Sunday, July 21, 2013


How To Make Disingenuous Arguments

I don't know who Tim Wise is, but he's written this piece in the Grio called: White America, the George Zimmerman Trial and the Power of Denial. I'll get to the irony of that title by the end of this posting.

He complains a lot about the fluff that is most of the news on the cable stations. He sounds a lot like Hugh Hewitt on that. I do agree whether the royal baby is overdue and what someone called Honey Boo Boo is doing are extremely fluffy. That's why I rarely watch the cable news shows. Lot of other people don't watch them too. But then he gets to his point, writing that one of the worst things about the Zimmerman trial is:

the utter inability of much of white America to accept that race had anything at all to do with the case, or with Zimmerman’s decision to follow Trayvon Martin that fateful night.

Unlike Chris Matthews, I rarely try to speak for all white people, so all I can say is what I what I feel:
Race had something to do with Zimmerman suspecting Trayvon Martin was up to no good, but race had nothing whatever to do with Trayvon's tragic death. Following someone is really not much of a moral wrong. Knocking the follower down and pummeling him is a moral wrong that under the circumstances here excused the deadly force Zimmerman used to save himself from what he reasonably believed was great bodily injury. I can draw distinctions here between the suspecting and the killing. Mr. Wise doesn't seem able to. That suspicion seems for him to be the greatest bad here. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Let's see. Next paragraph:

It’s one thing, after all, to look at evidence in a criminal trial and come to different conclusions — especially when claims of self-defense and confusing jury instructions are involved — but quite another to reject, out of hand, the lived reality of peoples of color: a reality that tells them, based on experience (not to mention the quantitative data) that suspicion all too readily attaches to young black men, irrespective of their behaviors.

Yep, Mr. Wise is mad about the suspicion Mr. Zimmerman had of Trayvon Martin. Again, speaking only for myself, I don't reject that many people (non just whites) are suspicious of young black men, irrespective of their behaviors. I reject that such feeling is irredeemably wrong. I'll get to the crime stats in a second. Let's see if Mr. Wise seeks to disassociate suspicion from crime stats.

So we bring up “black on black crime” which is an inherently telling formulation seeing as how we don’t refer to the crime that mostly affects us as “white on white crime,” even though it’s two-and-a-half times more prevalent, numerically, than the black-on-black equivalent.

Yep. And look at his sleight of hand in telling some stats. I only bring up the black-on black-crime to show that it is horrendously disingenuous to pretend that a "white Hispanic" man killing a black 17 year old in self defense is indicative of the real dangers that black 17 year olds face. The young black men do face being killed at a rate far above their representation in the population, but the killers are also about 95% percent black; so focusing on the aberrant Hispanic-on-black crime is not looking at the real problem. Kinda of like talking about Mad Men when the more important subject is an unsettling criminal pathology of an entire demographic group. Oh, and since the black population is about 12% of the American population, comparing the mere number of crimes committed by blacks and whites merely avoids the important question. I'll say it again. Despite being only 12% of the population, blacks make up nearly 50% of the murder victims each year and 95% of them were killed by other blacks. What's up with that, Mr. Wise? Take out the women and the very, very young and old men and something like 5% of the population is doing 50% of the murders. That's the stubborn fact. And other violent crime short of murder is similar. I know it, Mr. Wise knows it (but apparently can't bring himself to say it) and the people who pay more attention to young black males on the street do so largely because they know it too. It's several times more likely that the young black males will commit a crime, and that statistic applies irrespective of their behavior before they start the actions of a crime.

I believe we're not bringing up the crime stats to say, for example, that the '64 Civil Rights Act was unnecessary (as Mr. Wise accuses), we're bringing the stats up to say that being suspicious of a small group that is responsible for such disproportionate numbers of crimes is not irrational hatred or racism. It's rational profiling.

Mr. Wise then complains that whites have never seen racism much but he uses as his two data points some polls in 1962 and 1963, several years before he was born. I think we whites recognize racism when we see or hear it. (I'm not so sure black Americans recognize it when other blacks do or say something racist). It's Mr. Wise, who makes his living exposing racism and writing about it, who can't see how much the world he never knew before his birth has changed. And the greatest proof of my complaint about him is his own argument in the piece, that is, suspicion of young black men, irrespective of their behavior, is racism flat out. Whites are the problem.

I say that rational suspicion based on criminal statistics is not irrational racial fear and to turn it into invidious racial discrimination, even if that is your life's work, is to divide people rather than bring them together, to make the racial divide worse rather than better, to undo the good work the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement struggled so to achieve.

It certainly is a disingenuous argument. Indeed, it indicates that it is Mr. Wise's ilk who are deep in denial.


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