Friday, March 08, 2013

Watching Good People Be Stupid

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gifted, hard-working journalist.  His work, along with Matt Taibbi's, is the best being done anywhere by anyone.  It is no surprise, then, that an essay published in yesterday's New York Times is receiving a lot of attention.  The best is the simple highlight at Lawyers, Guns, & Money.  The very first commenter manages to demonstrate Coates' position so well, it's a thing of beauty:
I would like to see his definition of ‘racism’. Is it based on the idea of racial superiority? Or does it include racial profiling, based on experience and common stereotypes? Because these are different things, different categories. It would make sense, I believe, to separate them, to use different words.
Does that deli employee believe that people who look like Forest Whitaker are inherently inferior? Or is it that he knows, perhaps by experience, that they are more likely to be poor and desperate (or raised in a poor and desperate environment)? This seems kind of important. To me, anyway. Commenters on these fora reliably disagree, and they reliably express their disagreement by strong denunciations… Oh, well…
A more thoughtful person would hesitate before writing what amounts to, "Now wait just a goddamn minute!  I'm not racist!"  Alas, it is precisely this impulse that is the substance of Coates' complaint.

Thus, nearly three hundred comments long, the tiny notice at LGM shows the world how far too many "good" people still have to go.

The best response in the discussion is this:
I sure see no great tragedy in a multimillionaire celebrity being frisked at a deli. Should I?
If you believe in a society where people are treated with compassion and dignity, yes. You should.
Are your morals subject to means testing?
As polite a way of saying, "When you're in a hole, first put the shovel down," as I've read in a long time.

If you are white and don't see yourself in Coates' article, then you aren't paying attention. 

Virtual Tin Cup

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