9 thoughts on “Name change?

  1. Speaking of names, i.e. labels……………

    We’ve had several discussions at the dinner table regarding labels, chiefly political labels, e.g. “right” and “left”. Labels can serve a useful purpose in our day to day conversation by substituting a simple adjective to describe someone or something rather than diverting from the discussion to list the characteristics that the label describes. However, labels can also be misused to mislead people or as a rhetorical device to shift opinions.

    We have witnessed many who wish to fan the flames of racial violence label Trayvon Martin as a child. The word “child” has considerable latitude of meaning – “a son or daughter”, “one who has not reached full growth”, “a foolish adult” – but in common usage, when we refer to a child, we typically mean someone between infancy and adolescence, i.e. someone younger than a teenager. Labeling Mr. Martin a child is a deliberate attempt to paint Mr. Martin as something he was not – a naive, innocent, defenseless child. Indeed, I’m sure that if someone called Mr. Martin a child, he would have felt “dissed”.

    Evidence brought to light during the investigation showed photos of marijuana and someone holding a gun on his cell phone (these weren’t just photos copies from the internet, but appeared to be 1st hand photos taken by the “child”). Other pictures included Mr. Martin blowing smoke rings and displaying his “grill” and making obscene gestures. Messages on his cell phone and evidence found during trial preparation include him referring to himself as a “gangsta”, offering marijuana for sale, and being in trouble with the police for skipping school, graffiti, possession of burglary tools and stolen property and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. All of this points not to a child, but to a street savvy, trouble making teenager. Mr. Martin can be painted as a child only in the sense that Mr. Zimmerman can be labeled a child – they are/were both sons of their parents.

    If Mr. Martin’s parents, friends and defenders wish to characterize Mr. Martin as a child, one must ask, “What parent sends a “child” out in the dark of night to fetch some iced tea and candy?”

    But the fomenters of racial unrest not only mislabeled Mr. Martin as a child, they labeled Mr. Zimmerman as “white” while deliberately omitting the “hispanic” label”. I’m quite sure that if a white, non-hispanic male had shot a white, hispanic male, the liberal press and the race mongers would have emphasized the hispanic versus white aspect.

    Sadly, too many young black males have the desire to dress and act like “gangsters” to impress their peers and others. To pretend that this does not (or should not) influence how they are perceived in a civilized society is naive. Stereotypes and prejudices are sometimes wrong, but they often exist for a reason. When prejudices and stereotypes are based solely on hatred or jealousy, they are wrong. When they are based on a response to facts aimed at protecting oneself, they are rational and right. The facts show that the leading cause of death for young black males is other young black males. When walking down a dark street at night, it’s more worrisome to be approached by two young black males in dark baggy clothes that two white guys with dark slacks, white shirts and ties. You might not always be right, but the statistics are in your favor!

    Now, some will argue that people have the right to wear whatever they want. Not counting the wearing of a birthday suit in public or clothing with obscene/profane/”fighting words” language, I will generally agree. However, actions have consequences. If you dress (and act) like a thug, expect to be treated like a thug. That’s not to say that everyone (or even most people) that dresses down is stupid/dishonest/bad or that everyone who dresses up is smart/honest/good, but your dress (which includes your personal grooming and hygiene) is part of creating a first impression. If I show up in a black neighborhood wearing a white sheet and hood, I should expect a nasty reception. (NOTE: I do not agree with the SCOTUS decisions post Chaplinsky). Likewise, a young black male with his baggy drawers hanging mid-thigh and a baggy hoody covering his head needs to recognize that when he tries to dress like a “gangsta”, he just might be perceived and treated as such.

    If I might summarize the events of February 2012, we had one “gangsta” wannabe young man and one cop wannabe young man who encountered each other under trying circumstances (a dark night). Neither had the brains or experience to handle the situation properly – GZ didn’t have the experience/training to deal with an actual confrontation and TM was stupid enough to follow GZ back to his truck. Add in a gun and someone was bound to get hurt.

    • As I like to say, most problems can be traced back to a problem in the feedback. Unfortunately, the intense focus on race produces such a feedback problem. If something bad happens, is it because of race or other things?

      Notice something about your story of the black and white men. What they are wearing is important.

      That reminds me of a conversation on racial profiling I once had with a friend. He asked me if I had ever been concerned ‘about running into some black men on a dark street.’

      First, notice he also had to add ‘men’ as a qualifier. He probably didn’t think I would be concerned about black women. But, if it was about race, shouldn’t he expect me to be just as concerned in that situation? Right there the argument that it’s about race starts to fall apart.

      But, I think he was a bit perturbed at my answer. The conversation went something like this:

      Me: It depends.
      Him: On what?
      Me: What are they wearing? How are they behaving?
      Him: What do you mean?
      Me: Well, if they’re dressed like thugs, I might be concerned. For that matter I would be concerned if white or hispanic men were dressed like thugs or gang members. But, if they are dressed nicely, I probably wouldn’t even notice them. Would you?
      Him: Well….
      Me: And, how are they behaving? Are they being loud and rude? How’s they’re body language? Does it look like they are looking for trouble? Are they eyeing me? Are they making faces at me? Again, I’ve been in such situations with folks from several different demographic groups. Not matter what race they are, if they are acting like that, yes, I am concerned. And it’s not because of their race. It’s because of their behavior. I bet you have, too.
      Him: Well, you got me. That’s true. I’ve been concerned in those situations, too, and they were not black.
      Me: Okay. So, when you think about it, race really isn’t the issue. Racial profiling isn’t either. It’s really more about dress and behavior profiling. It’s about reading cues. I’ve walked past hundreds of well-dressed, well-groomed, polite people from all backgrounds and have not been concerned. I’ve walked past black people who are homeless and haven’t been concerned. Same with white, hispanic and asian homeless people. So, if we all can encounter people from all different backgrounds and different walks of life most of the time without feeling threatened, why is it that when we walk past folks who are staring you down, dressed like gang members, acting aggressively and also happen to be black, it is assumed that being black was the the only cue, when it wasn’t even one cue. That’s just simplistic and dumb.
      Him: But, you have to admit. Race was an issue, wasn’t it?
      Me: Did you not hear me? If I react the same to hoodlums whether they are white, hispanic, asian, italian or black, what does that to do with race?

      But, of course, I’m not surprised. Critical thinking is not strength for our country. Thank you public education.

    • As a case in point, recently while on vacation we wound up in a sketchy part of town to visit a restaurant a friend had recommended. Not knowing anything else about the area, we were concerned by the people walking around, who were not black. But, they were dressed like thugs and a few were displaying some sketchy body language.

  2. A few comments:

    1. Most of the theft committed in the US is carried out by men in suits and ties!

    2. Many of his detractors have claimed that Zimmerman was frustrated with the failure of the criminal justice system and thus decided to take the law into his own hands. Who set that example?


    Oh, yeah!

    3. Seth may not admit the difference in odds when you are approached alone on the street at night by a black youth versus a white youth, but apparently Jesse Jackson does:

    “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

    Some people (not necessarily Seth) try to explain away the disproportionate representation by young black males in our prisons as a product of racism in our criminal justice system. These are usually the same people who profit from racism and therefor do all they can to fan the flames of racial discord and paint every problem in the black community and every failure by a black person as the result of racism.

    • Mike – Re: #3, what are the differences in odds? I honestly don’t know.

      I believe the more relevant measures in the ‘approached by’ scenario are how often crimes are committed (especially in areas that I happen to be) and the percentage of population that commits crimes. I don’t think the percentage of crimes committed is as relevant in this scenario.

      I do think the percentage of crimes committed is relevant when analyzing the proportion of prison population and a failure to so is crime against common sense.

  3. Seth, I think the way to look at the “approached by” scenario is to consider, as Jesse Jackson did, what the likelihood is that the unknown person approaching you on the street (let’s assume it’s just you and the “approacher” at night) is someone likely to do you harm (let’s define this as someone who has committed a crime in the past and has thus identified himself as one willing to violate our social contract). This is not to say that “the approacher” is as likely to be black as he is to be white.

    Obviously, if the areas you frequent are not frequented by blacks, you’re less likely to be approached by a young black male (YBM) than if you hang around parking lots in the low rent district at night in some major metro area. Crime is generally driven by opportunity and proximity. But the encounter we’re referring to assumes no reference to what areas you typically frequent. Furthermore, most of us, at one time or another, venture into the same areas traversed by the criminal element of society, whether that is a remote parking area near a major league stadium, an alley that’s a short cut to where you parked your car, etc. The point is that there likely will be a time when you’re walking in some dimly lit area in an unfamiliar area at night. Given that situation, if you are approached by an unknown person, is there reason to be more concerned if the person approaching you is black versus white?

    Now, it’s well established that most violent crimes committed against blacks are committed by other blacks (the FBI figures say roughly 98%). Indeed, most violent crimes committed against whites are committed by other whites (roughly 85%). Both of these numbers are largely due to the previously mentioned factors or opportunity and proximity, i.e. blacks tend to live near, have more interactions with, and have more relationships with blacks and whites with whites. So, if you’re walking in the aforementioned area, it may be more likely that “the approacher” is white – but that’s not the question. The question is, “Should the approacher’s race give you more or less cause for concern?” In other words, relative to their share of the population, do blacks commit more crimes than whites?

    The population of the US is roughly 3 million (actually 3.12, but let’s say 3 to make the math simpler). Roughly 80% are white and 13% black. Blacks committed 2958 of the 6131 murders in the US in 2011. Whites committed 2904. So, white and blacks commit about the same number of murders, but as you pointed out, the relevant number is the percentage of each demographic that commits these crimes. Statistically, if you are black, the odds that you murdered someone in 2011 are roughly 7.6 per 1000, i.e. if you run into 131 black people, it’s likely that one of them murdered someone in 2011 (that percentages go up if you add in all years and add other violent crime and if you filter the database to include just YBMs). If you run into 833 white people, it’s likely that one of them murdered someone in 2011. In other words, a black person is more than 6 times as likely to be a murderer than a white person.

    But we don’t need all the statistical research and analysis to tell us that. Jesse Jackson told us the same thing back in 1993 when he said he would feel relief when he discovered the unknown stranger approaching him on the street was white.

    From the standpoint of racism, it would make little sense for a white racist to complain about blacks murdering other blacks. The ones they would concern themselves with would be blacks murdering whites. But even if we assume that all of the black on white murder convictions are due to racial injustice, it still leaves us with similar numbers – blacks committing violent crimes far out of proportion to their percentage of the population.

    Now that we know “what”, we must try to figure out is “why?” But those who deny the facts and insist that the data only implies racism in the criminal justice system will never ask the right question because they have created a different “what” that conforms to their preconception that all black problems and failures are due to racism.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s