Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are Names Destiny? Of Race and Media Framing: What if Trayvon Martin had a "White" Name?

Last week, the drip, drip, drip, of evidence surrounding the Trayvon Martin case became a deluge. George Zimmerman's hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin has been a national play, one that I described as a farce and tragedy, which reminds us of how the United States is still in many ways a country that is "separate, hostile, and unequal."

The divides in public opinion about the guilt and respective innocence of Zimmerman and Martin are screens upon which differences in race and life experiences across the colorline have been projected. Interestingly, the most obvious element in this narrative about justice and the color line has gone little commented upon.

Yes, Martin's killing by Zimmerman is "about" race. But, race works in ways that are both subtle and obvious. Trayvon is blessed or cursed--depending on one's own point of view--with a "black" name. Names may not be destiny. But, as social scientists have demonstrated, they do tell us something about class, race, community, neighborhood, social capital, families, aspirations, norms and culture.

Consciously or not, individuals make judgments about one's relative worth or personhood based on their names. These judgments are also implicitly about belonging, national identity and citizenship--for an object lesson in this reality, one does not need to look any farther than President Obama and the conspiranoid Birthers.

For example, researchers at the University of Chicago sent out resumes with "black" sounding names and "white" sounding names to prospective employers. The former were imminently qualified with Ivy League pedigrees and great job experience. The latter were former felons with fewer skills. Not at all surprising to students of race, white privilege, and racial inequality, the white applicants were contacted for job interviews at a far higher rate.

In a complementary example, there is a social psychology experiment in which participants are given a story to read about a young woman with a child who goes shopping at a store for batteries.

There are two versions of the story offered. In one, she is a black woman (as indicated by her name and other clues); in the other story, the protagonist is a white woman. The other facts of the story are identical. When asked identical questions about the narrative(s), respondents envision the black woman as a welfare queen, a thief, and irresponsible. The white woman is noble, a single mother trying to do the right thing by her kids, and a good person.

Framing has been critically important in how various public(s) have responded to the Martin-Zimmerman saga.  

The Right-wing media depicts a black, man-child, giant negro, thug ready to rape and kill at will. Here, Zimmerman is a noble victim. The mainstream and "progressive" media offers a different depiction of events. There, Trayvon Martin is an innocent person walking home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea who is killed by an overzealous racist vigilante.

These divides are 1) significant because conservatives are motivated in their political worldview by racial animus in ways that others are not and 2) self-fulfilling where these disparate views of reality and political events are self-reinforcing, and self-perpetuating.

The story is the thing. As an experiment in perception and framing, I have removed any overt signals to either the race of Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman. Moreover, I have renamed Trayvon Martin "Dale Hill." To my eyes and ears this is a very "white" name. I thought about playing around with the genders of Martin and Zimmerman--but parsimony and efficiency ruled out such a counter-factual.

I have also updated the story based on the new information about the investigation that has been made available these last few weeks. My framing of the story leaves out certain incidental facts, emphasizes other bits of information, and of course has a particular narrative.

How does "Dale Hill's" story change your perception (or not) of events? Are we really so shallow as a country that some would hear "Trayvon Martin" and think "expendable" criminal black male, while others hear "Dale Hill" and this signals valued life and good white person to be protected?

****

With the release of a deluge of new information by the Sanford, Florida police last week, a more complete picture is emerging of the faithful and storied evening when George Zimmerman, self-appointed block captain and one man gang leader of an informal neighborhood watch group, shot and killed Dale Hill, a 17 year old teenage boy who was staying with his father in a gated community.

The story has been the focus of a nationwide discussion about "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow armed citizens to use lethal force if they feel that their lives are threatened. Advocated for by the National Rifle Association and the conservative lobbying group ALEC, "Stand Your Ground" laws are a clear break from existing self-defense statutes which placed a much higher burden of responsibility on those individuals who choose to use lethal force.

On a rainy Sunday evening, Hill was walking home from a local convenience store, having just purchased a bag of candy and a can of ice tea. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt for protection from the weather, he walked back to his father's home. At some point, Mr. Hill noticed a strange man following him. Dale told his girlfriend (who he was talking with on a cell phone at the time) that he was frightened and scared. She urged him to hurry home for his safety.

In a 21st century American version of the classic Japanese story Rashomon, the events of that evening are quite different when told from George Zimmerman's point of view. A self-appointed protector of his gated community, Zimmerman had taken it upon himself to be a one person security force, the eyes and ears of a neighborhood that had been subject to a series of robberies over the last few months.

His protective streak ran deep. Zimmerman was well-known by the police having called them dozens of times for everything from the seemingly minor--potholes--to the exaggerated--children walking down the street that he did not know. He would introduce himself to new arrivals in the neighborhood, handing out personalized business cards that suggested calling Zimmerman if there was trouble (as opposed to the police who may not arrive in enough time to be of immediate assistance).

Zimmerman was also known to hang out with police at local bars and other gathering spots; he participated in "ride along" programs; Zimmerman even tried to join a local police academy but did not graduate or matriculate. The portrait is clear: while Zimmerman was not a police officer he identified with them; Zimmerman also had fantasies of being a police officer even if he did not have the personal skills or temperament for the vocation.

On that evening, George Zimmerman saw Dale Hill, a teenager and a stranger to him walking down the street; subsequently, Zimmerman was immediately suspicious of this young person (and his right to be in the neighborhood). He imagined that Hill was walking "strangely," looking for houses to rob. In reality, Hill was simply walking home, terrified of the strange man in an unknown vehicle who was stalking him.

As was his habit, Zimmerman called the local police. As indicated by the recorded phone conversation, he was clearly agitated and excited. Zimmerman pursued Dale Hill, chasing him for several blocks. When clearly and directly instructed by the police dispatcher to remain in his vehicle and to stop following Mr. Hill, Zimmerman ignored these lawful directives. He exited the vehicle and pursued Dale on foot.

In the next few moments a series of events took place that remain in dispute, largely because one of the primary witnesses is now dead. Witnesses report that there was an argument between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Hill. At some point a fight ensued. Reports vary here. Some witnesses told police that Mr. Zimmerman was clearly the aggressor, attacking and beating Mr. Hill. Others report that Mr. Hill and Mr. Zimmerman were rolling around on the grass, fighting one another.

A new "mystery" witness reports that Hill struck Mr. Zimmerman first. The former's girlfriend, who heard the altercation on the phone, tells police that Zimmerman struck Hill first. What is not in dispute is that Mr. Zimmerman fired a lethal shot from less than 2 feet away, striking Dale in the chest. He would die moments later.

The coroner's report indicated that Hill had one small injury on his hand. These are marks which are not consistent with Zimmerman's claim that he was beaten ferociously about his head and face. Zimmerman also refused medical care at the scene. However, he would emerge a day or so later and go to his family doctor. There, a report was issued that suggested Zimmerman "likely" had a "broken" nose, although the evidence of the injuries were indeterminate. Zimmerman also looked relatively unscathed and uninjured in the footage taken by a surveillance camera the evening he was interviewed at police headquarters for shooting Hill.

The available audio recordings of the events that evening are a source of further controversy. The police dispatcher's recording clearly indicates that Zimmerman was flustered, angry, and more than a little exasperated. Expert voice analysts were unable to determine exactly what he said in one particularly provocative part of the recorded conversation where many in the public are certain Zimmerman used vicious slurs and other invective to describe Hill--a person he had never met.

The rage Zimmerman felt towards Dale, a stranger, was transparent as he clearly categorized him as one of those "fucking assholes who always get away." This was an allusion to the robberies in the neighborhood, and how Zimmerman took these as personal affronts to his authority and role and captain of the informal block watch.

Likewise, the experts are also split on who is screaming for mercy on the recording of a call made to the police by a neighbor and witness. One expert suggests that it is clearly the voice of an adolescent (as opposed to Zimmerman, an adult, some ten years older) terrified for his life and pleading with his attacker. Other experts suggest that there is too much noise and interference to make a determination either way. Hill's mother is certain that the voice is her son begging for his life. Zimmerman's father believes that the voice on the tape is that of his son.

Professional observers and experts in forensics agree that the investigation by the local police was neither thorough or proper. The local police were not skilled in dealing with homicides. They did not possess the expertise to either gather evidence properly, or to interview witnesses in a professional manner. Hill laid in the morgue for several days. The police neglected to contact his parents or procure a cell phone charger that would enable them to speak with the dead victim's personal contacts or kin. Zimmerman was not tested for drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps most problematically, witnesses reported being bullied by the investigating police officers. Apparently, when witnesses offered facts that were not in keeping with the police department's drive to favorably depict George Zimmerman as a victim, the detectives either ignored these details, or cajoled the witnesses into changing their testimony.

This improper gathering of evidence is further complicated by the fact that the detectives interviewing Zimmerman felt that he was lying, duplicitous, and should be charged with murder. For those watching the events of the investigation from afar, it is also worrisome that the investigating officers were overruled by more senior officials who may have been influenced by George Zimmerman's familial connections with local law enforcement.

Neither George Zimmerman or Dale Hill's lives are portraits of perfection. The latter was a teenager who had gotten into trouble at school on several occasions (but only for being late, and was described by teachers as "creative" and "smart") and was living with his father in an effort to instill some discipline. An adult, Zimmerman had been charged with domestic battery for striking his fiance. Zimmerman had also been in an altercation with a police officer. Perhaps because of his familial connections, he had successfully been able to avoid being formally charged and to take favorable plea deals that would eventually result in these charges being dropped and expunged from his record.

Nevertheless, there are several facts that are quite unfavorable to Zimmerman, and which could have a dire impact on his trial for second degree murder if the jury is made aware of them. He was described by neighbors as a bully and a bit obsessive in his self-appointed role as protector of the neighborhood.

Former coworkers describe Zimmerman as impulsive, angry, and as having anger management issues. One of these former associates (who worked with Zimmerman as a private security guard) paints a picture of an unprofessional person who was drunk with power.

The night he shot and killed Dale Hill, Zimmerman was carrying a gun in violation of block watch rules that forbid carrying a weapon. George Zimmerman was also in clear violation of the rules and procedures governing block watch groups which indicate that members are to observe and report only: pursuing suspects is a task exclusively for the police.

Both Zimmerman and Hill had foreign substances in their blood that evening. The toxicology report on Hill indicates that he had consumed marijuana several days earlier. The residual chemicals would not have influenced his behavior on that evening. Zimmerman was taking Adderall and Temazepam.

These drugs can impair judgment and cause paranoia, hallucinations, aggression, and violent impulses.


Ultimately, the Zimmerman's murder trial may come down to one phrase in the police report:


"The encounter between George Zimmerman and Dale Hill was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely, if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party's concern," the report says. "There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter."

While the public now has more information about what happened the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Dale Hill, one fact remains certain. On that Sunday evening, George Zimmerman only saw a "suspicious" person who he was determined to stop by any means necessary. Dale Hill only saw a strange man, one who had a gun, hunting him down.

It is up to the jury to decide what, if any, laws were broken.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whew you are really at a creative meltdown when you start penning such contrived constructs like this...of course 'brevity is the soul of wit'

Me thinks you need a hiatus from this site and mission you are on.... Just saying

Tom said...

Anon, Who are you kidding? What part of this is contrived???

CS said...

CDV,

Anonymous captures my feelings about the last few posts which too easily feed the culture wars, and seem to be just another side of the same coin. This post seems to be working closer to the stakes, the question of the mind's orientation to race, I wonder though about the racial make up of the respondents -- how did people of color respond to the applications? I think we need to know much more about what motivates our sensitivity to race, we need to explore ALL the symptoms.

CS

Anonymous said...

Both Grant Hill and George Hill are black, so "Dale Hill" does not sound stereotypically white to me. Try something like "Prescott Carrington III" instead.

CNu said...

Quoth Denmark Vesey:

Tracy Martin? The father?

To what extent was he responsible for his son's death?

You asking the wrong cat CNu.

You know me.

I consider Tracy Martin more responsible for his son's death than George Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

"Both Grant Hill and George Hill are black, so "Dale Hill" does not sound stereotypically white to me. Try something like "Prescott Carrington III" instead."

What he said.

freebones said...

My roommate is dating a girl named "Chantal" and before we met her we all assumed she was black. But she is white.

Interesting little piece you have here. I love how everyone needs to try to be a holier-than-thou asshat instead of just seeing this for what it is: an interesting little observation.

People are too quick to try to erase racial bias of this sort and call it pretentious. Just read my above colleagues' comment for the proof.

freebones said...

CNu:

I just read that post you linked to. I unequivocally denounce that man's rhetoric. If he wishes to be judged not by his appearance as a black man, then "convict-looking" needs to not be associated with neck tattoos and sagging pants. Society loves to say "oh racism is so wrong" but as soon as aesthetic choices enter the mix, it becomes okay to judge people for their appearance.

I have stretched earlobes, and am tattooed all over. I have a long bushy beard. I wear fitted jeans and t-shirts with hardcore bands on them.

And I am a research scientist at Princeton University. You can't judge books by their covers. If that man's boys want neck tattoos and saggy pants, so be it. Their actual CHARACTER and CONDUCT should be the basis for judgements on them. What a sad fellow. His spelling could use some work too.

CNu said...

I have stretched earlobes, and am tattooed all over. I have a long bushy beard. I wear fitted jeans and t-shirts with hardcore bands on them. And I am a research scientist at Princeton University. You can't judge books by their covers.

lol,

white privilege (private-law) in full effizi...., racism can be declared dead in America the very minute that black folk begin getting away with the profound levels of mediocrity and peculiarity that many whites have long felt entitled to take for granted.

until then, you better raise your young lions to be three times better than, three times smarter than, and three times more orthodox than the hyenas by whom they will always be surrounded...,

sledge said...

Prescott Carrington III? LOL! Too funny! I've never met anyone named Prescott Carrington. So I thought maybe it's because I hang around in the wrong circles.

So I looked it up in the Orlando phone book. Zip, nada, not one.

So then I did a search on Facebook. Nine million members. One, as in (1), Prescott Carrington. But you're right, he's white, a young guy from Povo Utah.

Anonymous said...

freebones,

Let me cosign your comments I'm a Black Professional who wears suits daily to work but to some people who are stained with the pathology of Negrophobia all that matters is my hue..

BTW I also reject CNu's white folks math equation for parenting Black children it indicts them with the shortcomings of others and more importantly I never indoctrinated my kids that it takes 3 of them to equal one white person!!!! WTF

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. You are very grumpy and a hater as of late. I think my point on Tyler Perry upset you. The Internet is a huge place. Feel free to move along. Funny, those can't do often coach...or in the internet complain the loudest but produce nothing of note regarding content or creativity. Remember, I am not interested in pleasing anyone but myself. Once you start dancing to please other people you forget why you got into it in the first place.

CS. The library is big. Jstor is your friend. Go do some research. I am not an oracle. I also try to be efficient.

@Anon. You missed the joke. One of our pop culture watchers will figure it out. Regardless, the name certainly is "more white" than Trayvon Martin.

@Free. I also think lots of folks are not familiar with any of this research and are quick to underestimate it. I don't know if that is laziness or by looking for the evil white man twisting his mustache in a conspiracy and wearing Klan robes makes them feel better ironically. Racial micro-aggressions have macro-level impacts.

@Sledge. That is funny. How many Dale Hills?

@Anon2. You better teach them as such. There are many black and brown youth laboring under the intoxicant that America is a racial democracy. They fall hard when the truth smacks them in the face.

sledge said...

CD said....
"How many Dale Hills?"

On Facebook after 11 pages of hitting "see more" Dale Hill I gave up. They seems to be an unlimited supply of Dale Hills.

Who knew?

Anonymous said...

CD

I go and leave as I so desire..stop it with the fragile me routine ... You have become such a wimp of late... Stop reading your clippings and listening to your echo chamber such behavior creates an inflated sense of nothingness

As you posted the Internet is a big place so get over me ... tee hee

Anonymous said...

Hater ... Really ...WTF I thought you hated that charge I forgot you have a special license to use it ... Hypocrite now run your lips over that word ...

Anonymous said...

Notice how long winded CD is when people get in his grille boy just can keep it short always running for cover such an insecure one that CD .... tee he

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. I do hope you are not Thrasher. That would be really sad if you are. He was by most accounts respectable in his comportment here and level of engagement. And yes, I know others would disagree.

If you are his supplicant you are doing your master a disservice. You should go back and sit on his knee a bit longer. I cannot blame you per se as the poor behavior of a child is more often than not a failing of the parent to teach them properly.

Anonymous said...

I would never try to be Mr. Thrasher unlike you and others in here he never has posted under an alias not is he a hypocrite and postures on the backs of poor people ..

I have been told many times that I must be a Thrasher student in part becuase he is respected and in part becuase he has been a great lecturer.

Your replies have been revealing you lack the maturity to handle dissent or objections to your narratives , you lack the capacity to accept your shortcomings. In summary I will continue to register my views as warranted including acknowledgement of your sound points

Get a grip CD I see slippage ... BTW I will mention this to Mr. Thrasher

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. You are fun! Did Thrasher make you eat sweat rice or something? Did he bury your drawers in the backyard and do some hoodoo on you so that you are beholden to him? What dark powers does he possess? Did he pick you up at a bus station and groom you like the perverts do? Had to ask.

His cult of personality sounds like Cobra Kai from the Karate Kid movies.

Mention what to Thrasher? Next time I am on Ed Schultz, Ring of Fire (this weekend by the way), or the BBC I will make sure that I perform up to Greg's standards.

Where has he been, I like him.

D. said...

@CDV

You missed the joke. One of our pop culture watchers will figure it out. Regardless, the name certainly is "more white" than Trayvon Martin.

Is this correct? Do I get a prize?

As an aside, I have to say that show has the ugliest animation and art I've ever seen. Makes me sick.

Tom said...

freebones,

I agree the world shouldn't work this way, but the look is going to count against you. Especially with folks who don't know you. Like your future father in law.

I was deeply into punk music but never much into the scene and never into the look at all. My choice of course.

Everybody, I'm not saying any of this stuff overrides race. I tend to believe in UBJ's equation, Race + gender + class + education + family connections + lots of other stuff that probably shouldn't matter. Oh, + competence too. Even that gets factored in sometimes.

chaunceydevega said...

@D. Give the man a no-prize. Another ghetto nerd joke.

King of the Hill was brilliant. One of my favorite observations about the series was the Democrat strategists should use Hank Hill as their target independent. If they can win him over, they can win the White House.

Anonymous said...

Freebones said:


...

And I am a research scientist at Princeton University. You can't judge books by their covers. If that man's boys want neck tattoos and saggy pants, so be it. Their actual CHARACTER and CONDUCT should be the basis for judgements on them. What a sad fellow. His spelling could use some work too.


Why not? Especially if weŕe talking about the paper book cover that the book can choose for itself? You have zero choice over what you are born as, but a great deal of choice over how you present yourself. If you decide to wear a long beard, stretched earlobes, and numerous tattoos all over your body, that is your choice, and your preference in how you present yourself. As your choice (given that it is made of what can reasonably be called "free will") reflects your character, if someone sees your choice of presentation, and walks away from it, it can be fairly said that they judged you on your character, and found it wanting.

The thing is, tattoos, body mods, and clothing aren't inherently bad or good, only in style with a current time period. In 100 years your style may be not only acceptable, but required business attire. Furthermore, people may have different reasons for doing the same thing: one person may burn a symbol to respectfully dispose of it, another may burn it to express their disdain of it.

On the one hand, we underestimate the fact that you can't judge every act (or anything else) properly by looking solely at that act. A handshake could be a handshake, or a f*ck you, depending on what happened before. On the other hand, I don't think that you are taking into account that we don't have an infinite amount of time to personally get to know everyone, so often times, we make assumptions based on what we see right in front of us at the moment. Someone who gets on the bus at night with saggy, dirty pants, a long beard, smelling of alcohol may in fact be a particle physics researcher, concert violinist who works too hard and too much to be concerned about their appearance or hygiene, but given the number of people with saggy, dirty pants, long beards, smelling of alcohol, who AREN'T particle physics researchers and the like, when it comes time to choose who I sit next to on the bus, I'm not betting on it. I doubt most people of any race would.

CNu said...

commonsense + truth = accept no substitutes!!!

Tom said...

freebones,

I just read that post you linked to. I unequivocally denounce that man's rhetoric. If he wishes to be judged not by his appearance as a black man, then "convict-looking" needs to not be associated with neck tattoos and sagging pants. Society loves to say "oh racism is so wrong" but as soon as aesthetic choices enter the mix, it becomes okay to judge people for their appearance.

Freebones, some more comment.

Some years back I would have savagely applied teeth to the behind of anybody who even argued with your comment (quotd above).

But a problem has grown, for me, with that kind of thinking: It's not a basis for action. In the end, I found I (and other right-thinking doctrine-based antiracists of all colors and backgrounds) were sitting around furiously agreeing with each other ... but our goals were not remotely achievable.

It became maddening. Even crack-brained Zimmerman's goals were actionable. But Trayvon Martin couldn't actually do anything about society's attitudes, and now he's been killed.

My violations of the commandments of doctrine-based antiracism are in direct response to things like Martin's death. Martin's girlfriend couldn't yell to him over the phone, "change society's attitudes! Quick!"

What could she have yelled that might have saved his life? To me the answer, however disturbing to good people who want to improve society, is an important part of the discussion.

freebones said...

@Anon

We all have a choice as to how we present ourselves. But that isn't the point. Are my tattoos and other things a valid reason to deny me a job with no public contact? Princeton didn't think so. And I am well-liked here. It seems they think I'm good at my job. People always say serial killers "were so nice and friendly and I never would have suspected them".

My future father-in-law? I'm not too concerned about him. I win people over with kindness and courtesy, not with oxford collars and khakis. I'd rather be discriminated against for my appearance than put on a false shell that I am unhappy with in order to lie to people about how I express myself.

I choose to get tattoos for the same reason you choose not to. I like the way it looks.

And as far as taking the methaphor literally: many great tomes of classic literature have extremely boring covers. Catcher in the Rye comes to mind immediately.

@Tom:
I respectfully disagree. It absolutely IS a basis for action. Should we just sit back and let outward appearance be used as a character barometer? Any argument I've heard for discriminating against an individual with chosen body modifications in the workplace could EASILY be used by a clever racist against black folks. And until I hear a real distinction, I will continue to be loud about this.

And just as another example, the leading research scientist in the world on the effects of atrazine pesticides on humans also has several rap albums to his name. And they are pretty good.

Tom said...

Freebones,

I'm all for it, believe me. We certainly shouldn't sit back. What's the action?

freebones said...

Tom,

Glad to hear it!

The action is the same action we use to fight all prejudice: speak up, educate, and refuse to tolerate it.

Trayvon couldn't change societies opinions quickly, but that doesn't mean we should put up with it.

Whenever my grandfather makes a statement about "some hoodlum with a bunch of tattoos" I always say "you mean like the hoodlum I am?" Simple things to make people think.

Anonymous said...

Freebones said:

We all have a choice as to how we present ourselves. But that isn't the point. Are my tattoos and other things a valid reason to deny me a job with no public contact? Princeton didn't think so. And I am well-liked here. It seems they think I'm good at my job. People always say serial killers "were so nice and friendly and I never would have suspected them".


I have to disagree, and say that it is the point. The Princeton example isn't a valid one: if you were hired based on what you could teach or research, then you were probably interviewed, and various documents of yours were studied, to see if you could perform as advertised. I assume that you had credentials such that Princeton decided that they could take closer than a brief look at you to see if you would be worth their while. I assume that it paid off. More power to everyone involved. That said, you can't say that just because you are an exception, that other observed instances of people conforming to the rule are invalid.



Whenever my grandfather makes a statement about "some hoodlum with a bunch of tattoos" I always say "you mean like the hoodlum I am?" Simple things to make people think.


I don't see what there is to think about here. How does you not being a hoodlum in Princeton change the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people milling around various streets, who are in fact tattoo wearing hoodlums? For that matter, how does Ted Bundy or any other serial killer being a "nice" guy, change the nature or concentration of tattoo wearing hoodlums? Just because one assumption tends to be incorrect, doesn't mean that another assumption cannot tend to be correct, especially when the information for incorrect assumptions (nice guys could never be serial killers) is less plentiful than the information for correct assumptions (many criminals and hoodlums have tattoos and dress a certain way).

Trayvon couldn't change societies opinions quickly, but that doesn't mean we should put up with it.

There's a flaw in this argument (if I understand it correctly) that the issue would have been solved if Zimmerman hadn't made an assumption, or if Trayvon had been able to change Zimmerman and society's opinion. The assumption wasn't the problem, it was what Zimmerman did with it that was the problem. You are free to make any kind of snap judgment that you like about anyone, even if it is detrimental to yourself (which I'm sure youŕe going to point out). Many people do make snap judgments about people, regardless of how acceptable it may be. I see no problem with assuming that someone walking down the street looking a certain way may not have my best interest in mind. No one has the right to take paranoia to the next level, and preemptively punish or sanction someone for what they think that person may be. It is my right to not associate with you or anyone else because of how you present yourself. It is not my right to deprive you or anyone else of life and liberty because of how you present yourself. Had Zimmerman went home, bolted all his doors and windows, and went to sleep with his gun under his pillow, thinking Trayvon was a crook, I wouldn't care less about this case. It's not a crime to lock your doors and close your windows because you think someone may be a crook. It was when Zimmerman decided that he knew so well that Trayvon was a crook that he took it upon himself to execute him, that he became scum. Zimmerman was wrong in the shooting, but I don see how his action makes the practice of assumption wrong, regardless of how incorrect Zimmerman was.

Tom said...

I'm guessing it's just totally impossible for the anomalous posters to pick some kind of a name?

CNu said...

That would be tactically inconsistent with their agendas Tom.

(notwithstanding the sheer absurdity of having blog commenting agendae...,)

sledge said...

Tom said...
"I'm guessing it's just totally impossible for the anomalous posters to pick some kind of a name?"

Yeah right? I think some of them like to remain anon so they can claim it wasn't them that made a post, it was one of the other dozen anons. It's probably part of an internal inferiority complex, emotionally fearful of and unable to handle being identified as wrong on a topic.

While true that most use an anon handle at least you can attribute ideas and posts to one person.

With anons it can be difficult to know which one person is making a post. They like it like that.

Anonymous said...

"I'm guessing it's just totally impossible for the anomalous posters to pick some kind of a name?"

"That would be tactically inconsistent with their agendas Tom."

Not safe with this puerile marauder around.

Tom said...

I'll puerile your behind, you cowardly anomaly.

Tom said...

Unless you're Nomad, who I doubt would post anomalously, but just in case.

ellemarie said...

Interesting thought experiment. Unfortunately, I tend to be awful at these, as it’s difficult for me to unsee/ unhear/ unknow things. I know the basics of the Trayvon Martin case (and continue to learn more), so I have a hard time trying to imagine what my initial reaction would have been had I encountered the story without knowledge of each person's racial identity or what either looked like. Something your reworking did make me think about was what if “Dale Hill” really did exist and was in fact a white male? This has already been discussed in terms of the actual case, of course, and for a time at least got the nation thinking about the history of discriminatory treatment of black people within/by the criminal justice system. What I’m curious about, assuming the story received as much media coverage as the Trayvon Martin story has, is how would our current media environment deal with issues of race/ethnicity? Would it? Would Zimmerman become simply “Hispanic” (with all of the unfortunate negative associations) rather than “White Hispanic” (with all of the confusion surrounding that term)? Would his defenders (if he had any) be so overwhelmingly conservative as they are now? My cynical side has me thinking that these questions jump the gun by presuming that the Sanford PD would have been so negligent with a white “Dale Hill.” They probably do, but in light of the ongoing (recently updated) narrative about the growth of the country’s “Hispanic” population, I’m curious how a discussion of race would play out with a white victim.

btw, I put “Hispanic” in quotes because it is such a lazy, sloppy, flattening racial/ethnic category.

Anonymous said...

I have no intentions of assigning a name to my posts this site is full of intellectual cowards even the host employs an alias

When in Rome . ...

Anonymous said...

Tom, let the puerile asshole defend himself.

Anonymous said...

I'm not nomad, but,
if I were, I'd probably start posting anonymously after what the unscrupulous creep CNut perpetrated. Don't let his bad habits rub off on you. Remember, an educated fool is lethal, to quote Thrasher's protege.

CNu said...

Defend myself?

rotflmbao...,

Bursting fragile jiggaboo psychological bubbles keeps my fingernails clean and glossy.

CNu said...

Ellemarie,

Did this story appear on either the national or your local news radar?

Tom said...

Re the story linked by CNu. It's a good story for comparison, esp the multiple witness accounts, which, you gotta read them all.

From my perspective, Whitehead did all he could to get himself shot. Risky, risky behavior. Did he deserve to die for it? No. Can you go around acting like that and not get shot? Maybe, maybe not.

Sounds to me like Arnold acted within what police officers call "self defense." (That may be my pro-police orientation talking.) But for sure Whitehead (a) deserved to live, and (b) chose to roll the dice.

Am I supposed to lie?

Steven Augustine said...

Is it plausible to assume (or give equal credence to the hypothetical) that the person *with the gun* was screaming for help? Do people with guns usually plead for their lives or otherwise scream for assistance when dealing with unarmed "antagonists"? Is America now officially totally Non Compos Mentis or still hovering at the 98% mark...?

Steven Augustine said...

Re: the pseudo-rational Lookism rearing its ugly little head in this thread: that's the Bourgie-Wahzee for you. I'll cop to being a Smellist but I have no idea about what a person will say/ do/ or be worth by merely looking at their Looks. Certainly not at the level of sartorial style or facial hardware. Extreme facial expressions and/or threatening gestures are closer to being fair game for analysis but still: you never know. Visible weaponry as a fashion statement narrows it down somewhat...

Freebones writes with unsurpassed wisdom on this. Racism is a subset of Lookism. Too many people pretend to be down on the former while fully supporting the latter.

Fuck that.

CNu said...

Women look at men every day and on the basis of a sideways glance are fully capable of ascertaining viability.

The subliminal immuno-histological smellism only kicks in after a prospect passes lookist muster.

Everything else is self-comforting or self-deluding conversation.

Steven Augustine said...

"Women look at men every day and on the basis of a sideways glance are fully capable of ascertaining viability."

Easily disproved. Do I need to cite examples of the unhappily married...? A highly apt metaphor is what you've chosen, in fact! But in support of *my* argument, I think.

Tom said...

It doesn't work, but they still do it. Just pretending really hard that it's going to go away isn't an effective strategy.

I feel like this whole conversation is skittering sideways.

Steven Augustine said...

"It doesn't work, but they still do it. Just pretending really hard that it's going to go away isn't an effective strategy."

So, logically speaking, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn't an "effective strategy" because people continued to be racist anyway...?

The "Black name" taint-meme is just Audio-Lookism, no? Strikes me as a relevant branch of the conversation.

Steven Augustine said...

Hey: I'm not even hoping for charismatically wild-eyed revolutionaries (under 30) anymore, but where is this epidemic of lamely accommodationist, quasi-"realpolitik" positions on just about every controversial socio/economic outrage in the "news" coming from?

I'm reminded of the idiotic tsunami of "well you don't back-talk a cop" comments after HLG (whose psycho-politics are questionable but that's another thread) was boyed in his own home by that centurion a while back.

So now we're floating subliminal arguments that the hoodie executed the kid; that it was suicide-by-hoodie? He wasn't even wearing an uppity Afro! Or a codpiece!

When did everyone start auditioning for tenure with the Kapo Class?

That One Anon... said...

Steven Augustine said:

Re: the pseudo-rational Lookism rearing its ugly little head in this thread: that's the Bourgie-Wahzee for you. I'll cop to being a Smellist but I have no idea about what a person will say/ do/ or be worth by merely looking at their Looks. Certainly not at the level of sartorial style or facial hardware. Extreme facial expressions and/or threatening gestures are closer to being fair game for analysis but still: you never know. Visible weaponry as a fashion statement narrows it down somewhat...

Freebones writes with unsurpassed wisdom on this. Racism is a subset of Lookism. Too many people pretend to be down on the former while fully supporting the latter.

Fuck that.


This is flat out hypocrisy. I (and I assume from your posts others) are wrong for making a best guess judgment of who to associate with, based on skin markings and jewelry. You state this, and then imply that "it's ok" if the judging criteria is visible weaponry as jewelry, or extreme facial expressions. What is the difference? There are people who have weapons both as fashion statements and as tools, who are decent people, and don't harm anyone. There are people who make extreme facial expressions simply because they can't help themselves due to a disorder of some kind. But, it's OK for you to judge a person based on those arguably superficial characteristics. Anyone else does it, and they're a bougie closet racist.

Let's imagine this situation for a moment: you're walking home at dusk, in a rural county that is known for White on Black violence. As youŕe walking, suddenly, you see three big, muscular, bald shaven White men, walk into the street toward you. They're wearing black with red suspenders, and jewlery that clearly displays Germanic symbols, such as falcons and the German cross. They have various tattoos all over their upper arms, among them being swastikas, and flames. Two of them are carrying tire irons.

Now, if anyone here who is not White says that upon the sight of this, they wouldn't at least grit their teeth in preparation or expectation for an altercation or flight, I say they are a liar. No one in their right mind would say "it's perfectly alright to go up to those nice men...until they verbally tell you what they're going to do to you." Now, in fact these men may be German Buddhists who love their country, and Buddhism, and however mistakenly, decide to show it off in the above manner, while walking to their car that got two flats on a sidestreet that you walked by. Flat out though, it isn't likely, and given the visual information that you are receiving from them, it's a safe bet to act to avoid or defend yourself against these people if possible: they made choices to wear the things they wear, and have the tattoos they have, While there may be people who make those choices for benign reasons, most people who make those choices do not, therefore it is reasonable to assume that the people you see before you do not have benign intentions.

If that makes me a racist, then I guess I am a racist.

Anonymous said...

@Tom
See. I told you.

"CNu said...
Defend myself?

rotflmbao...,

Bursting fragile jiggaboo psychological bubbles keeps my fingernails clean and glossy."

I wonder how he knew I was referring to him? Oh, yeah: puerile and asshole. Self recognition.

Steven Augustine said...

"You state this, and then imply that "it's ok" if the judging criteria is visible weaponry as jewelry, or extreme facial expressions."

A) re-read my post with a sense of humor and *then* respond.... it's so much less work for me. Please?

B) That's a spectacularly sophist argument you've got there, whether or not I was joking. "Lookism" isn't "Opticalism", Dude.

Thought experiment: you see a piano falling from the top of a building toward the very spot you're standing on. Do you side-step or wait for confirmation?

Not quite the same as pre-judging a Federal Judge in a do-rag.

Steven Augustine said...

Oh and: please note that you compared this complex pattern of deliberately threatening affectations...

"As youŕe walking, suddenly, you see three big, muscular, bald shaven White men, walk into the street toward you. They're wearing black with red suspenders, and jewlery that clearly displays Germanic symbols, such as falcons and the German cross. They have various tattoos all over their upper arms, among them being swastikas, and flames. Two of them are carrying tire irons."

... to a kid who was wearing a hoodie. What you're unintentionally communicating is the fact that for *you*, the kids's blackness, in and of itself, was as full of threatening signifiers as skinheads in total battle regalia.

See: the blackness is not optional; the hoodie is worn by people of every stripe and temperament. Whereas the Nazi regalia is a deliberate symbol of impending harm to non "Aryans".

Racist, heal thyself. Or, alternately: sophomore, grow up.

Steven Augustine said...

erratum: "kid's"

Tom said...

I like this guy.

That One Anon... said...

Steven Augustine said:

See: the blackness is not optional; the hoodie is worn by people of every stripe and temperament. Whereas the Nazi regalia is a deliberate symbol of impending harm to non "Aryans".


The swastika is used by numerous cultures, and I'm sure that there are in fact White people who are wearing swastikas who are not Nazi's.

Regardless, you just proved my point, that visual information based on chosen apparel and attire does influence decisions, even if you do not know for certain what the intentions of the person with the apparel actually are.

Your claim of "humor" in your previous post doesn't wash, especially with this one. I did not make a comparison between Trayvon Martin, and the White people in my previous example. However, you come out and explicitly say "White People wearing this stuff are ready for war." So, if a Black person, heavily tatted, wears all red, from head to toe, with sagging pants, gold jewlery, and the like, I'm a racist for assuming he's a Blood (especially if he is in an area of town with heavy gang activity), but it's only logical to conclude from looking at the markings on a White man that he's a Nazi. I would think that you yourself would be demonstrating what is one of the basic definitions of racism: something is OK for you to apply to other people because of what they are and you are, but it's wrong for them or anyone else.

Call my argument sophistic all you want, call me racist all you want, I don't need to a) put words in people's mouths or b) start name calling in order to cover up a poorly thought out, hypocritical argument.

Tom said...

So, logically speaking, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn't an "effective strategy" because people continued to be racist anyway...?

No! The CRA of '64 was an effective strategy because it was enforced by the federal freaking government, which had the FBI and armed soldiers at its disposal.

Saying on blogs that things should really really be different, though, that is an ineffective strategy.

Steven Augustine said...

"Call my argument sophistic all you want, call me racist all you want..."

Thanks. May I consider you rather dim, as well?

Steven Augustine said...

@Tom: don't worry, I won't be hanging around! laugh. Otherwise-worthy threads/ sites like this always attract too many racists who aren't bright enough to detect the points whizzing over their tired old tit-for-tatty heads (which are full of wounded nostalgia over a loss of largely imaginary privilege), sadly.

Not enough hours in the day.

That One Anon... said...

Thanks. May I consider you rather dim, as well?

From someone as hypocritical, biased, and incapable of making or refuting a point as you, sure, go ahead. You can't really ever win an internet debate, but you can tell how right you are by the quality of the people you piss off, and the quality of their discussion. Given what I've read from you, not only do I see no reason to change my policy of trusting my eyes within reason, but given the lengths you've gone to to portray anyone who uses common sense as a racist, and in support of homicide, I will rely on it more heavily. As unpopular as it may sound, and anti PC as it is, when it comes to people, you often CAN judge a book by it's cover.

TLDR: To be damned by the devil is to be truly blessed.

Steven Augustine said...

"Saying on blogs that things should really really be different, though, that is an ineffective strategy."

No, I'm saying that if we all chip in, things really *will* be different... it's by increments... always by increments... until the crystal suddenly forms. Good shit is sometimes contagious, man.

Steven Augustine said...

PS @Tom: a comment on a blog literally changed my life. Commenting can be powerful. The people (yo, Sunstein!) who are working day and night to take this miraculous communications tool out of Serfy (and Radical Serfy) hands want us to believe otherwise. Don't you buy it. It all starts with thoughts, then with talk, which leads to deeds...

Steven Augustine said...

Anyway: it's almost 1:30 am over here. I enjoyed chatting with you, Tom! I'm signing off...

Tom said...

Steven,

I'm not proposing people stop with the talk. It just gets maddening to think the talk's all there's going to be, that's all.

& I wasn't being sarcastic, I like yer style.

CNu said...

Do I need to cite examples of the unhappily married

lol, what in the world made you imagine I was referring to marriage?

CNu said...

That One Anon is truth.

freebones said...

Anon,

You are a coward, but I'll bite. The point is that you can't judge based on looks. And you seem to disagree with that. That's really the whole summation.

you think prejudice based on appearance is ok

that's it. that's what you are saying. you are saying it's ok.

just wanted to clear that up for everyone. anon supports judging on appearance and makes no distinction about what he means.

if i see those nazi dudes, sure i turn around and walk away, and you are free to walk away from me as much as you want. i can understand that. that's playing it safe. (also visible weapons designed solely to cause harm are different than tattoos and i think we both know that) i didn't want to interact with your asshole personality anyway.

what i can't understand is when i come in actively seek employment, or when i come home with your daughter to meet you and shake your hand and am polite and respectful, and you still think i'm some threat because i have tattoos or whatever. it's bullshit and you know it.

it's no different than assuming all white-collar businessmen are embezzling criminals. i see a guy with a suit and i don't trust him with my money? absurd, right? no less absurd than your small-minded lookism.

get a clue, you grumpy old lump.

Anonymous said...

"if i see those nazi dudes, sure i turn around and walk away"
And so would the typical white person in their right mind. The comparison of this to a black guy in a hoodie is ridiculous.
The problem is that some whites have an unreasonable fear of black people. I have had such unreasonable reactions from whites many times. And I don't have tats or even saggy pants.

freebones said...

dude, new anon, did you read anything anyone wrote besides that sentence.

srsly bro.

That One Anon... said...

OK, to clarify some things here, I posted replies #23 and #29, which the blog owner should be able to verify by checking IP's. Basically the same things I said later on under That One Anon.

Anon,

You are a coward, but I'll bite. The point is that you can't judge based on looks. And you seem to disagree with that. That's really the whole summation.

you think prejudice based on appearance is ok

that's it. that's what you are saying. you are saying it's ok.



Yes, I think prejudice based on appearances that you choose is OK, for reasons that I explained earlier.




just wanted to clear that up for everyone. anon supports judging on appearance and makes no distinction about what he means.


Since I didn't put That One Anon before the posts where I explicitly made a distinction between appearance by choice, and appearance you are born with, I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this. However, now we know, I support judging on appearances that you choose.


if i see those nazi dudes, sure i turn around and walk away, and you are free to walk away from me as much as you want. i can understand that. that's playing it safe. (also visible weapons designed solely to cause harm are different than tattoos and i think we both know that) i didn't want to interact with your asshole personality anyway.

what i can't understand is when i come in actively seek employment, or when i come home with your daughter to meet you and shake your hand and am polite and respectful, and you still think i'm some threat because i have tattoos or whatever. it's bullshit and you know it.

That One Anon... said...

Besides the fact that in this situation, it's my adult daughter's choice who she deals with, and not mine, and unless I have valid proof that you are about to/have committed a crime, have hurt people, or are otherwise scum, I am not going to jump in the way of that. That said, every man has the right to not be sold on the man courting his daughter for any reason, and regardless of how respectful and polite a man is to his girlfriend's family, I'd be surprised if any father's attitude toward said man ever gets warmer than "lets see how this plays out before making a final judgment" on the first meeting. Even if he says otherwise in a positive manner.

Regarding the employment, I already explained that one too, but to clarify: if you're being employed for your ability to attract people to a product I have, then unless you can demonstrate to me that you can attract people to said product despite your appearance, then yeah, my eyes take precedence. If you are explicitly being hired for your intelligence or technical knowledge, then I don't care if you have 4 eyes, wings, and 3 legs, if you pass the test you have the job.




it's no different than assuming all white-collar businessmen are embezzling criminals. i see a guy with a suit and i don't trust him with my money? absurd, right? no less absurd than your small-minded lookism.


No, it isn't any different. And it isn't absurd! You think ALL of my money is in the bank? Given that it seems like every year, we're hearing stories of rich White men on Wall Street embezzling hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars? JP Morgan just lost 2 billion, have no idea where it went (yeah right). I wouldn't blame you for saying "I have a lot of money, and I want it to grow for me, however, I don't trust this spit shined young White lad in front of me in the 3 piece suit and Armani tie, because I see so many of him involved in these thefts. The company seems sound, and what he is saying seems to add up, but just in case, I'm going to hold back some of my money/invest it elsewhere, and see what this guy does with what I give him. If, after some time, he proves that he is responsible with my money, then I will trust him with more of my money, and/or have more implicit trust in the things that he says." Why would I have a problem with that?

That One Anon... said...

At this point, I could modify my point by saying that prejudgment isn't always right or accurate; that education on these things makes one a better prejudge of character (example: learning to identify tattoos and their meanings, so as to be able to tell the difference between one that means "spiritual pride", and one that means "gang killer", and not assume that all tattoos are equal); that while visual judgments on people can be reliable, that one should, when possible, get other verification of a person's character, and that actions people do are stronger evidence than how they look, to the point where the latter should be disregarded once the former is obtained. However, I'm not. I can see it's a waste. I took the viewpoint that judging someone based on looks that they choose is a manner of judging a person based on their character, and isn't entirely ineffective. Apparently, this makes me a bigot, in support of homicide, a coward,


get a clue, you grumpy old lump.

oh, and that. I'm not even going to be mad though, because this is one of those things that has enlightened me. You have no idea what you are talking about on this, Tom has no idea what he is talking about on this, Steven has no idea what he is talking about on this: anyone who has spent 10 minutes in a ghetto would know the value of what I'm speaking of. Real shit: most people who dress like coons, and present themselves as coons, act like coons. Most people who act like coons, are coons. Insert any racial slur you like there, I don't care. Occassionally, really good people wind up getting lumped into groups, because they looked the wrong way, in the wrong area, at the wrong time. It sucks, but I'm not going to lose sleep worrying about the few good people who I might have met that I didn't due to me dismissing them over their attire. To put it another way: I'm not getting mugged, beaten, robbed out of house and home, and worse in the name of dealing with people who are visibly pieces of shit, in order to find those handful of people who are not pieces of shit, but just look like it. I don't care what their race is. I don't care what their sex is...

That One Anon... said...

Not fucking around with people who look like shit kept me out of trouble in the ghetto, it kept me out of trouble in school, it helped me survive childhood in a family that was ravaged by drugs and crime. The people here claiming that using visual observations on chosen attire and apparel is akin to racism, and that people just do it because they're "evil", clearly have about as much understanding about the situation as a random character in a Captain Planet episode has of pollution - Smog doesn't come from the "pollutinator", and everyone who is polluting isn't doing it because they have a boner for killing fish in the ocean.

Flat out, my primary goal when dealing with someone I just met is my self preservation, not respecting their right to be judged fairly. I expect that it is most people's primary goal in that situation as well. I don't pussyfoot or bullshit about it: if the water doesn't smell right, I don't go near it. If you don't think the water smells right on my end, don't bother, I don't care, I don't think it's evil, wrong, malicious, or any of that. It's you looking out for you based on the evidence that you have, which is what you're supposed to do. But this shit where, you can have your reasons why you cross the street for people, but if anyone else does it, they're bigots, that's horseshit, plain and simple. Morons going on about how I'm arguing because of a loss of privlige, and fear of a Black Hat and all of that shit. Look, let me clue you in: I can't particularly say that Black people are my favorite people, but let me let you in on a little secret - it isn't because I'm a "privliged White" afraid of losing my superiority. Let me let you in on another little secret - it isn't because I'm Any Solid Non-White Color Other Than Black either. I'm done arguing on this, I've seen enough here to realize that there's far less intellectual discourse going on here than is advertised, and this is an echo chamber, where what is being echoed isn't necessarily logical or reasonable. There's another argument to be had here about how Black people are far more dangerous to Black people than the majority of White people, but I'm not having it.

PS: Federal Judges are lower on the scale of crookedness than Gangbangers - a black robe disrespects the do-rag, not the other way around.

chaunceydevega said...

@All. I have been distracted elsewhere. Can someone please give me the bullet points on exactly what folks are going to and fro about?

@One anon. Trust me WARN isn't an echo chamber. Some things may reverberate, and as a rule I don't censor comments, but each convo has its own rhythm. This isn't an amen chorus either--see how often people get upset at me. Thanks for chiming in. Don't go away just yet.

freebones said...

that one anon:

the fact that you refer to places as a "ghetto" is transparent enough, but i question how you know where i live. again, you think you know all about the world, but you don't know what you don't know.

i may or may not be done here, because you clearly believe you are the only one with a correct worldview. and that's a sign of mental illness.

freebones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Augustine said...

We won't even get into the fact that he prefers that delicate pejorative "coon" when any one of a dozen race-neutral epithets would have been the obvious choice for any psycho-sexual profile other than that of the classic spittle-flecking niggra-haytuh.

PS Anyway, "that one anon", I'm curious: how's the defense shaping up? Is it true what I heard...? That it was, in fact, a botched robbery because you were feenin for some Skittles at the time...?