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Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on Obama, Race, and Moral Equivalency:

As I was webcrawling yesterday, I had the great misfortune of running across this article by Uzodinma Iweala. This brought to mind several different thoughts, perhaps the most troubling of which was an ever-increasing tendency towards morally equating non-equal acts. To wit, I was bothered by the author's choice to equate by implication the Jena Six incident and the Duke Lacrosse Frame. Any commonalities the two incidents share are, at most, superficial and coincidental. In the Jena Six case, you have six defendants asserting an affirmative defense for an assault that nobody disputes actually took place. I won't go deeper into that except to say that I feel I was wrong in my earlier hell-raising regarding that issue. I owe the town of Jena, Louisiana, an apology for impugning the character of that town based on the bad behavior of a few young men and the overzealousness of a small-town prosecutor. I stand by my assertion that the prosecutor in this case was a bit excessive in the penalties he sought for the six defendants. However, the validity of the defendants' affirmative defense is a matter for the courts to decide. No, a more direct parallel to the Duke Lacrosse Frame is the case of Alan Gell, a man who served nine years on death row because of exculpatory evidence being withheld by truly rogue prosecutors. As it turned out, Mr. Gell had actually been out of state or in jail for stealing a car at the actual time of the murder. I will not speak for the character of Mr. Gell, but no one deserves to have his life threatened by the state for a crime he not only did not commit, but could not have physically committed. Similarly, in the Duke Lacrosse Frame, you have a (falsely) accusing witness who alleged assault only after being referred for a psychiatric evaluation and whose story had holes as deep and long as Valles Marineris on Mars, a fact obvious in the weeks before DNA evidence cleared all of the lacrosse players. In Jena, you have an overzealous prosecutor who, frankly, should have known better, but was prosecuting what all evidence supported as being a real crime. In the Duke Lacrosse and Alan Gell frames, you have gross prosecutorial misconduct and the railroading of demonstrably innocent men. This bothers me, and it should bother you.

I am further disturbed by this article's thinly-veiled assertion that Caucasians are inherently incapable of overcoming stereotypes. Before I continue further, I admit that I view Senator Obama as a candidate, not a black candidate, nor a candidate from Illinois, but a candidate I respect as a man and as a future President of the United States of America. Furthermore, I view Oprah Winfrey as a woman who has translated her particular brand of misandry and marketing skills into a truly formidable net worth. The author's assertion seems to be that by referring to Senator Obama as a "candidate", and not a "black candidate", Caucasian supporters of the junior Senator from Illinois are expressing a deep, hidden racial bias. In the end, I was only able to conclude the obvious from her article, namely, that racism is not a problem restricted to Caucasians, but rather, crosses all racial, gender, and socioecomonic strata. She equated the Jena Six case with the Duke Lacrosse frame, and that was wrong.

With this being the week of the celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, I will share a summation of an aspect of my childhood. I furthermore cite Dr. King's most famous speech. From a time before I even have clear memory, I have lived his dream. As a child, my family was friends with a nice African-American couple. I played with their kids, and thought nothing of it, and I still think nothing of it. Well, that's not entirely true; I marvel at how we were able to get anything done dealing with the horror that was the clothing of the early 1980s *shudders*. Times changed, and that friendship ended as friendships sometimes do. Perhaps my parents grew apart from them, or maybe they moved as a result of some job or another. It's been so long that frankly, I can't remember. This was common throughout my childhood, and later, as a teenager, I still attended church with people of other races, and again, I thought nothing of it, because that was how I was raised. I never saw people of other races as being somehow "other", because I had never been taught to see them as being "other", or at least no more or less "other" than anyone else. I was taught, probably from a time before I could even talk, by my parents to judge people based on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. Looking back on that now, I view that as perhaps the greatest gift I was ever given by my father, and that I have ever been given by my mother. So when I say that I view Senator Obama as a "candidate", or that I am impressed with his oratory skills, I say that not because I view him as different from some nebulous stereotype. I say that because I view him as different and better than the rest of the Democratic Party field, and because I find him a truly remarkable man. I say that because of my deep respect for him as a human being, not as a representative of one race or another. Finally, I say that because I view him as the best candidate of EITHER party to become the next President of the United States of America!

Enjoy this blast from the past.


Lizzy said...

That was a wonderful post. Thank you.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Thanks. I meant every word of it, to the very depths of my soul.

Candace said...

"The author's assertion seems to be that by referring to Senator Obama as a "candidate", and not a "black candidate", Caucasian supporters of the junior Senator from Illinois are expressing a deep, hidden racial bias."

Oh please.

I couldn't access the article without registering, but I get the gist of it from your description. The author is the one with the racial issues, obvy.

Great post.