The Race Card, John Roberts & Those Damn Palestinians

My Thoughts On: September 13th, 2005

Well, as promised, I have some thoughts on the race situation as well as some other fun topical stuff to cover. Things go painfully slow for me, work is in a lull and I'm kinda just floating around in my own little jar of juice on my little space of the laboratory shelf. If I was rich, I'd kill the time by donning the guise of a bat and swinging from rooftop to rooftop fighting crime. But I'm not, so here I am...

Stupid Racists. I meant to fit in a picture of Jesse Jackson, but his big mug wouldn't fit.

The race card situation has gotten worse with Hurricane Katrina, for that there is no doubt. According to polls, over 2/3rds of black Americans believe the Hurricane Katrina response was race-related. This in my opinion reflects a basic fault in people to recognize the race issue at all. Of course, most people don't think of race like I do. Before I even start, I remind you folk I'm not white, I am actually Native American (well over half blooded) and that makes me an ultraminority (in the 1% bracket far under whites, blacks, hispanics and even asians).

In a series of recent updates I've attempted to explain my position best as being for "social integration" as opposed to "social segregation", which is the problem. I adhere to the words Martin Luther King Jr. made famous, in reflecting on the state of race affairs he hoped one day to come to pass... "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Don't count me as a King Jr. suckup, the sentiment of the "I have a dream" speech was better represented by black Republican Reverend Archibald Carey, and King was hardly the best role model to follow. However, that doesn't mean the words don't make great logical sense and I take it one step further. Not only must you not judge others by the color of their skin, you should never judge yourself on the color of your own skin. For a society to be racially ambiguous (and thus racially equal), one must not attempt to change their own character because of their own race, just as they must not attempt to project a judgment of character on someone else because of their skin color. This goes equally for black and whites (and all those other pesky minorities, like my own, that I don't want to name off).

Take Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. In the recent Hurricane Katrina tragedy, he was a chief advocate that it was a racially motivated delay in response. His argument is debunked rather easily when looking at it or applying common sense. He reiterates that the vast majority of people in the poor class of New Orleans who were unable to escape were black (fact), and that this was why responses were "slow". It is true that there is a racial disparity in New Orleans, where there are a high number of black people and a high number of those people are poor compared to the white demographic. The "hip hop intellectualist" (whatever that means) draws the unreasonable presumption that there was racial motivation in the response of - not the media mind you - the government. Media would be arguable, but government?

First of all, the federal response was not slow by the standards of any prior crisis, even Hurricane Andrew which was previously the "most costly" hurricane in history prior to Katrina. But ignoring that, let's presume it is "slow". What Dr. Dyson argues is that the motive for this slowness is at least partially (but he seems to believe, mainly) based on race, that not only the nature of the reply but the ineffectiveness of the evacuation were racially planned. I think he misunderstands the nature of race disparity in America today. You see, if economic race disparity was something the government actually planned or created, you could argue this, and then create a conspiracy theory of a (predominantly white) aristocracy building itself against the black public. However, economic race disparity, I argue, is largely social in nature... government does affect it, but it would take a true kook to come up with a conspiracy theory for this one. It's because, mostly, of that nifty little term I used above, "social segregation": the "black" community differentiates itself from the "white" and other ethnic communities, living up to it's own social and cultural stereotypes that, in today's society, make it "hip" not to be a doctor, lawyer or anything else Bill Cosby says black people should be instead of rappers and reverends. Now, this is a complex argument that is probably a tangent, so disagree with it if you want...

The point is, being poor in New Orleans did affect your rescue situation. For one, we had to expect the poor would have a harder time getting out of the city than the rich. The race disparity could be reversed and it would still have be hard to get out of New Orleans without a tank of gas or a car... and an easy test to see just how racially motivated the evacuation effort was. Simply put, if you were poor you could not buy your way out of town, and likely had nowhere to go. While statistics show that the majority of poor in New Orleans are black, that disparity has to be related to the motivation of rescue efforts for Dr. Dyson to be right. If factors of the disparity is unrelated to the rescue efforts and poverty is the real reason those people were left behind, then it's not true that race played a factor. Those people could have been white in that situation... so long as they were poor, it would've been similar. The city had less than half the time it needed to evacuate itself, which itself says that we were to expect a number of people stuck in the city. There were some factors the media played into that skewed the way blacks, like Dr. Dyson, looked at the situation... but these situations were not because of the government efforts, they were just impressions the media left the viewer.

For instance, in a much-talked about but little seen CNN article, a white looter was, in the subtext, "finding" groceries, while a black person was "looting" the store. This spread through the black community like wildfire, igniting the indignation of idiots like Kanye West... however, in the end, that entire complaining was over just one media article. This was not the norm, and the subtexts of the particular article were blown way out of proportion anyways. Yet it only takes one thing like that to change people's perceptions of the situation. Take something else, people saying it looked like Africa with all the destitute black people scavenging, or commenting on the word "refugees". I guess refugees must come from the 'Fugees! In all seriousness, it was things like this that dominated people's attitudes of how it was being perceived in the general public. Yet, these were superficial images given to us from media outlets. TV, the internet, radio... all just the occasional remark, or just a photographic image that made us think something. There is no firm foundation that I have seen to tie that into the government's actual attitude during the crisis situation.

Likewise, people hate to actually throw around the term "racism", but what was essentially being accused here was that a predominantly white-run Republican government is racist towards blacks, making it that much more OBVIOUS, I suppose, that this had racial motivations. It's not untrue that there are extremely racist white Republicans. However, it's not what this administration currently is. Bumbling fools, yes. Racists? Bush has appointed more black officials than past administrations. Do they not count because they are Republican and the black community demagogues itself into perpetuating the stereotype that "real" blacks are Democrat?

Take also, if we applied the same race-thinking logic directed at Bush elsewhere. Bush responded slowly, he is a demographic where people see a typical form of racism (rich white Republican), so it's assumed that race must've been a factor. Okay then, with that bogus thinking let's take a look at Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, who is black. Why did Ray Nagin evacuate the poor inner city and urban communities to the shelters of last resort before taking out of the city the predominantly white patients of hospitals, and folk of middle class (more white than lower class) communities? The downtown area was where most of the buses were, shuttling people to the Superdome... and as camera footage showed, they were mostly black. Ray Nagin has a stereotypically applicable person to benefit from such actions, preserving the same black contingent that voted for him at the expense of the general rescue effort... but is he actually racist? What of the black chief of police in New Orleans who allowed fellow black citizens to commit crimes of mass looting and even violence to happen in front of their eyes? No jails, you say? So no names were taken? No efforts to stop the crime? Another important question to ask... how could such a police chief allow his fellow black officers to loot a Wal-Mart?

I mean, of course these are bogus arguments, but they are applicable the same way the initial race argument is because they exploit the suggestion that because there is a race disparity it must be causally related to someone's actions. It should be found at least somewhat evident in the behavior of officials that they behaved one way in this crisis instead of another because of something race-related, and simply put, there are so many logical reasons that have more to do with economic stature, bureaucratic inefficiency, and downright negligence in the government response to not need racial motivations be a part of it. Moreso, most of the evacuation and city management situations were either by regional (many of whom were black) officials, and Democrats, who are supported by a disparately high number of black voters. These people had no reason to use racial motivations to slow down rescue efforts. The federal reaction is the only thing one can argue has a racial motivation behind it, but the perception the black public has about what motivates the federal officials is - like many of the situations I outlined here - influenced more by media and society than by any logical assumption you can dwell from the government. Government does affect the race situation, naturally, but this much? So much that they intentionally bungle evacuation and relief for an entire American city because they want to, presumably, ethnically cleanse all the black folk? That's just ridiculous.

What this race rhetoric amounts to is the engendering of racial divisions and legitimization of racially biased attitudes in our culture today. This helps create and proliferate socially segregated society. Where "blacks" are in one identifiable group, separate from whites, asians, hispanics, and even us poor 1%'ers, the Native Americans. Racially divisive culture is racist by definition.

Yes the media is affected by race, but often not in the ways you think. For instance, much of the media coverage about the violence in New Orleans was censored by liberal media because they felt it would project a "bad image" of blacks in the city. It factually happened, there was much violence, and most of it was predominantly committed by poor blacks... not just mere looting of groceries, but actual beatings, race-motivated violence of blacks against whites, rapes, petty theft... you name it. Would it have looked bad? You bet it would've.

On the same note, government is also affected by race, but again often not in the ways you think. Most people think race plays a part in politics in a racially bigoted way - white senator makes a decision that ruins a poor black community because he doesn't care. But look at the reality, race is one of the largest political lobbies there is, race often solely fuels political attitudes, and race has made itself a part of the everyday discourse.

The point isn't that media and the government are affected by race. Of course they are. The point is that using this as the pretense to assume racially divisive thought serves one purpose: the continued perpetuation of the philosophy of judging people by the colors of their skin. Not by the contents of their character (and thus, their actions). In this case, there was little real rational reason to believe race was a motivating factor. Yet, many Americans believe it, because what they saw... the images and attitudes they formed... were identified by their racial demographics. Americans can't get past that for some reason. Racism is the inability to get past that. That's why everyone who has spoken out in favor of this vision of race bias by government officials is responsible of their own little slice of social segregation.

Let's face it, most of these people, this time, are liberal. That isn't to say conservative don't also contribute to the problem, they do. But most extreme right racism is part of the old fashioned racism we've learned to come out and openly condemn. This new form of racism is going to take something altogether different to condemn, we're going to need to fight it at every cultural level. I only wish I had more Bill Cosbys to help out.

The Power Hour with Judge John Roberts

So, every liberal's fears came true, not one but two spots on the Supreme Court became open during the Bush administration. There was crying, there was raving, "don't let it happen!" Many people voted Kerry just because of this.

I don't know how I feel about liberal judges. While they tend to be more boldfaced and activist, they also tend not to adhere to the actual law. The law is strict, and the best way to interpret it is to always consider it's role with the Constitution. The powers of the Supreme Court are best laid in the hands of a judicial constitutionalist... as seen with the much beloved William Rehnquist. Chief Justice Rehnquist, who recently died, was big on limiting and challenging the federal government's authority. One such case is United States vs. Lopez, where he wrote the opinion and made a deciding vote in the case, favoring limitation of government authority over a sensitive political issue: handguns in school. The commerce clause, meant initially in the Constitution to settle disputes of trade between states, is broadly applied by legislatures. In this case, it was the basis for the law making schools a gun-free zone (showing just how off the topic of trade regulation that the legislative powers have come). Rehnquist helped make sure we challenged the use of such broad definitions in our law, and suggested that the government will need to draw off other legitimate authorities to make those kinds of rules. In Zelman vs. Harris, Rehnquist stated school voucher programs were legit even if they went to religious schools... an important legal settlement for those interested in settling issues revolving around privatizing schools. Rehnquist and the majority of the case argued that so long as the religious implications of the voucher were laid within individual decisions of the student and families, who were not being compelled to use religious schools for their voucher programs, then it could not be said to violate the Establishment Clause (that pesky part of the first amendment that forbids Church & State from intermingling). A controversial decision, I suppose even in Libertarian circles it would be so, although I think what's most important is that here Judge Rehnquist made a decision to apply the Constitution from a Constitutional basis. He actually actively applied these principles, whether you agree or disagree.

John Roberts is the man nominated to succeed him. Roberts did work for Rehnquist but he's still a newcomer to the game. Bush is making a big move with Roberts, putting a lot of confidence in him... Roberts is young and is being appointed to a lifelong position. Normally, I would be very uneasy about this.

Moderate conservatives tend to be strict constitutionalists, and hardened constructionists, who put together the law from past precedent and direct interpretation of the Constitution. This is the best way to rule cases, in my opinion, however I think some cases could use a little more balls in challenging past precedent (past precedent is often very, very bad). Point being, it keeps our legislators in line while keeping the law in order. Understanding the Constitution should always be the focus of this.

Is it for Roberts? Well, we don't know Roberts very well. He doesn't answer many platform specific issues. However, that may be a good thing. Perhaps Roberts understands the issue at hand, how a justice must remain an objective of the law and the Constitution. For instance, in his confirmation hearing, he said this of the Commerce Clause...

Judge John Roberts, 2003 Senate Confirmation Hearing:

"Starting with McCulloch v. Maryland, Chief Justice John Marshall gave a very broad and expansive reading to the powers of the Federal Government and explained that - and I don't remember the exact quote - but if the ends be legitimate, then any means chosen to achieve them are within the power of the Federal Government, and cases interpreting that, throughout the years, have come down. Certainly, by the time Lopez was decided, many of us had learned in law school that it was just sort of a formality to say that interstate commerce was affected and that cases weren't going to be thrown out that way. Lopez certainly breathed new life into the Commerce Clause. I think it remains to be seen, in subsequent decisions, how rigorous a showing, and in many cases, it is just a showing. It's not a question of an abstract fact, does this affect interstate commerce or not, but has this body, the Congress, demonstrated the impact on interstate commerce that drove them to legislate? That's a very important factor. It wasn't present in Lopez at all. I think the members of Congress had heard the same thing I had heard in law school, that this is an important - and they hadn't gone through the process of establishing a record in that case."

It seems like he's a bit wafty here, but he seems to understand that the Commerce Clause is best understood through case precedent like the Rehnquist opinion in United States vs. Lopez, which as we discussed, was interesting in how it put limitations on government in the face of controversy. Another example...

Judge John Roberts, 2003 Senate Confirmation Hearing:

"Simply because you have a problem that needs addressing, it's not necessarily the case that Federal legislation is the best way to address it... The constitutional limitation doesn't turn on whether it's a good idea. There is not a ''good idea'' clause in the Constitution. It can be a bad idea, but certainly still satisfy the constitutional requirements."

Here he shows that he has at least an understand of the idea that much of what passes into his hands may not be situations where one thing is a "good idea" versus another thing. But is this simple following of the status quo, or is this the same rigid sense of Constitutionalism that Rehnquist had, where he would always be open to the idea that the law itself is the "bad idea"?

In the end, if he follows this attitude to it's logical conclusion, he will not be a major threat like we should fear from Bush, not on the court. The court won't change much if he does indeed understand and follow that logic. However, he is still a relative newcomer, which makes me somewhat nervous. Confirmed in a controversial senate he is probably going to have to be a moderate... and as much as political partisans might not like to admit it, a moderate is the best for places like the Supreme Court these days. It keeps the decisions mild and indifferent to the political tides. A hardcore ideologue is what we should fear from the Bush camp, and so far, Roberts does not seem like one.

Palestinians stand in front of a burning abandoned Jewish synagogue

The Israeli withdrawal and disengagement of the Gaza Strip may very well be the beginning of peace in the Middle East. Well, I'm not that optimistic, but it will help relieve tensions greatly. On their own terms, Israel decided to pull back large settlements to consolidate it's borders and finally leave the angry Palestinian militants to themselves. So the Palestinians naturally moved into the abandoned area.

Jewish rabbis petitioned the government not to destroy religious synagogues because they feared it would bring not only disrespect to the people who were forced to leave, predominantly Jewish, but because it has a religious symbolism. They also petitioned the Palestinian Authority to do something constructive with them, and even proposed solutions.

What Americans need to know about this situation is that militant Islam in the Middle East is a culturally domineering religion. It takes over where it supplants itself and demands the destruction of rivaling cultural icons. A melting pot situation, like you find in America, where churches, synagogues and mosques can exist together in the same community with a church of scientology and a unitarian universalism church peacefully is nothing like the Middle East. Palestinians are amongst the most bigoted of these groups because they feel the Jews robbed them of cultural identity by taking over the territory they want. So Palestinians are hostile, for religious reasons, towards Judaism.

Palestinians at first whined about the synagogues, calling them a way the Jews were provoking them (as stupid as that sounds) from afar. They mulled over ideas, one of which was converting the synagogues into Muslim mosques. The terrorist Hamas put an end to that right away. They felt this offended their religious ideas not only because it would demean the Muslim faith to take place in buildings that were Jewish holy symbols, but because they thought, for a minute, it would give Jews a logical argument to someday come to demand to pray in mosques... because if Muslims can pray in a building originally ordained as a Jewish synagogue, then they thought the Jews would use this as an excuse to start walking into mosques and praying there. This makes no sense, but shows you the extreme religious xenophobia of the Palestinians.

So, what did they eventually do with the buildings? Did they use aesthetic practices to knock the buildings down, rededicate them to non-religious purposes, or glorified barns or anything like that? No, of course not. That wouldn't be in the Palestinian spirit. Instead, they took these symbols of former Jewish oppression and burned them to the ground while partying and taking photos of themselves celebrating with guns in front of the burning buildings, oh, and don't forget the "praying to Allah for the blood of the Jews and to help continue running the Jews out of the homeland" part, what good party is without it? This is part of the culturally destructive nature of militant Islam in the Middle East... mostly the idea of Hamas. Hamas had the balls to come out and say that Israelis would just use this as an excuse to destroy Muslim mosques elsewhere, but despite the offense, Israel hasn't seemed to plan any kind of actual reprisal. Israel has more fortitude than that.

Well, I'm signing off for the night. Unfortunately, I fear there will only be more human stupidity for me when I wake up. In the meantime, sleep sweet, folks.

- Good ol' PA