Right points, wrong issue

The ever-reliable Facebook points me to this stupid article on Gawker that’s trying to put me in black people’s shoes so that I’ll be more empathetic.

It’s the same condescending bullshit every. damn. time. Some people make some legitimate points about a current event, those points challenge PC orthodoxy, and rather than a thoughtful response to the challenge, what we get instead is some assumption-laden condescenscion that addresses neither the points made nor the people making them.

The conceit is that some (white) surfers caused some trouble in a California town, and the article uses it as “proof” that there is a general problem with white crime, especially white-on-white crime, that society – the white community in particular – needs to address. In the writer’s wet dream version of this, I, as a white man who makes bigoted assumptions about black-on-black crime and black criminality in general, get to feel what it’s like to be the object of this kind of derision, realize the error of my ways (specifically, because I’m annoyed at being lumped in with a group of people – surfers – who are in no way representative of my culture, even though they (typically) share my race), and start to think of black people as individual humans fer cryin’ out loud already!

Yeah, stuff it. And stuff it not because any of these points are wrong in a vacuum, but because I’m in my late 30s and have yet to actually meet that mythical white person that these points are lost on.

For instance, according to research from the Department of Justice, 84 percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people [PDF]. Similarly, white rape victims tend to be raped by other whites [PDF]. White-on-white violence is a menace to white communities across the country, and yet you never hear white leaders like Pastor Joel Osteen, Bill O’Reilly, or Hillary Clinton take a firm stance against the scourge.

Right, but you know what else you never hear Bill O’Reily or Hillary Clinton do? Complain that it isn’t safe to walk around white for fear of violence from black people. Nor do they ever say that white people, say, shouldn’t go to Florida because a Stand Your Ground law that exists not just there but in virtually every other state and had nothing to do with a certain recent current event somehow implies that blacks are legally allowed to kill whites with impunity. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been doing just that.

And no, I’m not drifting off topic. I bring up the killing of Trayvon Martin and Sharpton’s nonsensical reaction to it because that is what the recent discussion of black-on-black crime statistics were dragged out to counter. Because black people as prominent as Stevie Wonder are grandstanding in exactly this way about something that is so obviously a non-issue it’s laughable. People need to bring up black-on-black crime statistics because the people doing this kind of grandstanding aren’t thinking in statistical terms at all. Rather, they’re generalizing from a single example that probably isn’t even an example of what they think it is. Such people could stand to hear that 94% of the time a black man is killed it’s at the hands of another black man. That is in fact quite an appropriate counterclaim to unfounded insinuiations that members of a certain group are targeted for racist violence. That is, indeed, why Gawker is making that claim here – because (they think) they’re responding to (white) people who are insuinuating that white people are targeted for racist violence. The important difference is that there hasn’t recently been a spate of white people making that claim in the media in response to a (deliberately) misinterpreted tragedy. Gawker is simply spitting into the wind.

More important than white politicians are the white parents. I’d like to ask the caregivers of the children in these videos what they’ve been doing. When did so many white parents fall asleep at the wheel?

What planet is Gawker living on that they think conservative pundits don’t make exactly those kinds of complaints about surfing culture? We’re apparently meant to read this and laugh out loud at the ridiculous idea that anyone blames parents for violent surfing culture. But as far as I can tell, EVERYONE blames parents for violent surfing culture. The idea that parents are negligent is an equal-opportunity and completly color-blind motivation for fingerpointing when the subject of youth criminality comes up.

But the main thing that’s infuriating about this is that Gawker apparently doesn’t want to notice what they had to do to make this whole conceit work: they have to drag out a white subculture and paint the entire white race with the broad brush of that subculture’s tendencies to makeus feel what it’s like to be the victims of stereotyping. The reason that’s infuriating is because just like everyone already knows that surfing culture isn’t representative of white people as a whole, everyone also already knows that thuglife isn’t representative of black people as a whole. Gawker apparently credits non-blacks with understanding that about surfer culture, but the idea that, say, George Zimmerman might have targeted Trayvon Martin NOT because he was black but because he was walking in a hoodie with a thug swagger is somehow lost on them. It’s just inconceivable, apparently, that violent people often actually look violent, and project a violent attitude, and that that’s true regardless of their race.

I don’t know why Martin struck Zimmerman as suspicious, and I don’t know how far out of line, if at all, Zimmerman was to follow him. It might have been for racist reasons. Lord knows that’s a possibility. But I think it’s a conclusion we shouldn’t leap to without evidence, because there are many more charitable explanations for the altercation, as this Gawker article ironically and unintentionally well illustrates.

The Zimmerman-Martin incident was an isolated incident. Fanning the flames of racial antagonism where there’s no evidence of same unfortunately is not. There’s been a lot of that going on recently. It’s really time for Gawker, and Al Sharpton, and Joe Scarborough and everyone else to stop.

6 thoughts on “Right points, wrong issue

  1. I have tried to stay out of debate about the Trayvon shooting. I did read some stuff about it from many angles, though. What is your opinion on this article? Just some background on the blogger: He was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and he created the TV series, The Wire.

    http://davidsimon.com/trayvon/

  2. You’re winding me up, I guess. I don’t see that that article makes any point other than expressing some misplaced and probably unfounded anger.

  3. I’m assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that you saw the gawker link when I posted it to facebook. I read it as moderately amusing satire, in large part because I’ve seen, e.g., people invoke the black-on-black statistics into discussions where it was irrelevant. Of course, even as satire, it’s not all that funny.

    After reading this post, some vague thoughts I’ve had about how complicated these kinds of debates/discussions can be are solidifying a bit. There are multiple levels of, for lack of a better term, quality of discourse concerned with race and violence. Or maybe it’s that there are multiple levels of respect and attention people are given. In any case, as you point out, you can get claims about, say, open season for whites to hunt blacks, which can lead to appropriate responses invoking the actual statistics about race and violence. But you also get invocation of these statistics in inappropriate contexts (e.g., discussions narrowly focused on the issues at play in the Zimmerman case), which in turn can lead, appropriately, to satire like the gawker piece.

    Similarly, many, probably most, people (of all races) understand that individuals aren’t categories, so conflation of surfers and white people or gangstas and black people is recognized as absurd. But I imagine there are a depressingly large number of people who don’t recognize such conflations as absurd, at least not when applied to races other than their own.

    If statistics concerning black-on-black violence were only invoked inappropriately, and if most people were prone to perceiving individuals as stand-ins for racial categories, then articles like the gawker one might actually function in as profound a way as the author likely wants it to.

  4. No, you’re right, I got it from your feed. I think any other time of the year it would be good satire, genuinely funny – but released in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict on a site that leans left, it’s just cowardly. The race baiters are the more pressing issue. The people who want the federal government to come in and investigate a closed case on specious pretext are the more pressing issue. The people who think the jury should decide on their gut feelings about what the outcome should be rather than what the law says are the more pressing issue. I’m fine with Gawker taking up this thread to the extent they take up all those other issues too, but if they have I missed it. So, it’s just another douche trying to be hip and missing the plot. Fuck. That.

  5. I’m not sure I’d phrase it like that. I was really just making an unspoken request for you to post about it, as your posts are much more eloquent and articulate than most (if not all) blogs I read online, even if I disagree with them occasionally. But I see what youy’re saying about it.

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