tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I was born in the United States. I am a US citizen. I'm a first-generation American and a child of refugees.

My mother was born in Indonesia; so were her parents and grandparents. Her father's grandparents were refugees; her great-grandfather fought in the Napoleonic Wars and had to get the fuck out of Europe after all of that went down. That part of the story is a bit sordid, not that the rest of it isn't. My mother was three when Japan invaded Indonesia in 1942. I'm not sure exactly what happened to her over the next ten years (she talked about it when I was growing up, but always in a fragmented and fractured kind of way), but I know most if not all of the Dutch population in Indonesia was sent to prison camps or placed under house arrest by the invading forces.

They survived that (somehow), and shortly after Indonesia became independent in 1949, my mother, who was a teenager by then, and her family moved to Amsterdam; a place neither her nor her siblings nor her parents had ever seen before, as far as I know. Along with more or less everybody else of European descent in Indonesia. That was about 300,000 refugees, most of whom were of mixed European and Asian ancestry -- including my mother, though she's white-passing, as am I. I don't know much about her mother's family, except that her mother's father was of European descent and her mother's mother was of Asian descent. They were Indos, a word I didn't learn until I was an adult; my mother taught me that we were "Indonesian Dutch."

Out of curiosity, I ordered a copy of her mother's (my grandmother's) death certificate; she died before I was born, in Australia. Australian death certificates have a space for the deceased's parents' names. Her mother's name is listed as "unknown", although her son (my uncle, who I've never met) reported her death and he presumably knew what it was. There's a whole complicated story here involving racism, xenophobia, colonialism, interracial marriage coexisting with racism (because guess what, anti-racism is not sexually transmitted), co-optation of nationalist movements, and revolution that I won't pretend to know more than the beginning of.

"Nine tenths of the so-called Europeans are the offspring of whites married to native women. These mixed people are called Indo-Europeans… They have formed the backbone of officialdom. In general they feel the same loyalty to the Netherlands as do the white Dutch. They have full rights as Dutch citizens and they are Christians and follow Dutch customs. This group has suffered more than any other during the Japanese occupation.” -- Official US Army publication, 1944 (quoted on Wikipedia)

Those 300,000 refugees of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent? They weren't welcome in the Netherlands. Where else were they going to go? They couldn't go home.

Short story long, my mother ended up in the US, two of her brothers went to Australia (where I've never been, nor have I met either of them), and her other brother stayed in the Netherlands (I met him once). Except for a second cousin, the rest of her extended family, other than me, remains in Europe and Australia.

My mother was single when she conceived me with an anonymous donor. Thanks to the magic of 23andMe, and the magic of the genetic bottlenecks, I learned when I was an adult that my other biological parent (I hate that phrase, by the way, but I also don't have a second "non-biological" parent) was likely of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The history of how Ashkenazi Jews ended up in the US is better known.

I'm still not sure how much personal meaning to read into genetic material that didn't bring a familial or cultural component to my life, but I know what meaning the Nazis would have read into that genetic material if I had lived during World War II in Europe: from their point of view, I would have been Jewish enough to be the enemy. So if I choose to think this way, I'm descended from refugees on both sides, in a deep and historically complicated way on both sides, one side that survived multiple genocides and another that survived multiple violent regime changes. Both sides spent time in prison camps, or internment camps, or concentration camps because of their ethnicity (literally on my mother's side; maybe literally on the other side too, or maybe there was just a blood relation to people who did) and because of invading governments with political agendas that required ethnicity-based punishment. This is not to equate the Japanese treatment of Indonesian-Dutch folks with the German treatment of Jews; same war, different events, different reasons, although Google has quite a long list of possibilities for autocompleting "Japanese invasion of".

We know that Japan imprisoned 300,000 Dutch citizens living in Indonesia, we know that no one stopped them, and we know that most of those Dutch citizens, including my family, were people descended from both Asians and Europeans. Indos were loyal to the Dutch, so to the invading Japanese army, they were European and therefore the enemy. But that loyalty was not reciprocated: Dutch folks in the Netherlands saw Indos as Asian, and therefore as second-class.

Maybe that kind of double bind is why so many of us who are descended from mixed-race people are so acutely aware of the contradictions of racism. We can never be fully loyal to our more privileged ancestors, because we know what they think of us.

Growing up, I never felt like an American. My mother spoke two languages that weren't English, and people constantly asked her where her accent was from. Now that I'm grown, I know that there is no one more American than me, except for indigenous people, Black people brought to the US by slave merchants, and Chicanos/Chicanas. The reason why us refugees and children of refugees are so vocal right now is simple: we're living proof of the best things America aspires to, and know the human cost of the worst things America has always done up till now and is currently intensifying. Listen to us.

"Remember what I told you,
if they hated me, they will hate you."

-- Sinéad O'Connor
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Language affects thought, and part of why science isn't objective is that communicating scientific knowledge relies on language, which is always imprecise and governed by politics and culture.

In "The Egg and the Sperm", Emily Martin wrote about how the language used to describe human reproduction distorted the truth. Scientists, mostly cis men, were biased towards seeing sperm as active penetrators of the passive egg. In fact, as Martin detailed, eggs do a lot of active work to reject weak sperm and entice strong sperm. (Of course, even the metaphor of "weak" or "strong" sperm reflects socially mediated beliefs.)

Another example from reproduction is the misunderstanding of the biological function of menstruation that also arose from sociopolitical biases about gender. In a 2012 journal article, Emera, Romero and Wagner posited that the function of menstruation has been misunderstood due to sexist beliefs that bodies coded as female are intrinsically nurturing: the endometrial lining was previously construed as the uterus creating a nurturing environment for a potential embryo, where in fact, it might be more accurate to view it as a hostile environment that only the strongest embryos can survive (there's that "strong/weak" political language again.) I'm not qualified to assess on the accuracy of Emera et al.'s idea, but I am qualified to observe that assessing its validity has been so far hindered by the misapplication of gender stereotypes to biology.

Yet another example is that of same-sex sexual behavior in non-human animals; Bruce Bagemihl's book Biological Exuberance details the history of (again, mostly heterosexual cis male) scientists getting itgrievously wrong about the nature and function of sexual behavior. It would be funny if it wasn't so harmful. Just one example is the publication of a paper, in 1981, entitled "Abnormal Sexual Behavior of Confined Female Hemichienus auritus syriacus [Long-eared Hedgehogs]". It's not objective, rational, or scientific to label hedgehog sex as "abnormal" -- rather, it reflects social and political biases. And in that case (and many similar cases), politics kept scientists from understanding animal behavior.

In all of these cases, bad metaphors kept us from seeing the truth. We used these metaphors not because they helped us understand reality, but because they were lazily borrowed from the society as it was at the time and its prejudices. This is why scientific research can never be fully understood outside the context of the people who produced it and the culture they lived in.

Master/Slave: a Case Study

In computer science and electrical engineering, the term "master/slave" has been used in a variety of loosely related ways. A representative example is that of distributed databases: if you want to implement a database system that can scale up to handling a lot of queries, it might occur to you to put many servers around the world that have copies of the same data, instead of relying on just one server (which could fail, or could become slow if a lot of people start querying it all at once) in one physical location. But then how do you make sure that the data on all of the servers are consistent? Imagine two different whiteboards, one in the computer science building at Berkeley and one in the computer science building at MIT: there's no reason to assume that whatever is written on the two whiteboards is going to be the same unless people adopt a mechanism for communicating with each other so that one whiteboard gets updated every time the other does. In the context of databases, one mechanism for consistency is the "master/slave" paradigm: one copy of the database gets designated as the authoritative one, and all the other copies -- "slaves" -- continuously ask the master for updates that they apply to themselves (or alternately, the master publishes changes to the slaves -- that's an implementation detail).

A lot of the historical background behind the use of "master/slave" in a technical context already got covered by Ron Eglash in his 2007 article "Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature". Unfortunately, you won't be able to read the article (easily) unless you have access to JSTOR. Eglash examined early uses of "master/slave" terminology carefully and pointed out that "master/slave" entered common use in engineering long after the abolition of slavery in the US. Thus it can't be defended as "a product of its time." He also points out that "master/slave" is also an inaccurate metaphor in many of the technical contexts where it's used: for example, for a system with multiple hard drives where the "master" and "slave" drives merely occupy different places in the boot sequence, rather than having a control or power relationship.

But I think the most interesting point Eglash makes is about the difference between power as embodied in mechanical systems versus electrical systems:

A second issue, closely related, is the difference that electrical signals make. Consider what it meant to drive a car before power steering. You wrestled with the wheel; the vehicle did not slavishly carry out your whims, and steering was more like a negotiation between manager and employee. Hence the appropriateness of terms such as "servo-motor" (coined in 1872) and "servomechanism" (1930s): both suggest "servant," someone subordinate but also in some sense autonomous. These precybernetic systems, often mechanically linked, did not highlight the division of control and power. But electrical systems did. Engineers found that by using an electromagnetic relay or vacuum tube, a powerful mechanical apparatus could be slaved to a tiny electronic signal. Here we have a much sharper disjunction between the informational and material domains. And with the introduction of the transistor in the 1950s and the integrated circuit in the 1960s, the split became even more stark.

This coupling of immense material power with a relatively feeble informational signal became a fundamental aspect of control mechanisms and automation at all scales...

In light of Eglash's observation, it's worth looking harder at why some engineers are so attached to the "master/slave" terminology, aside from fear of change. The "immense material power" of an electronic signal can't be observed directly. Do engineers in a white-male-dominated field like talking about their systems in terms of masters and slaves because they need to feel like they're somebody's master? Does it make them feel powerful? Given that engineering has become increasingly hostile to people who aren't white and male as it has become more dependent on leveraging smaller and smaller amounts of (physical) power to do more and more, I think it's worth asking what work metaphors like "master/slave" do to make white male engineers feel like they're doing a man's job.

Bad Metaphors

"Master/slave" both serves a psychological function and reflects authoritarian politics, even if the person using that term is not an authoritarian. No one needs to consciously be an authoritarian, though, for authoritarianism to distort our thinking. Language derived from societies organized around a few people controlling many others will affect how systems get designed.

A master/slave system has a single point of failure: what if the master fails? Then there's no longer any mechanism for the slaves to keep each other consistent. There are better solutions, which constitute an open research topic in distributed systems -- discussing them is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I just want to point out that the authoritarian imagination behind both societies organized around slavery (we still live in one of those societies, by the way, given the degree to which the economy depends on the prison industry and on labor performed by prisoners) impoverishes our thinking about systems design. It turns out that single points of failure are bad news for both computer systems, and societies.

I conjecture that the master-slave metaphor encourages us to design systems that have single points of failure, and that the metaphor is so compelling because of its relationship with the continued legacy of slavery. I don't claim to be certain. People who design decentralized, peer-to-peer systems may not be any more likely to have egalitarian politics, for all I know. So I'm asking a question, rather than answering one: do fascists, or people who haven't examined their latent fascism, build fragile systems?

Names are important. Lazy evaluation, for example, wasn't too popular when it was only known by the name of "cons should not allocate." So master/slave is worth abandoning not just because the words "master" and "slave" evoke trauma for Black Americans, but also because flawed thinking about societies and flawed thinking about technology are mutually self-reinforcing.

Good metaphors have the power to help us think better, just as bad ones can limit our imagination. Let's be aware of what shapes our imagination. It's not "only words" -- it's all words, and people who write software should understand that as well as anyone. Metaphors are powerful. Let's try to be aware of how they affect us, and not suppose that the power relationship between people and words only goes one way.

Do you like this post? Support me on Patreon and help me write more like it.

tim: Solid black square (black)
Last night, one of the worst domestic terrorism attacks in recent history happened in Charleston, South Carolina. A man acting in the name of white supremacy murdered nine Black people, most of whom were women, while they prayed at the Emanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South.

These are the names of the people who he murdered:

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

DePayne Middleton Doctor

Cynthia Hurd

Susie Jackson

Ethel Lance

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney

Tywanza Sanders

Daniel Simmons

Myra Thompson

Please read more about their lives.

If you're a white American and have an income, I strongly suggest donating to organizations that fight white supremacy. Here are some suggestions from Valerie Aurora:

Equal Justice Initiative

Representative John Conyers, who has introduced legislation every year to make reparations for slavery to Black Americans.

We the Protestors

You can also donate directly to the Emanuel AME Church.

tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Emphasis added.
What astonished me was that no one had asked the churches if they wanted to be stared at like living museums. I wondered what would happen if a group of blue-jeaned blacks were to walk uninvited into a synagogue on Passover or St. Anthony's of Padua during high mass---just to peer, not pray. My feeling is that such activity would be seen as disrespectful, at the very least. Yet the aspect of disrespect, intrusion, seemed irrelevant to this well-educated, affable group of people. They deflected my observation with comments like "We just want to look," "No one will mind," and "There's no harm intended." As well-intentioned as they were, I was left with the impression that no one existed for them who could not be governed by their intentions. While acknowledging the lack of apparent malice in this behavior, I can't help thinking that it is a liability as much as a luxury to live without interaction. To live so completely impervious to one's impact on others is a fragile privilege, which over time relies not simply on the willingness but on the inability of others---in this case blacks---to make their displeasure heard.
-- Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights

And that's why whenever someone tells you that you can't feel bad about the way in which they've hurt you, because "they would never hurt you intentionally", that is not a gesture of friendship or, in fact, of any kind of relationship other than one based on fundamentally unfair power dynamics. They are saying "You are governed by my intentions, merely because I have the power to coerce you into being so governed." They are committing an act of discursive violence.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
"Whenever I hear some white queer talking about moving to Portland, I assume it’s because they want to be among their white brethren, because there are more white queers in portland than there are people of color. I wish them good luck in their separatist project in getting away from the rest of us. None of you white people INTEND to do this, but it’s what it amounts to and it’s sort of hilarious whenever I hear one of you say that you’re committed to anti-racism, and you also wish you could move to Portland, thus making the blinding whiteness of that city even more pristine.

This is pretty much common knowledge about Portland, isn’t it? When I was growing up, Portland was where the racist skins came to visit from and beat up people. And even Wikipedia says: “While Portland’s diversity was historically comparable to metro Seattle and Salt Lake City, those areas grew more diverse in the late 1990s and 2000s. Portland not only remains white, but migration to Portland is disproportionately white, at least partly because Portland is attractive to young college-educated Americans, a group which is overwhelmingly white.”

IT’S GETTING WHITER ALL THE TIME! I am not surprised you couldn’t find any trans women of color."

-- Coxy Rawr Michael, commenting on PrettyQueer

An equally awesome reply:

"I haven’t ever commented here, but I have to just AMEN this comment about Portland as a white queer haven.

As a queer woman of color, I am consistently astounded by the way that white queers who flock to Portland loooove to talk a good game about their anti-racist credentials, all the while never acknowledging that their voluntary migration to an incredibly white and super racist city that I have NEVER heard a good thing about from my queer POC friends might be part of the problem.

I mean, I get it – people hate to take macro-level responsibility for the potentially oppressive impact of their individual choices, but god damn. Once in my life, I would love to hear from a white queer who claims anti-racist politics what the draw is…"

-- PissyQWOC, ibid
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
When I say Portland is segregated, this is what I mean. Unfortunately -- and contrary to my intuition -- Boston is only somewhat better. The two cities I'd most like to add as adopted homes, New York and LA are... somewhat better still, I guess that's all I can say. Thanks to [personal profile] techstep for the link.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
"In order to fix what is fundamentally wrong with race in America, those who had a lion's share in making things bad must bear a greater responsibility in making them better. Whites who have benefited, whether explicitly or unconsciously, from racial inequality must now be courageous in rejecting a belief in the moral equivalency of black and white views about race. Instead, they should acknowledge their obligation to give black beliefs the weight and consideration they justly deserve. Thus, when blacks view the criminal justice system with suspicion, when they are wary of white juries, when they believe that innocent blacks can be framed by police---for instance, as many blacks did in responding to the verdicts in the O.J. Simpson murder and civil trials---they are responding to a verifiable history of racial inequality. In such an unjust world, white skepticism about black juries' ability to convict white criminals does not have the same moral gravity as the claims of blacks victimized by a legacy of racial injustice.

To ask whites to understand this is not only counterintuitive; it demands a rejection of the claim to ethical innocence that masks white privilege and supremacy while reinforcing black inequality. That inequality brought into existence broadly differing group perceptions about what is good, what is normal, what is desirable, and what is achievable in regard to race in America." -- Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You

International Blog Against Racism Week is over, but hey, why stop at a week?

During a discussion of the Henry Louis Gates arrest, a LiveJournal commenter who I'll call "Alice" wrote the following comment (making an argument along the lines that if Prof. Gates had just been a little more polite to the police officer who eventually arrested him, the whole unpleasantness could have been avoided):Read more... )

But Alice isn't a racist. Or at least she would say she isn't. Guess what? As far as I know, nobody in history has ever admitted to being a racist.

And perhaps that's because for at least 200 years, nobody in America has ever had to be a racist. The racist decisions got made a long time ago. We perpetuate racism by failing to question the social structures whose original purposes have been forgotten but that quietly keep racial inequality going. We perpetuate racism by telling black people that if they were just a little more polite and less uppity, police brutality would stop. We perpetuate racism by exclaiming "I don't see what that has to do with race!" before giving the nearest person of color or ally a chance to explain what it has to do with race. We perpetuate racism by mocking those awful baggy pants the kids wear these days without recognizing that that particular fashion is how young black men express that their lives feel like prison. We perpetuate racism by chalking up racist actions either to the stupid behavior of individuals or to color-blind abuse of power. We perpetuate racism by arguing that black people themselves need to "address black-on-black violence" as a condition for white people addressing police brutality (as if one has nothing to do with the other). We perpetuate racism by arguing that social inequality is "about class, not race", while pretending not to know why you're far more likely to be poor if you're black than if you're white. We perpetuate racism by feigning concern for the effect of affirmative action on black self-esteem while esteeming ourselves highly despite the perks of a century of affirmative action in favor of white people. We perpetuate racism by cherry-picking black views when they agree with our existing prejudices (whether that means Bill Cosby or Barack Obama) and by relying on what (we believe) our black friends (would) say is OK rather than taking responsibility for our own moral integrity.

We perpetuate racism most of all by loudly asserting "I'm not a racist!" or "I don't see color" or "You're never going to convince people of your point of view by calling them racist."Read more... )

Does any of this mean that I, as a white person, am obligated to believe everything any person of color says?Read more... )

It is unproductive to hold a press conference to declare you're not a racist. It is productive to take responsibility for your own actions and to admit that you're not a special, non-conforming snowflake and that social structures influence your behavior.

"There are no sexist decisions to be made.

There are antisexist decisions to be made. And they require tremendous energy and self-scrutiny, as well as moral stamina in the face of the basic embarrassment campaign which is the tactic of those assured of their politically superior position. ('Don't you think you're being rather silly offering your pain as evidence that something I do so automatically and easily is wrong? Why, I bet it doesn't hurt half as much as you say. Perhaps it only hurts because you're struggling...?' This sort of political mystification, turning the logical arrows around inside verbal structures to render them empirically empty, and therefore useless ['It hurts because you don't like it', rather than 'You don't like it because it hurts.'] is just another version of the 'my slave/my master' game.)

There are no sexist decisions to be made: they were all made a long time ago!" -- Samuel R. Delany, "Shadows"
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
The definitive word on the Gates case

Highlights: (begin quotes)
Badge numbers are assigned for a reason, and Massachusetts requires its cops to carry ID cards for a reason: Cops can lie about their names, making it difficult or impossible for citizens to file complaints about their behavior after they've departed a scene. If every police officer was assumed to be honest and forthright in all instances, those laws wouldn't be on the books. What's more, there are a lot of people in the Boston area named Crowley, and a lot of them are police officers. Gates asked Crowley to comply with Massachusetts law by furnishing his full name and badge number, and all Crowley told him was that he was a sergeant and that his last name was Crowley. In other words, he did not comply with Gates' request.

Gates is clearly not a street walker, railer, or brawler. His language may have "accosted or annoyed" someone of the opposite sex—the only female whose presence at the scene was documented is Lucia Whalen, but we don't know how annoyed she was by Gates' comments. Gates was clearly not "idle," though he could be potentially be classified as "disorderly" or "disturbing the peace." The latter charge is dependent on Gates' being outside his house—presuming that his yelling wasn't audible on the street when he was inside—which would have been the case had Crowley not refused to fully identify himself to Gates unless Gates followed him outside. Whether one can be a "disorderly person" in one's own home isn't clear. But we suspect that if one could, then Crowley would simply have arrested Gates in his home.

What is clear is that the city of Cambridge has called the arrest "regrettable and unfortunate," and said that dropping the charges was "in the interests of justice." Crowley himself now says that he "regrets that I put the police department and the city in the position where they have to defend something like this." So if Crowley wasn't stupid, then what, exactly, does he regret?

(end of quotes)

As far as I'm concerned, if you're still defending the Cambridge Police here, you really ought to ask yourself why.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Not long ago, I was given the advice (not particularly directed at me, but it justifiably could have been) that it's better to generate more light than heat. And I think that's true most of the time, except maybe when you're trying to burn something down.

When I was a first-year in Bates Hall at Wellesley College, one Friday night I was kept awake in my fourth-floor room by the pounding bass of music from a party that was going on in the basement. Wandering downstairs, I realized the noise was coming from the dining hall and that thus it was an official party. I didn't like being kept awake and I had to be up early the next day in order to leave on a trip, but I knew there wasn't really anything I could do about it because it was before 2:00 AM on a weekend night (the start of quiet hours). Complaining to anyone would have been pointless. In the lobby, there was a free-standing blackboard that people would write on sometimes, sometimes with a message-of-the-day, and so forth. So I wrote, "Does anyone else think that whoever was making that noise should be executed in front of a firing squad?", and went back to my room to try to go back to sleep.

One or two days later, I came back from my trip to find a discussion on the Bates forum on the campus electronic discussion system about what I had written on the board. I learned that the party that had been troubling me was sponsored by the campus chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Rather than copping to what I had done, I posted a snippy reply (as one does) saying that it was just silly for somebody to conclude that the comment on the board was racist given that nobody knew who had written it or what they were thinking, or even whether the writer had known the party was sponsored by a black student group. In hindsight, I'm sure this fooled no one, but if anyone did guess it was me, they never confronted me directly about it. And I never admitted to anyone that I was the writer.

Was it racist for me to write that on the blackboard? I don't think it was, because I didn't know who was sponsoring the party. It was certainly passive-aggressive and douchey of me. It's true, it's possible that I reacted differently to loud hip-hop than I would have to loud '80s pop, though at the time I really wasn't conversant with very much music that was produced after about 1970. Was it racist for me to read the replies online and conclude that their authors were just being silly and oversensitive? Yes. Yes, it was. I failed to appreciate the significance that my hastily chalked remark would have to someone who might have been labelled "loud and tumultuous" a few too many times, and even worse, I retreated into thoughts that would preserve my self-image as a tolerant person rather than really hearing what people who perceived things differently had to say.

I was 17 at the time, but I don't think that excuses my behavior, because I'm seeing people four times that age fall for the same fallacies. I won't give them a pass, nor do I give myself a pass.

That was eleven years ago. The last four, maybe five times I thought about the incident (in, probably, as many years), I thought that maybe my reaction really possibly could have been wrong, but pushed the thought away. This is the first time I'm admitting to myself that I really did something wrong; not by writing on the board (sure, it was pissy of me, but I didn't know), but by refusing to listen to what my dorm-mates said about it afterward and to admit to what I had done at the cost of possibly being (fairly or unfairly) characterized as racist.

I was getting frustrated over the past few days arguing with people online about the strange case of Professor Gates and the unfortunate Cambridge police officers, and how difficult it seems to be to convince some people to be more concerned about calling out racism where it exists than about being careful not to imply that a white person could be racist, until I realized: If it took me eleven years just to admit I'd made one mistake, how long will it take everyone else? How long will the next mistake take me? God help us all.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Of all of the comments I've read on the intertubes about the Gates arrest, this one more or less summarizes it:

there is a non-trivial possibility that the situation was not racist. [at the end of a six-paragraph comment where the author was trying their hardest to find evidence that arresting a black man for calling a cop a racist isn't racist]

You know, I don't think of myself as an exceptionally enlightened white man. But this is bullshit. And if you are more inclined to lecture the world in a calm, detached fashion about the proper way for a black man to interact with law enforcement (from your position of expertise as, say, a white West Coaster) than to feel outrage at how your country still enforces the second-class citizenship of black and brown people, then you are not my friend.
  • The charges against Prof. Gates have been dropped; "This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department..."

  • Statement from Charles Ogletree, Gates's lawyer, about the incident.

  • Jimi Izrael says it way better than me:
    "The arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates Jr., at a minimum, quashes any talk of a post-racial America. It may not be the best example of racial injustice I've ever seen, but it's a great example of how life for black people is often complicated by class and race. If a mild-mannered, bespectacled Ivy League professor who walks with a cane can be pulled from his own home and arrested on a minor charge, the rest of us don't stand a chance.

    We all fit a description. We are all suspects."


    "In most states, the parameters for disorderly conduct are set as 'any person who could cause inconvenience, alarm or annoyance to others.' Disorderly conduct could include anything from a ferocious cough, the use of profanity (at any volume, in any context) to break-dancing in your front yard or talking loudly to yourself. Normally, it's the kind of thing you get a ticket for, if that, because cops love donuts, but they hate paperwork. Mostly, you'll get a warning. But the rub is that it falls to the discretion of the responding officer to decide whether or not to throw you in the car. Depending on the officer's mood, you could get a warning, a ticket or a night in jail. According to the police officer's report, Gates 'exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.' That's a pretty subjective assessment, by any definition. But it never seems to take much provocation for the rollers to put a man of color in handcuffs, no matter who he is."
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
It's amazing how many people seem to know how to apply the argument tactics listed at "Derailing for Dummies" without even having read the site. Worth a read if you've ever been told that you were taking things too personally, that you were damaging your cause by being angry, or that your experience was unrepresentative. Or if you've ever told anyone those things.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

December 2018

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