Mike Kueber's Blog

August 4, 2017

A response to Jane Elliott’s “brilliant question.”

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:19 am
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White audience left speechless by brilliant question about race.”  That is the title of a You Tube video by Jane Elliott that is shared ad nauseum on Facebook. The other ubiquitous, nausea-inducing video on Facebook has Jeff Daniels explaining in “Newsroom” why American is not the greatest country in the world.

In her short video, anti-racism activist Jane Elliott says, “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens. If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.”

When no one in the audience stands, Elliott asserts that fact as proof that the audience knows how badly society treats blacks, and then she asks why the audience is so willing to accept the mistreatment of blacks.

Yesterday on Facebook, the Elliott video was thrown in my face while I was discussing one of the issues of the day. No, it wasn’t the Trump initiatives on reduced legal immigration or “intentional race-based discrimination” in college admissions. Rather, it concerned a police dust-up with an entitled white kid who refused the officer’s instruction to get out of his Ford Mustang.

My Facebook friend Patricia Spencer Potyka posted a lengthy video of the encounter, and George Thompson, Sr. made the first comment:

  • Thompson – If this driver had not been Caucasian there would have been no discourse: he would have been shot to death. Period.
  • Potyka – Not condoning the driver’s non-compliance initially, but he’s just a kid –scared kid.

At that point, I entered the fray:

  • Kueber – “not condoning noncompliance, but….” “If the driver had not been caucasian… would have been shot to death.” Remember Sandra Flake, the African-American who thought she had a right to stay in her car? She didn’t get shot, but did get arrested. The moral of this story is that when a police officer instructs you to get out of the car, the stupidest thing is to tell the officer that you have the right to stay in your car. Noncompliance is not an option. Yes, this guy is a scared kid, but not too scared to defy a cop while demanding to call his dad. An obvious case of affluenza.
  • Thompson – Ms. Flake, the African-featured woman you alluded to, was arrested, taken to the police station and murdered. Those who are afflicted by President Twitterdumb are not recipients of anodyne jollity. Please reconsider the video, (supra: “A WHITE AUDIENCE IS LEFT SPEECHLESS”) Evil is not funny.
  • Kueber – Mr. Thompson, everyone on Facebook is familiar with Jane Elliot’s silly video. The audience is speechless because the question is ridiculous on multiple levels. Perhaps you could summarize what you gleaned from viewing it.
  • Thompson – And yet you, Mr. Kueber , are apparently at a loss to enunciate even one basis to substantiate the “levels” corroborating your postulate of Ms. Elliot’s question as fatuous? Without such rejoinder, why should anyone entertain your apparent delusions?
  • Kueber – George — #1 – it would be presumptuous for a white person to think he knows how it feels to be treated as a black person in American society. Unless that person is author John Griffin (Black Like Me) or NAACP’s Rachel Dolezal, who is white, but identifies as a black. #2 – American society profiles everybody based on their life experiences with individuals of that type – age, sex, job, home, appearance, manners, accent, religion, politics, etc. That does not make them bigots.  In the abstract you may want to treat everybody as an individual, but it is impossible to ignore your life experiences. #3 – what sort of person would admit to preferring the life of someone else? Certainly not someone listening to Ms. Elliott speak. If Ms. Elliott were to ask a roomful of female feminists to stand if they would be happy to be treated as society treats men, I think the vast majority of them would remain seated.

George Thompson, Sr. appears to have tricked me. He responded to my question with another question, and I fell for his challenge with a lengthy, detailed response while he faded away like the drive-by media. With my response drafted, however, I will have a ready answer the next time someone asks me if I would be happy to be treated as a black person is treated.

Just as I am ready when someone asks if America is the greatest country in the world, in which case I play the Thompson trick and ask them to identify one that is greater 😉

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August 25, 2015

Sunday Book Review #165 – Go Set the Watchman by Harper Lee

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:30 pm
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Go Set the Watchman is Harper Lee’s first draft of her all-time classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.  The draft was written in 1957, and the prospective publisher didn’t think it was ready for publication, but liked its flashback scenes so much that Lee was guided into writing a new/revised story that flashed back even further – 20 years.

Mockingbird was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was made into a Best Picture-nominated movie in 1962 starring Oscar-winning Gregory Peck and Oscar-nominated Mary Badham.  Lee became a bit of a recluse and never published another novel until this first draft was recently discovered.

The setting of Go Set the Watchman is Macomb, Alabama in 1954, shortly after the Supreme Court’s controversial mandate for integration in the Brown v. Board of Education decision.  The protagonist remains Jean Louise Finch (Scout), but instead of the six-year-old girl in Mockingbird, she is now a 26-year-old woman who works in New York City and returns annually to Macomb for a two-week vacation.

The entire book transpires in those two weeks and primarily concerns two storylines:

  • Racism.  Scout is dismayed to learn that her lawyer dad, 72-year-old Atticus Finch, feels strongly that the Brown decision will be a disaster and should be actively resisted by white Southerners.
  • Classism.  Scout is pursued romantically by Henry (Hank) Clinton, who was her older brother Jem’s best friend until Jem died two years earlier.  Although Hank is Atticus’s legal protégé and by all accounts a fine young man, Scout’s aunt Alexandra considers him to be white trash unsuitable to marry Scout.

Scout is a fascinating person in Watchman; the other characters not so much.  Now I need to read Mockingbird and compare the two.

July 7, 2015

Sexism (and racism) – part 2

Filed under: Biography,Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 5:59 pm
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Yesterday, I posted about the definition of sexism and how most people could easily stumble into so-called sexist statements.  No sooner had I blogged about that sentiment than I commented as follows on Facebook about people ridiculing a dead young man who had jumped into a lake even though he knew an alligator was in the area:

  • “Young men often do stupid, dangerous, risky stunts. No need to disparage him with a racial epithet (cracker) or hyperbolize about him being eaten.”

Upon further reflection, however, I elaborated as follows on the racism and sexism:

  • Of course, it’s OK to use racial epithets if you are one of its victims. So perhaps Ted Wood [the person who made the cracker comment] is a cracker, which makes his comment politically correct. Also, I perhaps said something sexist when I said young men often do stupid, dangerous, risky things, but that has been my life experience. Young women don’t do those things nearly as often.

Because I believe the charge of sexism and racism is too casually bandied about, and because I believe people are too easily offended, I accept the mission of pointing out how unreasonable these standards are when applied to situations that are not politically correct.

p.s., on reflecting on this issue, I believe I acted badly in shunning the Dixie Chicks after their lead singer Natalie Maines said those mean things about George W.

May 24, 2015

Stoking the racial animus

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 3:16 am
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Yesterday, I noted how the media utterly failed to comment on the racial nature of a black thug killing a white family in D.C.  Today, a judge in Cleveland exonerated a cop in killing two individuals after a high-speed chase.  The Wall Street Journal described the incident as follows:

  • The chase began when Mr. Russell’s car backfired as he sped past Cleveland police headquarters. Police officers and bystanders thought someone inside had fired a gun. More than 100 Cleveland police officers in 62 marked and unmarked cars got involved in a pursuit that saw speeds reach 100 mph during the 22-mile chase.  Authorities never learned why Mr. Russell didn’t stop. He had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery, and had been involved in a previous police pursuit. Ms. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction. Both were described as mentally ill, homeless and addicted to drugs. A crack pipe was found in the car.

Here’s how my four leading newspapers of record reported the verdict:

  1. The New York Times.  A Cleveland police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase in 2012 and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black, was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.
  2. The Washington Post. A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday for his role in the 2012 fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car after officers mistook the sound of the car backfiring as gunshots….  The Brelo verdict follows rioting last month in Baltimore over the death of a man who was fatally injured in police custody and comes at a time of growing national scrutiny over the use of force by law enforcement officers, especially against minorities. Brelo is white, and the two victims were black.
  3. USA Today. A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday of charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people in a 137-shot barrage following a high-speed car chase.  Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell ruled that Michael Brelo, 31, a white officer, acted within his constitutional rights in the November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, two unarmed black occupants in the vehicle.
  4. The Wall Street Journal.  A white Cleveland patrolman who fired down through the windshield of a suspect’s car at the end of a 137-shot barrage that left the two unarmed black occupants dead was acquitted Saturday of criminal charges by a judge who said he couldn’t determine the officer alone fired the fatal shots.

Apparently, any time a black person is killed by a policeman, the race of the victim is relevant.  And it seems even more important to highlight the fact that the victims were unarmed, even though in this instance (a) there was some backfire that sounded like gunshots, (b) the victims had led police on a high-speed chase in excess of 100 mph, (c) one of the officers was on the hood of the car, and (d) it is hard to determine whether two people in a car are unarmed.

I don’t understand, however, why the media failed to report that the judge who exonerated the cop was white.  I suspect the police are considered fair game, but the judges are not – yet.

p.s.,  how does Time magazine characterize the news – “A white Cleveland patrolman who fired down through the windshield of a suspect’s car at the end of a 137-shot barrage that left the two unarmed black occupants dead was acquitted Saturday of criminal charges by a judge who said he could not determine the officer alone fired the fatal shots.”

May 22, 2015

Hate crime and racism

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:21 pm
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Yesterday the DC police captured the man suspected of killing his rich former employer, along with the employer’s wife, 10-year-old child, and the family maid.  The story has been extensively reported for several days, but I haven’t read a single article indicating that the murdered family was white while the suspected murderer was a black.

By contrast, the deaths a black man at the hands of a white man are sensationalized in Sanford, Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore, and Staten Island and the media speculates on why white people are killing young black males.  The U.S. Justice Department is called in to determine whether the incidents constitute a hate crime.  President Obama can be counted on to call for reflection on race in America and “teaching moments.”

The media also plays this sort of identity politics with Muslims.  A few weeks ago, the terrorist attack in Garland, TX by a couple of Muslims caused countless reports on Islam as the source of this terrorism and the Muslim people for failing to assimilate into America.

But when you have a young black man with a long criminal record murdering a white family, this is treated as a one-off.  No need to generalize or stereotype here.  There is no consideration of a hate crime here.  Ditto when a young black man with a long criminal record murders a cop in Brooklyn.  There is no rioting against this criminal culture.

The problem is that people have given up on inner city poverty and crime and have adopted a fortress mentality with a policy of containment implemented by the police.  I don’t see light at the end of this tunnel.

April 8, 2015

John Saunders is rooting for the home team

Filed under: Culture,Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 9:41 pm
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This week on The Sports Reporters, John Saunders’s “Parting Shot” consisted of his lament that there were no black coaches in the Final Four and only one in the Sweet Sixteen. According to Saunders, this development is not a mere aberration. Rather, it is a reflection of a disturbing trend in college basketball – i.e., the return of racial discrimination. How else would you explain that during the last decade, the percentage of black coaches decreased from 25% to 22%? (Maybe the fact that blacks comprise on 13% of America has something to do with that.) How else would you explain that twelve black coaches had been fired this year alone? (Maybe they didn’t win enough games.)

I don’t begrudge a black man for rooting for black coaches. I was rooting for Wisconsin because it started four white guys while the other three teams had none, and I wanted the Wisconsin players to show that white men could play winning basketball. I considered the Wisconsin players to be underdogs, and I suppose Saunders continues to think of black coaches as underdogs, too, even though they have had and continue to have plenty of opportunity to prove their merit.

If I were famous, however, I suspect that my rooting for the white team would be challenged by many as racist, whereas Saunders’s statement sailed by without any concern.

Of course, Saunders has a history of this. A few months ago, he was euphoric over a Chicago little-league team, Jackie Robinson West, winning a national championship because it was all-black. Again, this is rooting for the underdog. Unfortunately, the team was stripped of the title a few months later because of illegal recruiting.

No one will accuse Saunders of being politically correct, but, of course, he is.

April 6, 2015

Real men don’t get offended

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:36 am
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Unfortunately, the big news following Wisconsin’s upset of Kentucky last night hasn’t been the game, but rather the post-game conduct of the Kentucky players and fans. Although post-game riots are usually the province of the winning team’s fan, in this case it was the sore-loser fans in Lexington.

But the Kentucky players were even worse sore losers. Three of the players walked off the floor without the traditional handshake and one of them during a press conference responded to a question about Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky by uttering under his breath, “Fuck that niga.”

Not surprisingly, the utterance did not result in a media firestorm. Instead the media quickly moved past the incident and pivoted first to Andrew Harrison’s apology and next to Kaminsky easy acceptance of the apology.

Kudos to Kaminsky. As argued in a column that my brother Kelly recently posted on Facebook, real men don’t get offended.

As for any consequences to Harrison, Kentucky coach Calipari was asked if that were being considered and he responded with, “Nah.”

And when a Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel pondered the incident, he quickly concluded that this was a racist incident:

  • “Harrison’s comment, while a racial slur, likely wasn’t rooted in racial anger anyway. This was immaturity and embarrassment. He wasn’t creative enough to put Kaminsky down any other way, so he fell to the lowest rung on the ladder, a rather absurd one too since, as noted, Kaminsky is white.  Still, apologies should count, so let that one. If Kaminsky said he’s good with it – not that the victim here usually has much choice – then so be it. Turning Harrison into a piñata for varying forces on acceptable racial language doesn’t seem reasonable either. This really wasn’t about race.”

It seems that a black person won’t be accused of racism unless there is compelling, direct evidence, but a white person, like the Ferguson cop, will be exonerated of racism only after a comprehensive investigation of his life history fails to discover any utterance or action of a racist nature.

I understand the double standard regarding the use of the word “niga,” but I don’t think there needs to be a double standard for judging someone a racist.

 

March 12, 2015

Jon Stewart brings some perspective to the SAE controversy and rampant racism in America

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 8:12 pm
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Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart attempted to prove that he is an equal-opportunity satirist by devoting the second segment of his show to skewering Hillary Clinton for her lame, almost risible explanation for declining to send government emails from a government server – i.e., carrying two phones would be inconvenient.

But, true to his nature, Stewart reserved his most serious sarcasm, and the first segment of his show, for a video of a busload of SAE fraternity members drunkenly singing to keep black people out of the OU chapter of the fraternity – “You can hang them from a tree, but they will never sign with me. There will never be a nigger SAE.”

Stewart compared the SAE video to another video by an OU linebacker, Eric Striker, responding to the SAE video:

  • “I’m so motherfucking furious right now. SAE just fucked it up for all you fucking white fraternities. The same motherfuckers talking about racism don’t exist, be the same motherfuckers shaking our hand, giving us hugs, telling them how you really love us. Fuck you phony ass fraud ass bitches.”

Since the revelation of the videos, OU has disbanded the SAE fraternity and expelled the two SAE members for creating “hostile learning environment for others.”  The linebacker is being recognized on FOX Sports are an heroic leader of his team.

The last part of the SAE segment, however, was the most interesting, and relates to my previous discussions of logic and critical thinking. Steward showed a series of clips where conservatives tried to minimize the SAE incident by characterizing it as an isolated event that does not reflect a prevalent attitude. Then, as is Stewart’s wont, he showed conservatives arguing against welfare and food stamps based on isolated incidents of abuse – e.g., as buying salmon with food stamps.

But Stewart wasn’t willing to accept that both sides employ similar misleading tactics in making their arguments. He wanted the moral high ground that welfare fraud wasn’t prevalent whereas racism was. To win his argument, he used two punches:

  1. According to Stewart, the recently released Justice Department report on Ferguson was “as comprehensive a catalogue of race-based predations as anyone’s going to find.” Stewart failed to mention that the Department’s principal proof of racial animus in Ferguson was six racist jokes that had been communicated on employee computers.
  2. Megan Kelly on FOX was guilty of inadvertently incriminating herself and all conservatives by saying that any in-depth Justice Department examination of employee computers of most companies would likely find six similar jokes. Thus, according to Stewart, Kelly didn’t exonerate Ferguson, but rather indicted all of America.

Which brings us to our critical-thinking skills. Does the fact that some people send or receive jokes that compare President Obama to a chimpanzee mean that those people and their agency/companies are dangerous racists that must face the heavy hand of the law? Attorney General Eric Holder seems to think so because he has said the Ferguson government will be dismantled by the Justice Department unless it agrees to voluntary reforms. The SAE chapter has already been dismantled by OU.

Another question – is it more important to weed out racists than bigots? What about jokes disparaging Catholic priests or Muslims or Russians or illegal immigrants or fat people or gay people or people on welfare? If a company doesn’t vigorously weed out these snarky people, does the government intervene?

This is a slippery slope for government.

Racial discrimination in Madison

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 3:02 am
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I recently posted about critical thinking and dubious conclusions of racial discrimination in Ferguson and San Antonio. Today, USA Today contained an article pointing suggesting that Madison, WI should be added to the list of racist cities. According to the article, titled “Blacks lags whites in Wisconsin well-being”:

  • African Americans in Wisconsin’s capital significantly trail whites in dozens of measures of well-being. Those include employment, household income and percentage of children living above poverty.”

This media characterization of Madison is especially newsworthy, not only because Madison is the location of the latest “cop-kills-unarmed-black” incident, but also because Madison is a highly progressive city that often makes lists of “best places to live.”  The article attempts to provide a balanced discussion of the issue by quoting three people:

  1. A local firebrand. “Racism is at the heart of Madison’s problems — blatant racism, covert racism and institutional racism,” said Eric Upchurch, a member of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition. The group took part in a march Wednesday to demand “justice for Tony Robinson and all those murdered by police.”
  2. A sympathetic police chief. Among Madison’s whites, 95% of adults hold jobs, the median household income is $65,000 and only one child in 20 lives in poverty. By contrast, the Race to Equity Report found that blacks experience 25% unemployment, a household income of $25,594 and a child poverty rate of 58%. Madison’s racial disparity is strikingly evident in arrest statistics. A USA TODAY analysis of arrests made in 2011-12 found the rate of arrests of blacks is 9.6 times greater than that of whites. That’s greater than the disparity in Ferguson, Mo., and one of the widest gaps found in any large or midsize American city. “If you have a problem being a social worker with a badge, I hope to hell we find you out,” said Chief Mike Koval, Madison Police Department.
  3. A logical out-of-state academic. Authorities point out that disparity in arrest figures does not automatically mean police are racist. David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies relationships between race and crime, said disparity signals leaders to look closely to determine why the disparity exists, and determine whether fixes are needed. “It may indicate discriminatory practices by police, but it may not,” Harris said. “It might be that people in poorer neighborhoods — something often correlated with a high percentage of minority (residents) — are demanding more police services, as they should.”

As I was thinking about the various numbers being bandied about, I thought about two other statistics on racial inequality that are often overlooked:

  1. Wealth. In 2013, according to Pew Research, white households had an average net worth of $149,000, black households $11,000, and Hispanic households $13,700.
  2. Parenthood. In 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of white children were in single-parent households, 67% of black children were, and 42% of Hispanic children.

These two numbers indicate that white kids, with two parents and an inheritance, have a huge advantage over black and Hispanic kids and this advantage makes in unreasonable to expect that, even in the absence of racist conduct, school suspensions and police interventions will be racially indistinguishable.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to these two numbers.

December 12, 2014

Racially insensitive?

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 10:53 am
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This morning I woke up to an article in USA Today charging two Hollywood types with “racially insensitive emails about President Obama” that were hacked and then published by Buzzfeed.  According to the article, producer Pascal was planning to attend an Obama fundraiser, and she joked in an email exchange with fellow producer Rudin about asking Obama at the fundraiser whether he enjoyed a particular movie, and they exchanged suggestions for various black-themed movies – Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Ride Along, and Think Like a Man.

The joking (some articles called is mocking) seems benign to me. Although it has some similarity to Fuzzy Zoeller’s infamous comment in 1997 about the prospect of Tiger Woods designating fried chicken as the main course for next year’s Masters’ Champion’s Dinner, there is a big difference between (a) associating a person with low-brow fare (the Washington Post recently apologized for jokingly connecting Julian Castro with fajitas) and (b) suggesting that a black president might be inclined to be interested in black-themed movies.

And it seems totally inaccurate to characterize this joking as racist, as the NY Daily News did. The NY Times probably got in right in calling the emails, “Embarrassing, racially tinged.”

Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete until we have heard from the so-called race hustlers. (As defined by Urban Dictionary, race hustler is “a term coined to describe those individuals of a particular race who project themselves into the media spotlight as spokespersons whenever there is an alleged racial incident which involves their race. The use of the word implies that these individuals exploit a racial situation to serve their own interests.” The Times concluded its article with the following:

  • Also on Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, in a statement, condemned the exchange between Ms. Pascal and Mr. Rudin as “offensive, insulting” and took further aim at Ms. Pascal, saying her comments reflected a “troubling” lack of diversity at her studio and others.

Sounds like Pascal and Rudin can buy their peace with Sharpton by spending some money on affirmative action for African-Americans. Kind of reminds me of medieval Catholics and indulgences.

Sharpton’s full statement reads as follows:

The statements in the leaked emails by Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal to producer Scott Rudin are offensive, insulting and should be denounced in the harshest terms.

 What is most troubling about these statements is that they reflect a continued lack of diversity in positions of power in major Hollywood studios. The statements clearly show how comfortable major studio powers are with racial language and marginalization. Her apology is not enough there must be moves by her studio and others to respect the African American community and reflect that respect in their hiring and business practices.

She should meet with Black leaders immediately to deal with the gravity of her statements as well as the inequality of how they do business. I have asked Rev. KW Tulloss of National Action Network’s Los Angeles Chapter to convene an emergency meeting to weigh further actions in this area.

These emails nominate Amy Pascal to be considered by some of us in the same light that we concluded and moved on the ownership of Donald Sterling of the L.A. Clippers.”

-Reverend Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network

 

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