Our last piece examined the way local writers cleverly hide their progressive politics behind superficially reactionary claims. Harris Sherline in particular showed himself to be a master of hiding his revolutionary anti-capitalism behind boilerplate corporate rhetoric. An uncritical reader might misunderstand him, but his radical meaning was clear to those to were ready to hear it.
Now, however, Noozhawk has printed a real puzzler. Randy Alcorn has used his column to pose a curious question: “[The] Trayvon Martin Case—Racism or Reality? Such a question seems to imply that racism doesn’t actually exist, and that Serious People who are grounded in reality ignore the centuries-old system of oppression that continues to position Black people as second-class citizens.
But that can’t be what Randy is actually saying. There’s no way he’s that willfully ignorant of racism in the United States today, and of his own complicity in its perpetuation.
No way. So let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can figure out what he’s really getting at.
Yes, racial profiling of black men, especially young black men, is common in America, but is it a manifestation of persistent, widespread racism? While racism certainly still exists in America, its pervasiveness is questionable. The vast majority of nonblack Americans are not racist, especially the younger generation, as Obama mentioned, for whom race is virtually a nonfactor.
Randy must be trying to imply something else here, because there’s no other reason why he would utter such a blatant falsehood. Everyone raised in a racist society will more or less frequently perpetuate that racism, and because the US is still profoundly racist, young people are no exception. Indeed, those born after 1980 may be even more prone to actions that prop up racist oppression, given that they have been taught to think only of interpersonal prejudice as opposed to systemic racism:
This tendency of the millennial generation to talk about racism as interpersonal rather than institutional reflects a generational divide. Completely divorced from the experiences of the Civil Rights movement, a new generation of Americans has reached adulthood without any frame of reference to provide them with a proper context, save their own limited and often lacking personal experiences.
(This is the legacy of the right’s “reverse racism” talking point.)
Perhaps Randy’s point here about race being a “nonfactor” is that many white people have convinced themselves that we live in a “post-racial” society where they don’t need to confront their own privilege.
Racial integration throughout society is now more the norm than the exception. And mixed-race marriages only turn the disapproving heads of the nation’s most primitive cultural Neanderthals.
While blatant racism may explain some of the profiling and harassment of black males, especially by police, most of it stems from instinctual prejudice.
This is very strange, given that the country is still deeply segregated, with schools possibly less integrated than in the 1960s. But I suppose it is indeed comforting to know that in 2010 only 17 percent of those responding to a Pew Survey were willing to openly voice their disapproval of Blacks and whites dating, while a mere 11 percent claimed that increasing rates of intermarriage were a bad thing.
My guess is that Randy Alcorn here is pretending to be one of those commenters who points out unapologetic racist behavior as the “real” racism in order to deflect attention from their brand of dog-whistle racism that is more easily denied.
But I’m still not sure what Randy’s ultimate purpose is. Maybe reading further will clear things up:
“The stark reality is that crime happens in communities of color,” New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a recent ABC Nightline broadcast. He went on to say, “About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes— assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny—are described as being African-American.”
Most likely Randy is citing compulsive liar Ray Kelly in order to remind us both that statistics given to us by the police may exaggerate Black criminality, and that that racist police state that Ray Kelly champions may well be a major cause of crime in poor Black communities, by robbing young people of opportunity and hope.
Very good points, but I’m still not finding the thread tying this all together. Here’s Randy again:
Was Martin profiled by Zimmerman? Most probably. Did Zimmerman have reason to be cautiously suspicious of Martin? Given the realities of who commits crime in America, yes.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why Randy feels the need to repeat the lie that Black communities should be willing to take on a “racist public-safety tax” after it has been so well refuted by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
New York City’s murder rate is as low as it has been in 50 years. How long should a racist public-safety tax last? Until black people no longer constitute a disproportionate share of our violent criminals, one assumes. But black people do not constitute such a group—victims of hundreds of years of racist state policy constitute that group. “Black on Black” crime is the racecraft by which the fact of what was done to us disappears, and the fact of our DNA becomes criminalized.
(In other words, “Black-on-Black” crime is the rhetorical device by which the fact that violence occurs between neighbors in our segregated society is transformed into an indictment of Blackness itself.)
I’m becoming increasingly confused, and there’s not much left of Randy’s column:
Had Zimmerman not been armed and Martin had severely beaten him, maybe killing him or leaving him disabled, would this case have commanded such ongoing national attention?
Once again I must admit to being rather nonplussed by Randy’s (surely tongue-in-cheek) invocation of a racist trope. If Martin had been the aggressor rather than Zimmerman, he would have been immediately arrested and jailed, rather than allowed to walk free and only apprehended six weeks later after sustained protests. You can’t just flip the races of the attacker and victim and pretend that the sequence of events would have remained the same. To so pretend is just another method by which the effects of racism are minimized.
I’m thoroughly bewildered. And the last paragraph doesn’t help things:
The racism industry and the media vultures cannot bank on old white guilt forever. White America is not responsible for black behavior, black America is.
I can only assume that Randy is trying to write a clever parody of Richard Cohen’s appalling piece for the Washington Post, which he titled “Racism vs. reality”.
But it’s really not very funny.