13 September 2007

Somehow I Don't Think This Is What Dr. King Had In Mind

I haven't been keeping too close a watch on the news in recent weeks, but the past couple days I've been cooped up in this room in Berkeley, California sorting through papers and packing things for my upcoming moving van trip back to Brooklyn, with my only company being the none too tender ministrations of AM talk radio.

Normally that would mean being subjected to an unrelenting barrage of rabid right-wing ranting, but this being the Bay Area, we're also offered a similarly demented and hate-ridden outpouring of left-wing lunacy. Tonight I've endured three hours of the grotesquely obese race baiter Bernie Ward (a defrocked Catholic priest, who woulda thunk!) and half an hour of Ray Taliaferro, who's been spewing venom, often but not always race-tinged, at all things American for at least four decades now. It was in June of 1968 when, newly arrived in San Francisco, I first heard Taliaferro raving about how Richard Nixon was a madman, a criminal, and, if I'm not mistaken, a "son of a bitch."

Being a rather hateful little hippie myself at the time, I thought this Taliaferro character was just one more part of what made San Francisco great, but over the years I became considerably less fond of him, even on occasions when I agreed with him, because of his tendency to browbeat listeners and dishonestly distort what callers said in response to his inflammatory rhetoric. Example: Caller says, "Ray, I basically agree with you that racism is a problem in our community, but I'm not sure rounding up all white people and interning them in re-education camps is the way to go about solving it." Taliaferro responds: "Well, of course you'd say that, you rotten, good-for-nothing, Ku Klux Klan-supporting, inbred little cracker. Why, I bet you're just sitting there in your log cabin or your trailer park macraméing a rope to take to your next lynching, you low-life, worthless piece of scum. And what have you got to say for yourself? Nothing? I thought so (because Ray has turned off the guy's phone line)! See, folks, you confront these racists with the truth and they just turn tail and run like the cowards they are!"

Actually, Bernie Ward uses almost exactly the same technique, and tonight he, even more than Taliaferro, was obsessed with this Jena, Louisiana case. I'd just heard of it earlier today, and as far as I could see, the main thing it illustrated was the depths of depravity to which the so-called "civil rights" movement has sunk. We've got Mack Daddy Al Sharpton flying in to scoop up some publicity and no doubt some cash, we've got Jive-Ass Jesse Jackson accusing Barack Obama of being "white" for not having a sufficiently knee-jerk reaction to the case, and Bernie Ward doing a solid three hours of fulminating over how this proves America is a completely racist nation.

So what's the great injustice these crusaders are rushing to denounce? Well, apparently six young African-Americans are being denied their God-given right to rat-pack and savagely beat one white teenager as a means of addressing their hurt feelings over some racial tension and turf warfare that's been going on at a small-town high school in the Deep South.

Ward, Sharpton, Jackson et al. are comparing this to the freedom rides and heroic marches of civil rights activists in the 1960s, but as I recall, those protests were demanding the right to attend schools and ride at the front of the bus. I don't remember Martin Luther King declaiming about a dream in which one day gangs of young men would be allowed to attack and beat other young men based on the color of their skin.

Okay, am I being one-sided here by ignoring the initial provocation by white students, who apparently told black students they couldn't hang out under a certain tree and later decorated that tree with nooses to reinforce that point? Well, I'm not ignoring it, and of course I think it's vile to evoke, whether intentionally or not, painful memories of a time when black people were routinely lynched in the Deep South.

But what seems to be overlooked here is that however vile and hateful the white students were being, they were still engaging only in speech and symbolic actions. You know, sticks and stones and all that...? Calling people names, especially racially charged ones, or making it clear that you don't think very much of their skin color or their culture, is the mark of small-minded and ignorant people. But a gang beating someone black and blue and bloody is a whole other order of injustice.

Martin Luther King knew that, and struggled mightily and mostly successfully to persuade his followers to restrain their understandable anger and instead employ nonviolent tactics. The charlatans who claim to be carrying on his legacy are doing just the opposite: charging that the arrest and prosecution of the black teenagers for their gang assault is a violation of their civil rights.

If there was even a shred of logic to this position, you'd have to also accept that women were merely exercising their own civil rights if they attacked and beat every moronic misogynistic rapper who's making a living slagging off bitches and hos. White kids who get robbed for their lunch money or suffer gratuitous beatdowns by black kids in liberal bastions like Berkeley or Oakland should be immune from prosecution if they brought in their own posses to administer some street justice. I say if there was any logic to this position, which of course there isn't, but nonetheless the media are falling all over themselves to present the hatemongering of Sharpton, Jackson et al. as if it were a perfectly reasonable response to an obvious injustice.

Combine this with the usual suspects hopping on the "OJ's only being persecuted because he's black" bandwagon and I very nearly want to despair about the possibility of Dr. King's true dream ever being realized. He dared to speak of a day when people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; 44 years later we seem to have arrived at a point where the color of a man's skin is all we're allowed to see.


Wesley said...

Zappa sang: "I'm not black
But there's a whole lotsa times
I wish I could say I'm not white."

Have we gone to other extreme? I think we need a latter-day King to reverse the sentiment -- "I'm not white, but there's a whole lotsa times I wish I could say I'm not black." Barack? Anyone?

Joshua said...


You need to go re-read the facts of the case. Namely;

a) The FBI said the initial actions of the white students meet the standard for a hate crime, but was not prosecuted as such the the DA. Indeed, they even overrulled the school boards decision to expel the white students.

b) The DA's "stroke of the pen" statement was made after he ignored the school board and federal government's input on how to proceed with the case. His comments seemed and later acted upon, specifically with black students in mind. Indeed, white school board members confirm he was looking specifically at the black students when he made the comment.

c) your account of the altercation is factually incorrect. 5 black students attempted to enter a party in which a majority of the attendees were white. They were denied entry by a woman at the door and later confronted by a white male attendee. They stated that friends of theirs were already inside and a fight started. They, along wtih the white male, were told to leave. Once they left, the black students were assaulted by a group of white men (not students, men). Justin Sloan, one of the white men, receive probation for his role in the second fight.

d) Michael Bailey and other black youth were confronted by a white mail with a shotgun outside a convience store. Bailey and his friends ultimatley disarmed the white man and Baily, for his troubles, was charged with stealing the gun and disturbing the peace. The white student, with the gun, was not charged.

e)A black student and a white student fought at school. The white student had taunted the black student about his friend losing a fight to a white student the previous Friday. Once on the ground other black students kicked the white student. After being hospitalized, the white student complained of symptoms that medical tests later could not prove. This assault was barabaric and should not be excused. However, the accused were all charged with 2nd degree murder and each charged as adults.

So Larry, please don't let your desire to vent righteous indignation regarding the likes of Sharpton and Jackson get in the way of the facts.

These young men were wronged and their treatment highlights the fact that we, as Americans, still have some distance to travel in the pursuit of equality. I think your analysis of this case has been self serving.

Larry Livermore said...

I have read all the versions of the story that you cite, as well as numerous contradictory versions, and about all I can conclude is that a lot of people are lying and a lot more are desperately trying to spin the facts, such as they are, into a version that supports their particular agenda.

My considered conclusion is that much of this is typical teenage tribalism; if there weren't two different races, the redheads would be fighting the brunettes or the country fans fighting the rock and rollers. It's only when the race and poverty pimps got hold of this that it suddenly turned into a sick simulacrum of what was once a noble civil rights movement.

I don't doubt that some white students got away with some stuff they shouldn't have (though your "FBI" source notwithstanding, I can't think of any specific law prohibiting hanging non-specific nooses in trees, at least not apart from the laws of basic decency and sensitivity. However, if those laws carried criminal sanctions, most of would have prison records before we got through adolescence.

That nonetheless doesn't mean that the five or six black boys who attacked a single white boy should be excused, let alone made into poster boys for civil rights. If anything, this whole sad incident is only likely to harden already existing racial attitudes, and again not because of the kids' silly conflict (there were also reports that the students, both black and white, were laughing and playing with the nooses, which would seem to indicated they weren't quite so traumatized as Lying Al Sharpton - Tawana Brawley, anyeone? - might suggest), but because of the eagerness of certain sick adults to exploit any opportunity to get their pandering, dishonest, exploitative asses on TV.

One last note: without ever having visited that part of Louisiana, I'd be willing to bet that the real roots of the original conflict, like most so-called "racial" conflicts these days, were not so much in skin color, but in culture and social class.

Joshua said...

Larry (this is actually Josh in Seattle...you guessed that from the syntax I'm sure),

The nooses meet racial intimidation standards.

I'll never argue in defense of Sharpton or Jackson but I think you are using this case to take a swipe at them rather than considering the Jena 6 as being something unrelated to Jackson and Sharpton.