Sunday, June 07, 2009

Columnists mailing it in, Part I

Writing op-eds is hard. Sometimes they just don't come. That seems to have happened to at least two national columnists last week.

The always interesting Patrick McIlheran commented on a somewhat injudicious column by Leonard Pitts that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Pitts was upset that a white woman told a false story of being abducted by black men and used the occasion to argue that someone he calls "you" (which I take it means "white people') see him as a "boogeyman" and not
for who he is. He says that "you" have done all other sorts of unspeakable racist acts.

Let's put aside a few obvious objections such as the fact that I doubt many people would regard mild-looking, middle-aged Leonard Pitts (whose picture runs with his column) as particularly threatening or the fact that it is not surprising that white people make 67% of false accusations of interracial crime. White people,after all, comprise more than 67% of the population.

Pitts is concerned about white stereotypes of black people. He is arguing against a response to individuals that is based entirely on their race. He doesn't want an entire group of people sullied by the actions of a few. Certainly "you" understand this, don't you?

Locally, Madison blogger Emily Mills is all over Pat for saying that assumptions of pervasive racism are suspect since "we" have been told that "black people were just as good as anyone else [by] “Sesame Street” and every adult [we've] ever known ...." Ms Mills believes that the statement is "dreadfully ignorant" because ... I'm not sure. I guess it's because she thinks he is saying that he doesn't know any black people so he has to learn about them from others.

Well, no he's not. He's saying that a presumption of pervasive racism is hard to reconcile with a generation of social indoctrination regarding the evils of racism. We live in a society where there is hardly a worse charge that can be leveled at someone than to call her a racist. In that type of society, it seems unlikely that every white person - "you" according to Leonard Pitts - is simply hiding his inner Lester Maddox.

This isn't to say that racism does not exist or that assumptions about race can still arise from our racial past - some of which are, I think, exacerbated by forms of "anti-racism." But that is a far cry from what Pitts was saying. Ms. Mills thinks we should be willing to have "difficult discussions"about the " incredibly complex" issue of race.

We should. But there was nothing complex or difficult about what Pitts wrote.


illusory tenant said...

"[McIlheran is] saying that a presumption of pervasive racism is hard to reconcile with a generation of social indoctrination regarding the evils of racism."

Is he really. With what, then, does McIlheran reconcile his presumption of pervasive racism:

"Indeed, given Sonia Sotomayor's liberal views, it would be odd if she were not a racist and sexist." — John "La Raza" McAdams, for which sentiment McAdams receives the endorsement and approval of none other than Patrick McIlheran.

capper said...

There have been plenty of examples of a white person making false allegations against a person of color, whether they be real or make believe. Locally, there was the infamous Jesse Anderson case. In case you forgot, the late Mr. Anderson killed his wife and then blamed it on imaginary black teens by Northridge Mall.

If you are denying racism is still rampant in this country, you are minimizing the effects that a parent has on their children. Is this what you are inferring? That alone would be a important factor to consider when arguing home schooling.

Clutch said...

He's saying that a presumption of pervasive racism is hard to reconcile with a generation of social indoctrination regarding the evils of racism.

And your scruples about missing argumentation, deployed so quickly towards Emily Mills, are curiously absent when recounting this intriguing conjecture from Patrick McIlheran.

Do you suppose there's anything as quaint as an argument for it, lurking somewhere in PMc's "always interesting" cognitive and emotional economy?

Rick Esenberg said...


There are so many things wrong with that comment that is hard to know where to begin. First, its passing odd to accuse Pat of something based on what John McAdams wrote. Second, Pat did not "endores" or "approve" the statement that you don't like. He noted that John had pointed out that Judge Sotomayor has made comments that seem to claim some unique and preferred perspective flowing from gender or ethnic identity more than once, belying the idea that she misspoke. Third, criticism of these comments is not an "assumption of pervasive racism" as it is based on her own considered and repeated comments.

As for my view on it, you could, if you are, say, shut in and have nothing to do, listen to me refuse Joy Cardin's prompting to refer to Sotomayor or her comments as "racist." I think her remarks are troubling but I am not going to call them racist. So, yes, I would disagree with John's comments.


I do recall Jesse Anderson. I also recall that hardly anyone believed him. Even your favorite villian Mark Belling was skeptical from the outset.

illusory tenant said...

Read it again, Rick:

"But such views are utterly in step in some places," full stop, asserts — and I choose that word deliberately, as that's what it is: an assertion — McIlheran, and then he goes on to point out how McAdams "notes them."

"Indeed, given her liberal views, it would be odd if [Sotomayor] were not a racist and sexist." — Juan Mc.

Racism and sexism are utterly in step with liberal views, they both agree. McIlheran quoted McAdams in support of his assertion.

Although McAdams, bless his heart, is actually giving Sotomayor the benefit of the doubt; that is, all liberals are racist and sexist and if Sotomayor is not, contrary to her liberal views, it would be "odd," yet possible, McAdams concedes.

Now, if this isn't McIlheran approving and endorsing McAdams's paranoid fantasies, it certainly is neither disapproval nor rejection of them.

Personally, I couldn't care less whether McIlheran or McAdams thinks Sotomayor is a racist or not. Neither are credible observers of the judge's record.

However, they're speaking of everybody with "liberal views" being racist and sexist, and Sotomayor as a possible "odd" exception.

Seriously, Rick, it's very disappointing to witness you defend these two (McIlheran and Sykes) poster boys for intellectual dishonesty.


Rick Esenberg said...

The question is what "such views" mean. I don't call them racist (although some do), but they certainly are, to use a term that others have adopted, "racialist."

And, as I've said, even if one does regard them as "racist", that conclusion is based on a certain set of expressed beliefs, i.e., endorsement of racial preferences and the assumption that minorities think differently, and not on the belief that an entire race of people holding all sorts of different views have done and believe what Pitts says "you" have done.

The fact of the matter is that Sotomayor said what she said and it is, at best, a puzzling statement. To read it as nothing more than an endorsement of a breadth of experience is to ignore what she actually said.

capper said...

To deny that one's experience as a factor in one's decision making is pure and utter intellectual dishonesty.

illusory tenant said...

Rick, I'm just as eager as anyone to hear Sotomayor respond to the opportunity to clarify (if the Senators can restrain themselves from grandstanding long enough).

However, I've heard her make no claims to inherent superiority, which is what true "racism" — or racialism, for that matter — espouses.

But it's certainly not without the realm of possibility that a thoughtful minority person, given her unique experience, may gain a certain type of wisdom less obviously apprehensible to the standard issue American Whitey.

Plus, she has to work harder, hence the potentially higher quality of her judicial decisions.

I expect she was trying to get at something along those lines, which is hardly "racism," or even "ethnic superiority."

In the meantime I think she deserves at least the benefit of the doubt, not a pile of media buffoons making baseless accusations.


(See you at the appellate conference, if you're there. I'll introduce you to my friend Shirley.)

Rick Esenberg said...

If you mean the Chief, we've met.