Category Archive 'Racial Stereotypes'

19 Jul 2013

Race & the Zimmerman Trial

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Fred Reed argues that establishment media, and the left generally, has entirely missed the most significant point to be drawn from looking on at George Zimmerman’s trial.

The crucial fact to come out of the whole adventure—crucial, and therefore utterly overlooked–was that Rachel Jeantel, a prosecution witness and black girl aged nineteen years, can´t read. The grim implication of this fact is confirmed by the illiteracy of tweets from blacks regarding the case. “Ima kill dat dumass cracker be racis.” Here we see as neatly displayed as if in a jewelry box why so many young blacks will go nowhere in the remaining fifty years of their lives. They can´t read, or barely can. In a fading techno-industrial civilization—I use the latter word frivolously—this consigns them to a life on charity. Is this not of more note than who started what?

No. The educational disaster that will leave Rachel and millions of her confreres in meaningless lives on welfare pales in importance compared to the question: Did Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman have the proper racial attitudes? This is what exercises the vast endocrine boobitry howling with empty-headed rage and self-righteousness.

Read the whole thing.

14 Aug 2011

“The Whites Have Become Black”

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British constitutional historian David Starkey comments in the video below that the British riots demonstrate that the “chavs (British juvenile delinquents) have become black,” i.e., that a foreign and exotic underclass culture has successfully assimilated the British white lower orders, rather than vice versus.

What he said! Black as a pejorative term. Expressing a hierarchical preference for white, European mores over African-Caribbean mores. The British left is quite indignant about this kind of politically-incorrect speech, and accusations of racism are flying.

09 Mar 2010

Rather: “Obama Couldn’t Sell Watermelons.”

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Laugh of the morning: former CBS anchor Dan Rather has one of those inadvertent Freudian moments in which liberals reveal their inner viewpoints on matters racial. Like President Clinton reminding Teddy Kennedy that, a short while ago, the likes of Barack Obama “would have been getting us coffee.”

HDNet’s Dan Rather stepped on one mine after another in the racial minefield that exists when talking about the nation’s first black President as the former CBS anchor, on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend, uttered the following take on the President’s ability to get health care passed and how the GOP and independents would view it.

    DAN RATHER: Part of the undertow in the coming election is going to be President Obama’s leadership. And the Republicans will make a case and a lot of independents will buy this argument. “Listen he just hasn’t been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death.” And a version of, “Listen he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate” this is what’s been used against him, “but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”

While Rather may not have been being intentionally racist one has to wonder what the reaction would be if a conservative had used similiar language on the show.

0:40 video

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As a commentary on all this, let’s have a viewing of Robert Nelson’s 1965 experimental film short Oh Dem Watermelons.

24 Jul 2009

Racial Indignation… or Ivy League Indignation?

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Phantom Negro in Salon sprinkles an otherwise very intelligent piece with conventional complaints about the sufferings of Ivy-League-educated African Americans dealing with racism “on a daily basis” (poor souls!), but apart from the we-have-to-keep-our-grievances-alive! bows in the direction of political correctness, I think he nails Gates dead center and from a privileged and shared perspective.

As a black Ivy Leaguer, something funny happens as you become ensconced in ivy. You’re smart enough to understand that race and racism are a reality you deal with on a daily basis, but you also know that your university ID sets you apart. Does this mean you are kept from hurtful incidents? No, but it is to say that much of the outrage felt at a racial slight is replaced by outrage at a class slight. Sure, we get pissed, knowing we’re getting hassled because we’re black, but the real indignation comes from being hassled as members of an elite group. How dare you hassle me? I go to school here. I go to work here. …

Which brings me to Skip Gates. He isn’t outraged because he feels he was the victim of racial profiling by the police (that dubious honor goes to his foolish neighbor) [in fact, the woman who called the police is not a neighbor, but works nearby]. He’s outraged because he was the victim of class profiling. He didn’t resent being identified as black; he resented being identified as that kind of black, the kind of black that can be hassled and pushed around by simpleton cops. How dare you hassle me? I’m Skip Gates: Harvard professor!

Skip has fallen victim to the Ivy League Effect. Check out his articles — you can definitely go to the Root — the Web site he is editor in chief of — if you want to see a repository for the whole masturbatory display. He all but says, “Do I look like that type of (black) person? I was wearing a blazer and a polo shirt!” Gates is Ivy League pissed with a dash of black anger. Not the other way around. …

Skip Gates thought that he’d worked hard enough, achieved enough, become Harvard enough that this sort of treatment did not apply to him. And now, rather than channel that outrage in a way that is subtle but effective, he’s very publicly suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, having “joined the ranks of the million incarcerated black men in America.” That’s laughable. He does not see those million men as kin and he doesn’t, by and large, give a damn about those guys. He’s merely annoyed that such an irritation as police misconduct found its way into his home. If he read about this story happening to a plumber in Roxbury, he’d shake his head in disappointment and then go on with his life.

So before we heed the call of racism, let’s be mindful of the tower from which that call came. This has something to do with race. But it has a lot more to do with messing with Skip Gates.

24 Jul 2009

Does Posting This Make Me a Racist?

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Zachary Roth apparently thinks so.

But I don’t know that we need to take his opinion into serious account. He’s just another of those exiled British journalists, so orthodox left that he posts in Talking Points Memo, and the sensitive sort who cries on the job.

I seem to remember the left’s commentariat having no similar problem with satirical stereotypes applied in editorial cartoons to people like Condeleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas.

23 Jul 2009

Racial Stereotypes in Cambridge

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Barack Obama stooped from the office of the presidency to takes sides in last week’s incident in Cambridge, Massachusetts in which Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a prolific author and African American Studies professor at Harvard, wound up arrested for disorderly conduct.

Gates and a friend were observed by a neighbor trying to force open Gates’s own front door on a street in Cambridge near Harvard. Seeing two black men fiddling with a locked door (and apparently failing to recognize her eminent neighbor), that neighbor summoned the police.

Studying matters African American inevitably promotes hypersensitivity with respect to racial relations, and Mr. Gates predictably responded to the arrival of a police officer with indignation, asking if he was under suspicion “for being a black man in America.”

Gates accused the cop of being a racist, and proceeded to whip out a cell phone and attempt to pull strings with the chief of police. You have no idea who you’re messing with, the mighty Harvard faculty member arrogantly informed the policeman.

Despite all this, merely producing his Harvard ID was sufficient to persuade the officer to leave, but Gates was not content. Bent upon retaliation, he insisted that the cop identify himself, responded to a request to move the discussion outside the house with “yo mama,” and persisted in voicing indignant accusations and abuse.

Not completely surprisingly, in the end, Gates succeeded in getting himself arrested for disorderly conduct.

As this posting of less than a week ago shows, I am not myself inclined to defend exaggerated police sensitivity and amour propre in dealing with the public. In a possible life-or-death situation, that Michigan dispatcher should have taken into account the caller’s emotional distress and overlooked a little bad language.

But, in this case, it is only too clear that Skip Gates himself turned a minor and understandable misunderstanding on the part of a neighbor, where the police were in no way at fault, into his own private melodrama of racial martyrdom. He didn’t get arrested for being black. He got arrested for abusing and trying to intimidate a police officer who was just doing his job.

If Gates had spoken politely to that Cambridge cop and treated the incident with a little understanding, it would all have ended with a handshake and a smile. Gates preferred to manufacture a symbolic national incident. And our supposedly post-racial president can be relied upon to intervene in favor of Professor Gates.

The Boston Globe removed the police report it previously posted (for some reason); but, too bad! it was saved here.

Was Gates profiled? Sure, he was profiled… by his neighbor, who mysteriously could not even recognize him. But, face it, male minority members seen forcing open doors in affluent Cambridge neighborhoods really do fall more logically into the burglars-breaking-in conceptual category than the homeowner-lost-his-keys interpretation even to a not particularly racially prejudiced observer. Minorities really do commit more break ins, and minorities genuinely less frequently own expensive town houses. It is not unfair prejudice to operate prudently on the most probable assumptions.

If that neighbor had taken out her .44, and filled Professor Gates with lead on suspicion, I’d say she leapt to a conclusion. Calling to police to look into what was happening was not any sort of irrevocable act, and normal middle class people can encounter police officers in circumstances featuring minor misunderstandings without feeling victimized.

Stereotypes were obviously at play here, but the most active, hostile, and determinative images were those running furiously inside the head of Henry Louis Gates.

18 Nov 2008

“He May Not Be Anybody”

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Shelby Steele, who shares with Barack Obama a multiracial ancestry, discusses the difficulties of dealing with that kind of bifurcated identity, comparing his own experiences and responses to those of the president elect.

7:50 video

19 Jul 2008

Beyond Black Victimhood

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Charles Johnson, not the author of Little Green Footballs, but an English professor at the University of Washington, argues in the American Scholar, that the narrative of black victimhood may well have outlived its usefulness. Black Americans are today of diverse origins. Many, like Barack Obama, have no descent from American slaves at all. Segregation ended generations ago, and African Americans are well represented in all walks of American life.

This unique black American narrative, which emphasizes the experience of victimization, is quietly in the background of every conversation we have about black people, even when it is not fully articulated or expressed. It is our starting point, our agreed-upon premise, our most important presupposition for dialogues about black America. We teach it in our classes, and it is the foundation for both our scholarship and our popular entertainment as they relate to black Americans. Frequently it is the way we approach each other as individuals. …

In 1926, Du Bois delivered an address titled, “Criteria of Negro Art” at the Chicago Conference for the NAACP. His lecture, which was later published in The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, which Du Bois himself edited, took place during the most entrenched period of segregation, when the opportunities for black people were so painfully circumscribed. “What do we want?” he asked his audience. “What is the thing we are after?”

Listen to Du Bois 82 years ago:

    What do we want? What is the thing we are after? As it was phrased last night it had a certain truth: We want to be Americans, full-fledged Americans, with all the rights of American citizens. …

    If you tonight suddenly should become full-fledged Americans; if your color faded, or the color line here in Chicago was miraculously forgotten; suppose, too, you became at the same time rich and powerful;—what is it that you would want? What would you immediately seek? …

This provocative passage is, in part, the foundation for my questioning the truth and usefulness of the traditional black American narrative of victimization. When compared with black lives at the dawn of the 21st century, and 40 years after the watershed events of the Civil Rights Movement, many of Du Bois’ remarks now sound ironic, for all the impossible things he spoke of in 1926 are realities today. We are “full-fledged Americans, with the rights of American citizens.” We do have “plenty of good hard work” and live in a society where “men create, where they realize themselves and where they enjoy life. …

To put this another way, we can say that 40 years after the epic battles for specific civil rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, after two monumental and historic legislative triumphs—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—and after three decades of affirmative action that led to the creation of a true black middle class (and not the false one E. Franklin Frazier described in his classic 1957 study, Black Bourgeoisie), a people oppressed for so long have finally become, as writer Reginald McKnight once put it, “as polymorphous as the dance of Shiva.” Black Americans have been CEOs at AOL Time Warner, American Express, and Merrill Lynch; we have served as secretary of state and White House national security adviser. Well over 10,000 black Americans have been elected to offices around the country, and at this moment Senator Barack Obama holds us in suspense with the possibility that he may be selected as the Democratic Party’s first biracial, black American candidate for president. We have been mayors, police chiefs, best-selling authors, MacArthur fellows, Nobel laureates, Ivy League professors, billionaires, scientists, stockbrokers, engineers, theoretical physicists, toy makers, inventors, astronauts, chess grandmasters, dot-com millionaires, actors, Hollywood film directors, and talk show hosts (the most prominent among them being Oprah Winfrey, who recently signed a deal to acquire her own network); we are Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists (as I am). And we are not culturally homogeneous. When I last looked, West Indians constituted 48 percent of the “black” population in Miami. In America’s major cities, 15 percent of the black American population is foreign born—Haitian, Jamaican, Senegalese, Nigerian, Cape Verdean, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somalian—a rich tapestry of brown-skinned people as culturally complex in their differences, backgrounds, and outlooks as those people lumped together under the all too convenient labels of “Asian” or “European.” Many of them are doing better—in school and business—than native-born black Americans. I think often of something said by Mary Andom, an Eritrean student at Western Washington University, and quoted in an article published in 2003 in The Seattle Times: “I don’t know about ‘chitlings’ or ‘grits.’ I don’t listen to soul music artists such as Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin….I grew up eating injera and listening to Tigrinya music….After school, I cook the traditional coffee, called boun, by hand for my mother. It is a tradition shared amongst mother and daughter.”

No matter which angle we use to view black people in America today, we find them to be a complex and multifaceted people who defy easy categorization. We challenge, culturally and politically, an old group narrative that fails at the beginning of this new century to capture even a fraction of our rich diversity and heterogeneity. My point is not that black Americans don’t have social and cultural problems in 2008. We have several nagging problems, among them poor schools and far too many black men in prison and too few in college. But these are problems based more on the inequities of class, and they appear in other groups as well. It simply is no longer the case that the essence of black American life is racial victimization and disenfranchisement, a curse and a condemnation, a destiny based on color in which the meaning of one’s life is thinghood, created even before one is born. …

Yet, despite being an antique, the old black American narrative of pervasive victimization persists, denying the overwhelming evidence of change since the time of my parents and grandparents, refusing to die as doggedly as the Ptolemaic vision before Copernicus or the notion of phlogiston in the 19th century, or the deductive reasoning of the medieval schoolmen. It has become ahistorical. For a time it served us well and powerfully, yes, reminding each generation of black Americans of the historic obligations and duties and dangers they inherited and faced, but the problem with any story or idea or interpretation is that it can soon fail to fit the facts and becomes an ideology, even kitsch.

Read the whole thing.

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Hat tip to the News Junkie.

07 Jul 2008

Student In Trouble Over Reading a Book

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Racial brouhahas based on fictitious circumstances and wildly paranoid interpretations have become a news staple from the time of the Tawana Brawley hoax to the forced resignation of a white member of the mayor of DC’s staff for using the word “niggardly” to the recent fictitious connection with a racially-motivated black-on-white gang beating in Jena, Louisiana of nooses supposedly used as a symbol of racial intimidation.

The latest outbreak of major league racial lunacy began last Fall at Purdue, Dorothy Rabinowitz tells us in the Wall Street Journal.

Keith Sampson, a student employee on the janitorial staff earning his way toward a degree, was in the habit of reading during work breaks. Last October he was immersed in “Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.”

Mr. Sampson was in short order visited by his union representative, who informed him he must not bring this book to the break room, and that he could be fired. Taking the book to the campus, Mr. Sampson says he was told, was “like bringing pornography to work.” That it was a history of the battle students waged against the Klan in the 1920s in no way impressed the union rep.

The assistant affirmative action officer who next summoned the student was similarly unimpressed. Indeed she was, Mr. Sampson says, irate at his explanation that he was, after all, reading a scholarly book. “The Klan still rules Indiana,” Marguerite Watkins told him – didn’t he know that? Mr. Sampson, by now dazed, pointed out that this book was carried in the university library. Yes, she retorted, you can get Klan propaganda in the library.

The university has allowed no interviews with Ms. Watkins or any other university official involved in the case. Still, there can be no disputing the contents of the official letter that set forth the university’s case.

Mr. Sampson stood accused of “openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black co-workers.” The statement, signed by chief affirmative action officer Lillian Charleston, asserted that her office had completed its investigation of the charges brought by Ms. Nakea William, his co-worker – that Mr. Sampson had continued, despite complaints, to read a book on this “inflammatory topic.” “We conclude,” the letter informed him, “that your conduct constitutes racial harassment. . . .” A very serious matter, with serious consequences, it went on to point out.

That was in November. Months later, in February of this year, Mr. Sampson received – from the same source – a letter with an astonishingly transformed version of his offense. And there could be no mystery as to the cause of this change.

After the official judgment against him, Mr. Sampson turned to the Indiana state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, whose office contacted university attorneys. Worse, the case got some sharp local press coverage that threatened to get wider.

Ludicrous harassment cases are not rare at our institutions of higher learning. But there was undeniably something special – something pure, and glorious – in the clarity of this picture. A university had brought a case against a student on grounds of a book he had been reading.

And so the new letter to Mr. Sampson by affirmative action officer Charleston brought word that she wished to clarify her previous letter, and to say it was “permissible for him to read scholarly books or other materials on break time.” About the essential and only theme of the first letter – the “racially abhorrent” subject of the book – or the warnings that any “future substantiated conduct of a similar nature could mean serious disciplinary action” – there was not a word. She had meant in that first letter, she said, only to address “conduct” that caused concern among his co-workers.

What that conduct was, the affirmative action officer did not reveal – but she had delivered the message rewriting the history of the case. Absolutely and for certain there had been no problem about any book he had been reading.

This, indeed, was now the official story – as any journalist asking about the case would learn instantly from the university’s media relations representatives. It would take a heart of stone not to be moved – if not much – by the extraordinary efforts of these tormented agents trying to explain that the first letter was all wrong: No reading of any book had anything to do with the charges against Mr. Sampson. This means, I asked one, that Mr. Sampson could have been reading about the adventures of Jack and Jill and he still would have been charged? Yes. What, then, was the offense? “Harassing behavior.” While reading the book? The question led to careful explanations hopeless in tone – for good reason – and well removed from all semblance of reason. What the behavior was, one learned, could never be revealed.

There was, of course, no other offensive behavior; had there been any it would surely have appeared in the first letter’s gusher of accusation. Like those prosecutors who invent new charges when the first ones fail in court, the administrators threw in the mysterious harassment count. Such were the operations of the university’s guardians of equity and justice.

24 Jun 2008

Karl Rove: Obama “Cooly Arrogant”

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This Obama Girl 2008 Poster Unintentionally Does a Good Job of Illustrating Karl Rove’s Metaphor

Jake Tapper, at his ABC News Political Punch blog first recounts an amusing Karl Rove story I had not heard.

ABC News’ Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as “coolly arrogant.”

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Rove said, . “He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

Rove said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “needs to come right at him.”

And then Tapper goes after Rove.

How dare that Karl Rove speak ill of the Obamessiah! Criticizing Obama in any way, shape, or form is racism. After all, Obama is “the first major party African-American presidential candidate.” All you can decently do is vote for him and shut up.

Tapper will show Karl Rove.

Thereupon, the Dartmouth-educated Mr. Tapper climbs into his raggedy-peasant Halloween outfit, and goes all class warrior on poor Karl Rove, playing the bogus stereotype card, beloved of all liars and phonies working for the MSM.

Interesting that Mr. Rove would use a country club metaphor to describe the first major party African-American presidential candidate, whom I’m sure wouldn’t be admitted into many
country clubs that members of the Capitol Hill Club frequent.

Yeah, right! Oh, sure. It’s so difficult today for Harvard-educated Presidential nominees to get into country clubs. And we hear all the time about Tiger Woods being refused entry, too.

What a lot of hooey! The toniest country clubs started actively looking for black members, precisely in order to avoid these kinds of accusations, around forty years ago. But it’s true that Obama probably couldn’t join the Capitol Hill Club though. (It’s real name is the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill.)

09 May 2008

Toni Morrison Takes it Back: Bill Clinton Wasn’t the “First Black President”

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Darryl Fears, in a Washington Post blog, quotes Toni Morrison, in a recent Time magazine interview, distancing herself from the Clintons by asserting that people who read her New Yorker description of Bill Clinton as “the first black president” misunderstood her.

People misunderstood that phrase. I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race.

It’s true that Morrison’s “first black president” comment was occasioned by the necessity for leftists like herself to defend William Jefferson Clinton in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky sex-and-perjury scandal, and Morrison did indeed attempt to depict Mr. Clinton as being railroaded (and, in her own hypertrophied rhetoric, “lynched” and “crucified,” just like a poor black man), but the heart of her comparison, the section quoted time and time again by a nation, half chuckling in agreement, half shaking its head in embarrassed chagrin at the use of these racial stereotypes by a famous black novelist, was:

White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

And, though she didn’t actually write it down, every New Yorker reader read between-the-lines the additionally silently-implied comparison: “sexually promiscuous, predacious, and incapable of self-restraint, can’t keep it in his pants.”

We misunderstood her? I don’t think so.

28 Apr 2008

The Wisdom of Reverend Wright

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The Reverend Jeremiah Wright made another of those colorful speeches that he is so noted for in an address to the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. Explaining some of those controversial comments made in the course of his sermons, Wright explained:

“The black religious tradition is different. We do it a different way.”

He then proceeded to explain that people of color just naturally think differently, because they function with a different rhythm and use different portions of their brain.

Wright discussed how different groups have seen other groups as “deficient.” After saying English-speakers saw Arabic-speakers as “being deficient,” Wright mentioned Obama almost as an aside. …

The bulk of his remarks addressed… different groups seeing each other as deficient. He acted out the differences between marching bands at predominantly black and predominantly white colleges. “Africans have a different meter, and Africans have a different tonality,” he said. Europeans have seven tones, Africans have five. White people clap differently than black people. “Africans and African-Americans are right-brained, subject-oriented in their learning style,” he said. “They have a different way of learning.” And so on.

For some inexplicable reason he skipped the portion of the same traditional analysis which talks about it being impossible to injure them by hitting them in the head.

Can you imagine the reaction if someone not of the Reverend Wright’s ethnic background indulged in these kind of characterizations of racial differences?

4 10:00 videos

21 Jun 2007

Racism, Then and Now

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John Steele Gordon, in the Wall Street Journal, compares two cases of gross injustice in America arising from racial stereotypes, one recent, the other over 80 years ago.

Imagine this: In a Southern town, a woman accuses several men of rape. Despite the woman’s limited credibility and ever-shifting story, the community and its legal establishment immediately decide the men are guilty. Their protestations of innocence are dismissed out of hand, exculpatory evidence is ignored.

The Duke rape case, right? No, the Scottsboro case that began in 1931, in the darkest days of the Jim Crow South.

The two cases offer a remarkable insight into how very, very far this country has come in race relations, and alas, in some ways how little. For race is central to why both cases became notorious. In Scottsboro, Ala., of course, the accusers were white and the accused was black. In Durham, N.C., it was the other way around.

On March 25, 1931, a group of nine young black men got into a fight with a group of whites while riding a freight train near Paint Rock, Ala. All but one of the whites were forced to jump off the train. But when it reached Paint Rock, the blacks were arrested. Two white women, dressed in boys clothing, were found on the train as well, Victoria Price, 21, and Ruby Bates, 17. Unemployed mill workers, they both had worked as prostitutes in Huntsville. Apparently to avoid getting into trouble themselves, they told a tale of having been brutally gang raped by the nine blacks.

The blacks were taken to the jail in Scottsboro, the county seat. Because the circumstances of the women’s story — black men attacking and raping white women — fit the prevailing racial paradigm of the local white population, guilt was assumed and the governor was forced to call out the National Guard to prevent a lynch mob from hanging the men on the spot. The nine were indicted on March 30 and, by the end of April, all had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death (except for the one who was 13 years old, who was sentenced to life in prison).

A year later, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions of those on death row, except for one who was determined to be a juvenile. By this time, however, the “Scottsboro Boys” had become a national and even international story, with rallies taking place in many cities in the North. Thousands of letters poured into the Alabama courts and the governor’s office demanding justice.

The International Labor Defense, the legal arm of the Communist Party USA, provided competent legal help, and the convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court because the defendants had not received adequate counsel. Samuel Leibowitz, a highly successful New York trial lawyer (he would later serve on the state’s highest court) was hired to defend the accused in a second trial, held in Decatur, Ala. This turned out to be a tactical error, as Leibowitz was perceived by the local jury pool — all of them white, of course — as an outsider, a Jew and a communist (which he was not). Even though Ruby Bates repudiated her earlier testimony and said no rape had taken place, the accused were again convicted, this time the jury believing that Ruby Bates had been bribed to perjure herself.

Again the sentences were overturned, and in 1937 — six years after the case began — four of the defendants had the charges dropped. One pleaded guilty to having assaulted the sheriff (and was sentenced to 20 years) and the other four were found guilty, once again, of rape. Eventually, as Jim Crow began to yield to the civil rights movement, they were paroled or pardoned, except for one who had escaped from prison and fled to Michigan. When he was caught in the 1950s, the governor of Michigan refused to allow his extradition to Alabama.

It is now clear to everyone that the nine Scottsboro boys were guilty only of being black.

When the accuser in the Duke case charged rape, the district attorney — in the midst of a tough primary election — saw an opportunity to curry favor with Durham’s black community and exploit the town-gown tension found in every college town. He ran with it, inflaming public opinion against the accused at every opportunity.

To be sure, there was no lynch mob, which happily is almost inconceivable today. But many Duke University students and faculty, and many members of the media (Nancy Grace of Court TV comes to mind), simply plugged the alleged circumstances into their racial paradigm — wealthy white college jocks partying and behaving badly with regard to a poor black woman — and pronounced the Duke boys guilty. Wanted posters went up on campus with pictures of the accused; 88 members of the faculty sponsored an ad in the college paper effectively supporting the posters; and the university president suspended two of the accused upon their indictment (the third had already graduated), cancelled the rest of the season for the lacrosse team, and forced the resignation of the team coach.

Here is where the real difference between the Scottsboro boys and the Duke boys kicked in: not race but money. The Scottsboro boys were destitute and spent years in jail, while the Duke boys were all from families who could afford first-class legal talent. Their lawyers quickly began blowing hole after hole in the case and releasing the facts to the media until it was obvious that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The three Duke boys were guilty only of being white and affluent.

The district attorney won his election. But when the case fell apart and his almost grotesque malfeasance was exposed, he first resigned his office and ultimately was disbarred from the practice of law. Duke University has just settled with the three students it treated so shamefully for an undisclosed, but given the university’s legal exposure, undoubtedly substantial sum. Meanwhile, the 88 members of the faculty have yet to apologize for a rush to judgment that was racist at its heart.

The country has come a long, long way in regard to race relations since 1931. But we have not yet reached the promised land where race is irrelevant. Far too many people are still being judged according to the color of their skin, not the content of their character, let alone the evidence.


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