point/counterpoint - NBA allstar weekend in Las Vegas

in honor, (or rather dishonor) of the oscars, i present to you two columns for your consideration.

first, jason whitlock's column
The Black Ku Klux Klan shows up in full force and does its best to ruin our good time. Instead of wearing white robes and white hoods, the new KKK has now taken to wearing white Ts and calling themselves gangsta rappers, gangbangers and posse members.

Just like the White KKK of the 1940s and '50s, we fear them, keep our eyes lowered, shut our mouths and pray they don't bother us.

Our fear makes them stronger. Our silence empowers them. Our lack of courage lets them define who we are. Our excuse-making for their behavior increases their influence and enables them to recruit more freely.

We sing their racist songs, gleefully call ourselves the N-word, hype their celebrity and get upset when white people whisper concerns about our sanity.
problematic, to say the least.

but dave zinn counters
Jason: it's time for you and your sports writing brethren, all hot and bothered over All Star Weekend, to take a long overdue reality check. You rail against the violence of NBA "posses" yet turn your back to the fact that this is one of the most violent nations on earth. This is a country that imprisons 2 million of its citizens. This is a nation that spends 1.7 billion dollars a day on the military. This is the country that started an unnecessary war in Iraq that's killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 3,000 troops. Surely a fan of Rosa Parks like yourself is familiar with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government."

As you heroically churn out columns in between trips to the local gentleman's club, a very real world beats with injustice. Black unemployment is three times that of whites. Unemployment today for young Black men aged sixteen to nineteen tops out at more than 30 percent, double that of young whites. And the latest Bush budget will mean all of this will get worse.

By devoting your column to the amplification of the worst racial stereotypes, you actually divert attention from the real issues Black America faces. In this post-Katrina world, it should be all too clear that the problem is institutionalized racism and poverty, not a kid in baggy jeans.

well put i say, but is Jason completely wrong? sure the thug element is the result of decades of systematic oppression, and whitlock's black KKK analogy seems a bit disingenious, but does that excuse the behavior of those in las vegas this weekend? seriously, that weekend, people got shot.

anyways, just two points of view for us to ponder. feel free to leave comments.


Ian said...

Bob, I strongly encourage you to read the first chapter of Thomas Sowell's book "Black Rednecks, White Liberals" if you haven't already.

Anyway, rather than blaming the problem on decades of systemic racism (which is a favorite sociological tool as any and all problems can and should be blamed on whites, no matter how ridiculous), many have been blaming problems on the collapse of the black family. The problem with blaming the collapse of the black family on white racism, systemic or otherwise, is that it occurred more than 100 years after the abolition of slavery - when conditions were their most austere.

Now, I find Whitlock's equation of gangbangers to KKK members more than a little clumsy. However, the altercation that he had in the airport - depicted later in the article - is telling. Many, including myself, have found themselves in similar situations.

Even in the richest of predominately black communities (Southfield, MI), I would regularly hear the worst students blame their problems on the racism of a teacher. Never mind the fact that the students would act like total jerks. Never mind the fact that the student may not manifest even a fractured concept of decency or decorum. Never mind the fact that the school is more than 90 percent black. If the white teacher had an issue with the black student for any reason whatsoever, racism is the standard charge.

By the way, I fail to see what the war has to do with violence perpetrated by the entourages of professional athletes. That is, plain and simply, an excuse, and a bad one at that. He also tosses out the 2 million in prison statistic as though the prisoners were rounded up at random.

Bob said...

hi ian, sorry this is late, but i think you are correct in many respects. although i do take issue in your statement that sociology simply prefers to blame things on whitey. i would say that is an unfair assessment of the sociological view of the role of racism in everyday inequality. in fact, william julius wilson wrote about this in the late seventies in a book called the declining significance of race. not surprisingly, WJ wilson is a sociologist. also a little bit surprising, he's black. the book was and continues to be a little controversial, but the point is, sociologists don't blame everything on whitey. just me.

i think we're actually on the same page here. my point is, the process is complex. on the one hand, gang bangers make the individual choices to fall prey to stereotypes of the thug lifestyle but at the same time, who promotes the stereotypes? whitey, who is clearly in power, doesn't exactly take responsibility for the legacy of racism. so my greater point by showing these two articles is that there is plenty of blame to go around. but it is definitely worth talking about. i'm only disappointed that the other four readers of this blog did not add to the discussion. as always ian, nice debating things with you.

Ian said...

I actually agree with amateur sociologist Bob Costas who said that if you look around at some of the popular black icons that we see nowadays (and I would argue that American blacks have been in control of their images for quite a while now and actively select the most culturally harmful... but I digress)blacks have concocted images that a white supremist could only have dreamt of decades ago. *cough* Lil John *cough*

As Thomas Sowell wrote, the American Black culture is one of the few cultures where the members actually determine the normative behavior based on a standard set by the lowest class of members.