had a history of violence.

Failing to see how in your mind that excuses racial segregation, white students hanging nooses from a tree to threaten black students who had sat under the tree, and distinct double standards of justice for the white and the black students involved in the violence.

Well, no, actually, not failing to see. As I said: it's what makes you part of the problem.

bc, the demonstration held in Fallujah on 28th April 2003 was very, very unlikely to have included anyone chanting "With our souls and our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Saddam" - which suggests that the rest of your information is about as accurate. Further, again: 13 Iraqi dead, 75 Iraqis seriously wounded, not a single US soldier harmed.

And for the record...

By making the post I did, I am not trying to claim that there was/is not racism in the south or America for that matter.

The majority of blacks -- about 19 million -- live in the South, an increase of 3 million people since 1990. All 10 states in the South had black populations of more than 1 million each.

"We expected the numbers in the South to be high because that has been a general trend over the years," said Jesse McKinnon of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The South can't be such a horrible place for black people to live given the population is increasing.

Overall, the number of foreign-born blacks rose from 125,000 in 1980 to 2,815,000 in 2005, with a majority arriving just since 1990 (see figure). About two-thirds of black foreign-born are from the Caribbean and Latin America, and one-third from Africa. Only a small fraction were born in Europe, Canada, or elsewhere. But the African share is growing. More African-born blacks arrived between 2000 and 2005 than in the previous decade.

Black people moving to the US. I wonder what they are thinking in doing so.

From my experience, I think racism exists every where in the world. However, great opportunity exists for all people in a flawed America. Their numbers suggest they seem to believe that too.

I find the following statement inaccurate:

It occurs to me that this same blindness to the not so distant past regarding race relations, is the same dynamic that has and is causing so much trouble with our Middle East relations. Our countries refusal to acknowledge our part in the destruction of cultures is coming home to roost.

I don't personally know anyone who is not aware of America's racist past. People like Al Sharptono, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wright and Obama and of course almost everyone here are often reminding us.

Can you tell me what cultures we are currently destroying. America enjoys all kinds of cultures. Go into any small southern "racist" stereotypical town and you can find white, black and brown people. Their kids go to the same school and play together.*

I am not making the claim that racism doens't exist there. It does. But what I say also exists in the exact same town. One is growing, the other is going. Not perfect, but not horrible either.

I know of one southern town that used to be a sundown town where you can find, Ethiopians, Mexicans, Chinese, Columbians, Croatians, Indians all living the American dream.

You can eat your Samboussa, walk next door for a burrito, go down the street and have a pizza all on Main Street. You have to drive to get your Big Mac.

Further, again: 13 Iraqi dead, 75 Iraqis seriously wounded, not a single US soldier harmed.

Even those numbers are disputed as only five graves were dug. And I haven't seen the "seriously wounded" language. The report you cited said "injured." I doubt that 75 were shot on top of the dead as that would have been half of 200 people. As the witnesses said a lot of the crowd dispersed when the U.S. soldiers started firing, a total of 88 shot out of 200 is unlikely.

BTW, it's not MY information that the crowd was chanting the pro-Saddam thing, it was in the WaPo article. They were also chanting "down with U.S.A." Do you find that as unbelievable?

I especially like the purported response of the city council member: "It was a random shooting without justification," said Arrawi, the city council member.

Look, I don't know much about the event as I was not there. I'm pretty sure you weren't there. I think it is wrong to jump to the conclusion that because Iraqis died and soldiers did not that therefore, ipso facto the U.S. soldiers are lying. The soldiers have body armor, night vision and are good shots.

Most other reports I could find were from Al Jazeera. The one I cite is from the Washington Post.

Even those numbers are disputed as only five graves were dug.

Disputed by whom? Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Falluja general hospital, confirmed that at least 13 Iraqis had been killed.

You asked earlier what this had to do with racism. I think the absolute conviction you display that the Iraqis must all be lying and only the American soldiers who shot into the crowd can be telling the truth has a good deal to do with racism - as does the certainty that the people who lived in Falluja ought to have accepted the American military's version of the "incident" and just forgiven and forgotten the 17 killed and 75 wounded. Just as an American once told me that it was obvious Palestinians didn't love their children "like we do" or they wouldn't be able to endure having so many children die in the intifada: so I think there is a noticeable presumption on the part of Americans that Iraqis feel about the loss of their neighbors, friends, and family as Americans feel about the Iraqi deaths: minor incidents to lie uncounted and forgotten.

BTW, it's not MY information that the crowd was chanting the pro-Saddam thing, it was in the WaPo article.

Really? Why didn't you link to it?

They were also chanting "down with U.S.A." Do you find that as unbelievable?

Really? Why didn't you link to this article with additional information? (Frankly, when I hear reports about what a crowd has been shouting, I want to know: in what language? Who translated? How many?)

In the article I linked to, published a day after the demonstration and the shooting, just over a month after the US invaded, the reporter notes that "most anti-American protests have ended peacefully". There was a window of opportunity in Iraq to do it right: and one of the ways in which the US wrecked it was in it not making it clear to US soldiers that if they fired upon a crowd of Iraqi civilians, they would be court-martialled for every Iraqi who was killed and/or wounded - and following each incident, in Fallujah and in Mosul, with actions that would have made clear to Iraqis and to US soldiers that American troops would not be allowed to kill Iraqis with impunity.

They didn't do that. And part of that was the inexperience on the part of the US military with this kind of work - British military have had Northern Ireland to teach them how to do it - but part of it was, I think, the inability of the US military to comprehend that if they wanted this occupation to succeed, a US soldier killing an Iraqi had to be treated as seriously as if the soldier had killed an American.

bc,

Could you explain why the Al Jazeera reports are not credible?

I think I've noted this in other comments here, but the virulent racism isn't gone in my lovely state of Pennsylvania, either.

My dear friend (a tiny white girl) is running the Obama office in Scranton, PA and she has some horrible stories about the things that have been done to Obama volunteers in that town.

JakeB: ...celebratory march held in Mississippi when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Apparently the murder of a "N*****-Loving President" was something that made a lot of people happy back then.

Pastor Wright, of course, would be old enough to remember that as well.

Hell, I'm old enough to remember that. My elementary school was segregated; Virginia schools weren't integrated until I entered 8th grade, two years later.

We were let out onto the playground to wait for buses and/or our parents after our teachers made an announcement about the assassination, so I got to listen to my redneck classmates celebrate the shooting of the "n*****-loving, Yankee" president.

I can still see the asphalt of the basketball court where I stood, too shocked and upset to raise my head and feeling completely alone.

My best friend, the only Catholic student in the school, had been picked up by her mother within minutes of the news hitting the radio -- before they even made an announcement in our classroom. No doubt she grasped what the dynamics would be and was determined to spare her daughter.

I knew the other kids were just parrotting stuff they heard their parents say, but it didn't make it any easier to hear. I just couldn't believe they weren't having what seemed to me like the natural, human reaction to learning that the president had been shot. I'm just realizing as I write this how deeply that half-hour affected me and my politics.

So, grey, how'd you come to choose your screen name?

Russell -- wow; the Jackson State killings occurred about half a week before the day I was born; this evening is the first time I ever heard of them.

Jes:

I have no absolute conviction that the Iraqis are lying. I am pointing out YOUR absolute conviction the soldiers were lying and motivated by racism.

In answer, you now accuse me of being racist because I question your absolutism? Wow!

Yes, I question the event. I really don't have enough information to tell who exactly is right. I don't know the motivations of the typical Iraqi in Falluja. If they were in fact acting as reported and were earlier firing guns into the air, then I question the witnesses who said they were unarmed. Not because they are Iraqi, but because there is a conflict in the evidence.

I wonder how many soldiers were involved. It sounds like quite a bit. Yes, I would question the veracity of anyone contradicting say, 30 members of the 82nd Airborne. And I assume that the 82nd is a fairly mixed race group!

I can think of many explanations for why they were both right. Perhaps the crowd was only throwing rocks (which the witnesses all seem to corroborate)and others were firing into the air and the soldiers mistook what was happening and overreacted. It was dark. I can understand that soldiers don't adjust all that quickly to riot control after being involved in a shooting war not that much earlier.

But to assume that the firing is an act of racism is a bit much for me. Culture clash, maybe (we don't go around firing M-16's on G.W.'s or MLK's birthday, for example).

Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.

McCain: http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/03/mccains-spiritual-guide-destroy-islam.html
Obama: http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/03/racist-congregation-cheering-racist.html

I remember in the '80s talking with a black friend who casually mentioned he didn't dare go to Cicero (a then all-white Chicago suburb) for fear of being beat up or killed. This was very matter-of-fact for him. I knew Cicero was fairly safe for me and thought of the mostly black slum areas as the places you didn't want to go. The slum areas were indeed dangerous to everybody. I was shocked to realize that there were still areas where blacks were in danger solely because of the color of their skin. And in fact things did happen from time to time in the all-white areas, limited largely because black people didn't go there much. I remember at the time Hyde Park was literally about the only neighborhood in Illinois where it was safe to be a mixed-race couple.

At the time I think Reverend Wright was a middle-aged preacher living only 10 miles or so from Cicero. So personal, physical, hazardous racism is something he's had to contend with pretty much his whole even while musing about things like whether to go someplace for a street festival or a furniture sale. I think things are much less like that now but do you really expect most people to change after 50 years of living with that kind of injustice?

"There's something peculiarly American about race relations in this country, though, in a non-trivial way that I can't identify; whatever it is, that's the part I don't get."

It's from the unique history, I think, clearly. I could elaborate on my opinion of the details, but, alas, the margins of this box are too small to contain my immensely vital thoughts.

But, seriously, rationalizing is always the key. Slavery in North America was economically useful, so rationalizing theories were invented, or at least popularized, to justify it, and it went from there, is the ultra-short version. The racial theories served economics, more than vice versa, though it was also Ouroboros, it seems to me.

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