Squashed

A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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Roma family in Ireland reunited with daughter after DNA test

CNN.com

A few days ago I posted my concerns about CNN’s report on the “mystery girl” who was snatched by Greek authorities for not looking like her purported parents. The parents, who are Roma, say that the daughter is adopted, but the authorities are treating it as a kidnapping case anyway. Even though nobody can figure out whose child was kidnapped.

So a few days after that, police in Dublin did the same thing. “Police, acting on a tip, had removed the girl from her home on Monday and placed her in protective care.” So basically, some neighbor was like, “I apparently live next to an interracial family and that’s a problem for me.” The police snatched the child. And … it turns out it’s the family’s biological daughter.

"The couple, who appeared to be very upset by the situation, also showed CNN photos of the girl."

Not-So-Subtle Discrimination

Today, in a move that was Totally Not Racist™, Beavercreek, Ohio’s city council unanimously rejected a proposal by the regional transit authority to put three bus stops near the mall. The city council members “cited problems that they say occur at malls with bus stops.” “Multiple council members brought up safety concerns as a issue.” You can read between the lines as well as I can.

This is a good example of how complaints about the “process” are used to mask very nasty practices. The city council apparently raised an absurd number of questions, demanded extra ridership studies, and insisted that the open air bus stops would require CCTV and air conditioning. It’s a lot like John McCain’s refusal to support a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell appeal because he didn’t have enough information … even when he’d repeatedly been provided with the information he previously said he needed. “I’m not saying I’m for blatant discrimination … I just think we should study the issue a bit more. I mean, we’ve got a long history of bigotry here. Do we really know what would happen if we stopped?”

Racist and Less Racist Criticisms of Obama

SDS quotes James Taranto:

The only difference is that now they are claiming it is racist to criticize the president of the United States.In our view, if Americans think race relations are getting worse, it is because they are slow to recognize the utter cynicism behind the politically motivated charges of “racism.” America elects a black president, and now we’re racist because we fault him for being a lousy president? That’s laughable—and laughter, not hand-wringing, is the appropriate response.”

Perhaps I can clear a few things up for Mr. Taranto and SDS. The problem isn’t that all criticism of Obama is inherently racist. The problem is that racist criticism of Obama is (shocker of shockers) racist. And the not-necessarily-race-motivated criticism sometimes looks kind of racist as well.

First, I’m sure SDS and Taranto would admit that there has been a vocal and explicitly racist thread running through some of the “criticism.” Whatever motivates the guys (like New York gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino) forwarding the racist emails or holding the more wretched Tea Party signs, their actions are atrocious. I suspect SDS, Mr. Taranto, and I all agree on this. We might disagree on how hard the non-racists in the Tea Party ought to scrub to remove the bile on their image.

Second, we have the less explicit stuff. We have the belief that Obama is a “Kenyan anti-colonialist.” We have the birthers. We have the people who think Obama is a secret Muslim. We have the people who have determined that Obama is inadequately patriotic. We have a whole series of criticism that Obama is “not one of us.” (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?) There are a whole slew of “criticisms” of Obama that have nothing to do with anything he’s actually done and a whole lot to do with to do with delegitimizing the President on the grounds that he’s somehow different due to some nebulous and intangible quality. It walks like racism. It quacks like racism. I’ll call it racism.

Third we have the criticism calculated to pour fuel on the “not-one-of-us” fire. We have the guy criticizing Obama for apologizing to Guatemala for infecting its people with syphilis during horrific human experimentation. Can you argue that the President of the United States should never apologize for anything ever? Sure. I disagree—but you can definitely argue it. But when people talk about Obama and his “apology tour” they aren’t speaking into a vacuum.

Suppose SDS's wife was eating a donut. Suppose he said, “You shouldn't eat that donut. Donuts contain a lot of empty calories, which can lead to weight gain and, ultimately, heart disease.” Is this a valid criticism of her dietary choices? Everything he said was true, right? But he still deserves a black eye for that comment, right? Even if he's genuinely concerned about heart disease, he’s phrased his criticism in a way that is inextricably intertwined with a long history of body-shaming. Critics from the right that stoke the irrational fear of the Other/Obama know or should know what they’re doing.

Fourth, we have the criticism that is so ambiguous or stupid that people reasonably assume something else is going on. Like the death panel paranoia. Or the “Get your government hands off my medicare!” Or the snickering about the teleprompter. The criticisms seem so absolutely nonsensical that we can’t believe that any intelligent person actually believes them. You’re upset that Obama is delivering prepared remarks from a teleprompter? You’d rather he spoke from notes? Or do you think he shouldn’t prepare remarks at all? This whole often-repeated critique is so transparently ludicrous that we’re sometimes inclined to assume that its masking something more sinister? Maybe the implication is that Obama is an actor or a puppet controlled by some more sinister force? To believe that sort of conspiracy theory, you’d need to be unbelievably stupid. Or maybe racist. So we can go with racism.

In legal discrimination cases, it’s rare to find an actual smoking gun. Generally the plaintiff needs to prove that she wasn’t fired for one of the common reasons (like the elimination of a position or being woefully unqualified). After that, the defendant gets to show why the plantiff was actually fired and the plaintiff gets to try to prove that the “reason” was a pretext. If the defendant can’t explain why somebody was fired for a legitimate reason, the court can infer an illegitimate reason.

Fifth, there’s a category of policy proposals that place a disproportionate and improper burden on certain minorities. SDS and Taranto aren’t going agree that a policy that places a disproportionate burden on minorities, rolls back efforts to correct historical inequities, or increases systemic inequality is a “racist” policy. For now, it’s enough to agree that reasonable people could reasonably call this sort of policy proposal racist.

Criticising Obama is not inherently racist. Nobody seriously thinks it is. But a lot of the criticism has been:

  1. Explicitly racist
  2. Implicitly Racist
  3. Drenched in themes to appeal to the implicitly racist critics
  4. So patently stupid that it’s easiest (and most charitable) to simply attribute it to racism.
  5. Promote policies that would heighten or exacerbate existing racial inequality

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been legitimate criticism of Obama. There’s a small amount of wheat in the giant ocean of chaff.

If Taranto wants to say that his criticism isn’t racist, he can certainly say that. But if he’s claiming that he and all the noisiest of the critics are on the same page, he ought to acknowledge that there’s a whole lot of racism on that page.

Rick Santorum vs. Captain Subtext

I needed to call in a favor from my friend, Captain Subtext to help make sense of a statement by Rick Santorum at the value voter’s summit. As a heads-up, Captain Subtext can be a bit horrible. So can Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum: Go into the neighborhoods in America where there is a lack of virtue.

Captain Subtext’s translation: Think about the predominantely black neighborhoods. I’m not talking about the Hollywood style lack-of-virtue I normally talk about. I’m talking about the kind of neighborhood that has churches that I don’t think count because their ministers care more about helping poverty than they do about voting for Republicans. I’m talking about the kind of neighborhood you think is scary and different.

What will you find?

Don’t worry, this is a rhetorical question. I’m not going to ask to do anything that might challenge your preconceptions.

Two things.

Since I’m also disinclined to do anything that might challenge my preconceptions, let’s talk about the same two things I always talk about, regardless of what you would actually find.

You will find no families …

Absolutely none. I assume those people reproduce from spores or something. Seriously. There’s a lot of missing fathers—and I would urge you not to think about whether our history or policies that might contribute to that. Let’s just stick with NO VIRTUE = NO FAMILIES. That’s more convenient.

… no mothers and fathers together in marriage…

Okay. It turns out that there actually are families that live together and love each other. So I should clarify that by “family” I mean a man and a woman married with two to three children and a white picket fence. No fence, no family. No variation allowed.

… and you will find government everywhere.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to work the phrased “welfare queen” in here—but you know what I mean. 

Police …

Black men are criminals.

… social service agencies …

Black women are a drain on society.

… why?

Wait! I’ll answer this question myself. You don’t need to do any thinking about why things are the way they are. That would cost me votes.

Because without faith …

Acceptable faiths are limited conservative Catholicism, Southern Baptist (and “non-denominational” churches that are adequately Baptisty, Judaism, and probably Mormonism.

… family …

See the above notes on acceptable family arrangements. Also, no gays.

… and virtue …

The kind of virtue that looks a lot like xenophobia.

… government takes over.

Communism will make your children Godless.

(via vruz)

In several case files of African American families, workers described a parent as “denies history of substance abuse.” The case file contained no documentation of any past or current substance abuse problem. In case files of Caucasian families with similar documentation, workers described a parent as having “no history of substance abuse.”

Michigan Race Equity Review (PDF)

I’m posting this in case anybody still believes we don’t have a serious problem with structural racism. This is one of the findings of a very comprehensive study by Michigan into why black families and black children fare worse in all levels of the of the child protective services—whether that is the likelihood of children being removed from their parents, the amount of time spent in foster care, or delays in the adoption process.

Numbers—and Making Responsible Accusations

This article accusing Elena Kagan of racism has been making the rounds of the blogs today. The article points out that the tenure track hires when Kagan was dean of Harvard Law school were overwhelmingly white men. It then proceeds to be outraged.

Robot-Heart Politics has been defending it vigorously and intelligently, so I’ll pick on her. In this case, as in other cases, a disparate hiring pattern is a sign of a problem somewhere—but it’s not at all clear that the problem can fairly be blamed on Kagan. If Kagan were a hiring manager hiring entry level employees from a divers applicant pool, we might properly blame her when the final numbers look so disproportionate. Instead, she was presiding over the selection of tenure-track faculty members at Harvard Law School. The pool of qualified applicants may not representative. And it’s not yet clear how involved Kagan was with the hiring decisions. Before making inflammatory charges, there are a few questions we might ask.

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