I see Racists everywhere…either I’m in the South, or I’m a Liberal…

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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244 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    That’s some fished up stuff going on in that town. Probably also part of the reason why its population was flat over the last 10 years while the Texas population has risen 20%.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    There is a lot of concerning stuff in that piece, but also a lot of he-said/he-said and not enough info to fully weigh in. However, this quote (last paragraph) really stood out: “A cast-iron fence surrounds Mr. Byrd’s grave. In 2004, two white teenagers desecrated the grave with racial slurs and knocked over the headstone.”

    What would motivate someone to do that? That Mr. Byrd had the nerve to be a black guy killed by racist whites? That sums up some of the really fucked up thinking behind a lot of white racism and white victimhood. Desecrating the grave of a man whose name you only know after he was brutally killed simply for being black? Ugh… makes me want to throw up.Report

    • M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:


      29% of Missourians and 21% of Alabamans think interracial marriage should be illegal. In my experiences traveling the South, the further you get from large cities, the more pronounced the level of lingering racism is.

      Jasper, TX is 55 miles from the nearest real city (according to Google Maps that’s Lufkin, TX) and near the border of Texas/Louisiana. It’s not located on an interstate and again according to Google Maps it doesn’t share a border with any other towns. By all appearances it’s a relatively isolated town with a small (less than 10,000) population and I’m confident in saying it’s probably the sort of sequestered little “outsiders better not be caught in town after dark” sort of rural town I wouldn’t like to be caught in after dark.

      Another piece of the puzzle: the fired police chief is black but married a white woman. Again in my experience, the rural white folks don’t really like that. Bad enough he was hired over the man the white side preferred, but his marriage actually crossed the racial barrier. Given the attitudes from other news coverage and the fact that Pearson filed an EEOC complaint long before the firing, it seems that he was being targeted by the white side of town from day one.

      I echo Kolohe on this one. Some fished up stuff is going on in that town.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        I know approximately where your data is from concerning Mississippi, and I’m confident you’re in the ballpark there. The Missouri one sounds more dubious, though (Missouri is less conservative than Mississippi), and I can’t quickly find a source for it.

        Internet courtesy is provide linkies when you make claims like that. I’d really like to see your source on Missouri, not just to fact-check you, but because if it’s true I’d find it very interesting info.Report

        • M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:


          The source is Public Policy Polling and I will cheerfully admit that I had a mental moment and transposed "Mississippi" and "Missouri" in my head. Missouri is not a subject of the poll in question.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

            Thanks, PPP is the source I was thinking of, and both Alabama and Mississippi seem more logical candidates for those numbers than Missouri. I feel less confused now.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to M.A. says:

        Jasper’s only 60 miles from Lufkin? That explains a lot. That’s east Texas. (I’m from Houston, fyi. My father’s family was from Lufkin. I’ve been to Lufkin, although not in 20 years).

        East Texas is, basically, the Applachian Hills of Texas. it is rife with racism, poverty, crime, and frankly every other social ill you can think of — up to and probably including plague.

        If you suspect some fact might be true of the people who live in the deepest, darkest, most rural parts of Alabama or the swamps of Louisiana, just add “East Texas” to the list.

        I know a guy that lives near Lufkin, elderly fellow. His jaw is…wrong. It’s several inches off from where it should be. Why? he got hit by a piece of flying metal as it destroyed his trailer home during a tornado. (Yes, every cliche in the book. Trailer park, tornado, flying debris, redneck).

        It dislocated his jaw. Over thirty years ago. He never had it fixed because “he doesn’t trust doctors”. Not in a “It’s against my religion” way, either.

        And that’s from the saner part of East Texas.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:


      It’s sort of like this: People want to be proud of who they are and where they come from. At least, a lot of people do (this is not limited to the demographics we’re talking about). When there are symbols that are erected that make such pride more difficult, it’s not uncommon for it to breed resentment for at least some subset of the population. It can sometimes be easier to convince yourself that the collective guilt itself is bullspit than it is to learn to live with it and make sense of it on a broader level.

      This desire for pride is hardly limited to the south. When others do it, we celebrate it. The problem is that the context in which southerners do it leads to some pretty nasty behavior. It becomes a reversion to things this country – including many white people in Jasper, I’m sure – want to leave behind. The underlying dynamics go downhill from there, because it’s easier for people to change what the transgression was about (the blight on Jasper’s honor, being put upon by sanctimonious outsiders, whatever) than it is to accept the conflict of being from a place that was on the wrong side of two of the three greatest moral struggles in the history of our country – and not wanting to be ashamed of where you are from (and, by extension, who you are).Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

        Germany never seems to mind being Ashamed of the Nazis. Maybe it’s because it’s managed to get back up on it’s feet?

        Ditto Japan. *pauses*Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Kimmi says:

          Sometimes I think it’s a result of Johnson and the limits of reconstruction. The post-war occupation was harsh enough to breed a hella lot of resentment, but was pulled back before it eradicated the underlying culture.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

            yeah. shoulda burned it all to the ground.
            too much money got left to “rebuilding the confederacy” if you know what I meanReport

            • Trumwill Mobile in reply to Kimmi says:

              Money for rebuilding was good. It was that the culture of white supremacy was allowed to stand was bad. Too long a history, too much sympathy among the occupiers. Too little resolve. Easy to criticize now, of course (what would it have taken to eradicate the culture?), but it’s a cause of the price we’re paying, in my estimation.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

                The old confederacy left money in wills to preserve the legacy of the old confederacy.

                woulda taken a lot to shake up the cavaliers, but throwing the bums out would have done it.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kimmi says:

                Could you clarify what you mean by “throwing the bums out”?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                basically, the cavalier elite needed to go (all of them, down to the last child). hang ’em if necessary. lord knows they weren’t doing much good for the country.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

                More support for my belief that Lincoln should have escorted them out the door, then slammed it shut and locked it behind them.Report

              • I’m biased, of course (since I wouldn’t be an American citizen), but I think the nation as a whole is stronger as-is, despite the problems. One of the main reasons for urgency in keeping the south in is that it kept the west in. If the south had been allowed to leave, we wouldn’t be two countries, we’d be five or more.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, your last comment may be right. But if the choice was between a U.S. as is, and a U.S. without the south, I’m not persuaded we’d be substantially weaker. Size, obviously, isn’t everything, and obviously the south has made significant contributions, but on net I think they’re a drain on the country.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                Read Born Fighting?Report

              • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                Hi James,

                ‘on net I think they’re a drain’

                Care to expand at all on that? Strictly economically? Militarily (my understanding is that the South is overrepresented there, and has nearly always been so?) Culturally (at bare minimum the music of the US, and hence the world, would look a heck of a lot different)?

                I am pretty uncomfortable with the history of the South; I am also pretty uncomfortable with this kind of blanket statement from people who are normally more specific with what they mean. Fargo may not bring a whole lot to the table from my perspective, but I wouldn’t refer to them as a ‘net drain’ without much more specific context.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’ll go to bat for WV (they pay their way as best they can), but SC’s “beggar thy neighbor” strategy can go to hell (and judging from the pictures, it’s already in the handbasket…)

                The South’s strategy of anti-union, cheaper than the North just started the whole “race to the bottom” which led to outsourcing in general.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                Economically for one. They’ve always been comparatively under-developed. But that’s changing really rapidly right now, and in another generation may no longer be true.

                Important cultural things wouldn’t change much; we’d be closely associated enough for bourbon, bbq, banjos, the blues and Blynyrd Skynyrd to drift across the border. But we’d probably have less of the imitative rednecky bullshit up north (I say that as a country boy who, according to my wife, is not as free from redneckism as she’d like).

                Politically we’d lose the reactionaryism and social moralism that has persistently characterized southern politics. And in terms of political culture, the old south is the more hierarchical, least responsive to citizens, most likely to be run by corrupt cabals (that’s not exclusive to them, of course, but it’s far more frequent).

                Their pernicious influence has only grown since the old Southern Dems all went Republican. Back then their more liberal northern wing could keep them somewhat in check, and the Republican party had lots of moderates. Today they’re almost unchecked and the Republican party has been largely, though not completely, captured by the reactionaries.

                I don’t advocate expelling them, but if any of them wanted to secede now, I’d encourage we not try very hard to persuade them to stick around. (Of course I’d let any state secede if it wanted to, but some I’d put a lot more effort into trying to persuade to stay.)Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                The South’s strategy of anti-union, cheaper than the North just started the whole “race to the bottom” which led to outsourcing in general.

                I disagree. That’s actually when the south began developing, finally. Ever since the Civil War most southern states’ had pretty explicit policies designed to keep them agricultural, and discriminating against industry. Only by rolling back those practices did they begin developing. Yes, being anti-union and lower wage were their competitive advantage, but that’s not necessarily a race to the bottom. One of seniors this year did his capstone on a comparison of right-to-work vs. closed shop states. When you adjust for cost of living, the effective incomes of folks in those states is as good as or slightly better than in closed shop states.

                It doesn’t seem to be that being right-to-work has a direct effect on cost of living, but that states that have that type of policy are also likely to have policies that produce a lower cost of living.

                Anecdotally, I’ve been in Houston a few times, and the middle class houses there seem a lot fancier than middle class houses here in Michigan. Nothing like enough to make me move to that swamp, but if I was the type of person who could handle the heat and humidity and I cared about having a new fancy house, I can see ditching Michigan to move there in a heartbeat.Report

              • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                James – no argument on economically; nor would I be sorry to see the reactionary, moralistic politics of the South go.

                But even though you qualify your ‘corrupt cabal’ comments, when you talk about that, my mind goes to Chicago, and Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed – you know, all those quintessentially southern guys 🙂 Maybe small-town corrupt cabals are more common in the South, but in the North they just do corruption BIG?

                And I disagree about cultural differences. I like Rush as much as the next nerd, but Canadian ain’t American. Detroit is one of the musical crucibles of the nation but its innovations drew from threads born in the South. I don’t know many Mexican pop stars who have really hit big and changed the flow of the musical current here (though there is a small language barrier there).

                I think the resulting cultures would be more different than you suspect, and the respective cultural chauvinisms of the US (North) and US (South) would prevent much cultural miscegenation, which is the lifeblood of this culture and has spread worldwide, for good and ill.Report

              • Trumwill Mobile in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, off the top of my head I can think of three reasons to disagree:

                1. It’s hard to put a pricetag in the Port of Southern Louisiana, the Port of New Orleans, the Port of Houston, the Port of Mobile, and so on.

                2. Along similar lines, unbridled access to the Mississippi River is a really good thing, I think.

                3. The rest of the country benefits pretty greatly from Brain Gain from the south. We could mitigate this with more open immigration, but I’m not sure it would happen, and even if it did getting someone to move from Alabama to Washington State is different from moving them from one country to the next. (Leaving the south was an easy call for the wife and me, but Canada would have been a tougher sell, despite its virtues.)Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Oh, you guys make good points. I’m not particularly militant on this. Some of it just pure southern bias.

                But Will, we could force access to New Orleans by blasting through with our gunboats, or threatening to blow up the control structures that keep the river from flowing down the Atchafalaya and NOLA being left high and dry. Just a little economic imperialism, treating the south like the banana republic it is. 😉Report

              • wardsmith in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, you must be forgetting the Gulf states and energy altogether. The south is WAY ahead of most of the rest of the country in net positive economic impact. Realize not all statistics are captured, oil royalties chief among them. The Feds take the lion’s share and leave the bills and the infrastructure headaches to the states. Just imagine if the southern oil producers were members of OPEC.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                I can see South Texas as part of OPEC. That would make Houston into Lagos. Come to think of it, Houston already looks a lot like Lagos and New Orleans like Port Harcourt. Smelly, nasty, essentially unredeemable cities, filled to brimming with corrupt politicians, the atmosphere redolent of feces, garbage and burning petroleum….Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                I’m a free trader, I don’t care where the oil comes from. We don’t need the south sucking up our tax dollars in order to get their oil.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                Nah, it’s not that the North does corruption big, it’s that there’s enough of a free market that the press can shout about it.
                Penn State you hear about. Places in the south (and I could name several), you do not, nor likely ever will.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                oh, bull! you’re saying lower cost of living… right in the middle of $40/barrel oil. Run the numbers again for $120/barrel oil, I figure you’ll find a different story.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                South most hierarchical? Maybe the Cavaliers. The scotch-irish just ain’t like that.

                Houston ain’t south, it’s southwest. (anything that isn’t east texas isn’t Southern, folks).

                And New Orleans has more in common with Pittsburgh and the Midwest than a lot of the South. It’s an international city, or at least it used to be.Report

              • Mr. Blue in reply to James Hanley says:

                Ditto what Kimmi says about hierarchy.

                She’s not right on Houston, though. Houston and Dallas remain southern, mostly. As a friend put it, there’s a line that runs through Texas with Houston and Dallas on one side and Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio on the other.

                Immigration may be turning Houston from southern to southwestern, though.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

                Houston is trending blue pretty rapidly. Take a look at the last few city elections.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                thanks, mr. blue. appreciate teh geography lesson!Report

              • M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                If Houston is trending blue rapidly, why does it seem the rest of the state surrounding it is trending secessionist red?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Self-selection, non-homoegeneity, ability for one part of a state to differ from other parts of the state.Report

              • Mr. Blue in reply to James Hanley says:

                Houston has always leaned Dem. There was a period of time when the Republicans had a substantial presence on city council and almost took the mayor’s seat, but that required a bloody incompetent mayor, a Republican mindset nationally, and a telegenic Republican challenger. Even that didn’t do the trick.

                The real issue is Harris County, which used to be very reliably red but now swings. the Democrats have made gains in Houston, but the Republicans flipped Pasadena and are doing better in unincorporated areas. That may be a short-term fix, though, if the GOP can’t get a better handle on the educated vote and changing demographics.Report

              • Mr. Blue in reply to James Hanley says:

                If Houston is trending blue rapidly, why does it seem the rest of the state surrounding it is trending secessionist red?

                Because the Texas Democratic Party is full of morons. It doesn’t take a moron to be a Democrat and there are a lot of moron Republicans, but it takes morons to lose as badly as the Texas Democrats keep losing.Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to Kimmi says:

          Germany has admitted all of its past sins and done its best to atone for them. This is, as far as I know, unique (though what South Africa accomplished with its Truth and Reconciliation program is pretty amazing too.) Certainly Japan and Turkey are still in complete, hostile denial.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            The South hasn’t. They firmly believe that they were in the right, that it was a fight over ‘state’s rights’ and that it was the racist northern liberals who made it all about slavery because otherwise they couldn’t have gotten support for the federalism.

            And keep your hands off their Medicare.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

              Morat, that was sorta the point that started this whole conversation: The culture survived the war, and we’re living with the consequences.

              (We shouldn’t be so broad about talking about “The South”, though. The attitude you refer to is too common, but views vary pretty wildly.)Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                We shouldn’t be so broad about talking about “The South”, though.

                We should refer to them as “latitudinally-deficient Americans” and try to be tolerant, unless they get uppity.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I think the line is best drawn at about 38 degrees latitude.Report

              • Scott in reply to MikeSchilling says:


                You must have missed the busing riots in Boston. The idea that racism exists or only existed in the south is BS.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Scott says:

                Dr. King called Cicero Illinois “the Selma of the North”Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Scott says:


                Good thing, then, that I didn’t say that, I didn’t imply that, and I don’t believe it. In fact, I’m agreeing with Will that condemning The South as a whole is a form of bigotry.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                It is. I’d still draw the line at 38, though. Or to be more precise, perhaps 37.8. 😉Report

              • krogerfoot in reply to Scott says:

                “The idea that racism exists or only existed in the south” is not only BS, but the notion itself is, like the unicorn, a mythical creature. If you ever sight an American that believes that racism does not exist outside the South, I hope you have film in your camera. Take the shot – the framed picture can hang here on the wall next to my photo of DB Cooper and a yeti at a Jimmy Buffett concert.

                Taking the time to say that racism exists in the North, too, though, is a useful flash grenade for us in the South, a nice tu quoque to deploy to stun our opponents long enough for us to ready our next blow. Randy Newman’s “Rednecks” said pretty much everything that needed to be said on that point, that the South’s biggest favor for the North was to make the Better Than Us award (Racism category) so very easy to win.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to krogerfoot says:

                a yeti at a Jimmy Buffett concert.

                Hey, I was at that one, too! Are you the guy I was dropping acid with?Report

              • krogerfoot in reply to krogerfoot says:

                We dropped acid? Is that what ruined my shoes that night?Report

          • It also seems to me that the specifics of what Germany was apologizing for was easier to write off as “Woah, we lost our minds there, we will never do that again” than a lot of other examples. The Nazi regime lasted, in the historical sense, a relatively short period of time and they came within an inch of their collective lives in (again, in the historical sense) relatively short order. That makes it a little easier to Come To Jesus than something that’s been baking in the culture for lifetimes.

            (This comment may demonstrate complete and utter ignorance on my part. If so, correct me politely, please!)Report

            • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

              The occupation of Korea (which was a first glance at what would happen in Manchuria, the Philippines, and the rest of the Greater East Co-Prosperity Sphere) lasted about 40 years. Longer than the Nazis, but still short enough to say “We lost our way and have learned from it.” Perhaps the difference is that there isn’t one universally reviled villain to blame it all on.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            how about the french? they certainly don’t much care about the napoleonic wars anymore.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Kimmi says:

              The French are fond of reset buttons. It’s one of their more endearing traits.

              There’s also a sort of “Hey, it was the times…” sort of shrugging-off that can occur. That’s easy enough to do with the slavery (few southerners defend slavery, morelike they defend their region by falsely saying it was never about slavery), but hard to do with Jim Crow. Those people who did terrible things? Our grandparents, collectively speaking. We have pictures of us as little babies on their lap*.

              * – I don’t know the specific transgressions my grandparents may have committed. I have some stories, some of which have a real positive spin, but there is little indication that most of them were… enlightened.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

                RE: grandparents, enlightened status of, and ‘Hey, it was the times.’

                I always had difficulty reconciling the side of my grandmother that was kind, and caring, and deeply religious, with the racist side of her that was probably pretty typical for a Southern white woman that grew up when she did. Sometimes racist things would come out of her mouth that just stopped you dead in your tracks.

                Knowing her, there is the possibility that at least some of it was for shock value/her own amusement, because it got a reaction from the grandkids; getting a rise out of someone can be its own reward to all of us.

                I once asked her to name the one thing she had seen in her lifetime that she never thought she would see; I thought anyone who had lived as long as she had, through such a period of dizzying technological change, would certainly have been awed at some point.

                I mean, she was old enough to remember the horseless carriage replacing the horsed variety; she’d watched the moon landing happen, and was around for the dawn of the atomic and internet ages.

                Her response? ‘A black man and a white woman walking down the street, holding hands’.

                I can’t remember if she used a less-acceptable word for ‘black man’; she often did.

                I was flabbergasted. This was the one thing that she never thought she would see?!?!

                We really can lack all perspective.

                And yet – she and her sister, despite clearly believing (and often outright verbalizing) all the stereotypes that most white Southern women of their age and milieu did (basically, that blacks are intrinsically shiftless, violent, and intellectually inferior) would, presumably compelled by their belief in Christian charity, often take food to the black family that lived next door when they were out of work or having hard times, and would invite them to eat meals at their own table.

                At times there was almost a residual sharecropping arrangement going on, where my great-aunt would share the fruit of her garden with the black family in exchange for some gardening or housecleaning work.

                This relationship persisted to varying degrees until my great-aunt passed in the mid-1990’s (!). It even survived some interpersonal friction (the black family had a grown son who was mentally slow, and struggled with drugs and alcohol – he broke into my great-aunt’s a couple times – my great-aunt caught Junior in her house & threatened him with a gun at least once).

                I should note that my grandmother and her sister were not rich by any means, nor from old money, nor living on some crumbling plantation; they were just poor white women, Depression survivors, living in the South.

                I should also note that this black family helped tend my great-aunt’s grave, for no remuneration of any kind – they really did think of her as a friend to them, as near as I could tell.

                So yeah, the South is complicated. And sometimes you do have to shrug and say, well, that is the way things were for them, without excusing it or emulating it.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                Awesome. Thank you.Report

              • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                No prob. Sorry, it got a little long, but I wanted to illuminate the contradictions, if you didn’t grow up in the South, it can be hard to understand.

                We are all of us capable of smart and stupid, petty and transcendent.

                Only God himself (if He exists) knows whether we are a ‘net drain’. 😉Report

              • North in reply to Glyph says:

                The League has no commenting length restriction and thank goodness for that.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                What North said. There was nothing wrong with the length of that.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                +1. And I wouldn’t cut a single word of it,.Report

        • smarx in reply to Kimmi says:

          There’s been a lot of scholarly work done on Japan’s post-war amnesia. The short version is that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki allowed Japan to not formally apologize about what they did to China, Korea and the rest because they too were victims of the war.

          Another interesting thing about Japan in the post-war era was that the politicians who were in power during the Pacific War were allowed to stay in power afterwards. There wasn’t a strong push to get rid of them (except for those in the military), and then when the Korean War began we needed them to help produce things for the war effort. The old guard remained and their old ways of thinking, but they were repurposed as the Liberal Democratice Party.

          When you join this with poltical dynasties in the Diet, the long rule of the LDP, and post-war amnesia, you end with the Yasukuni Shrine, denialism about the Nanjing Massacre, and people who still claim that The Greater East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere was an attempt to help Japan’s neighbors.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to smarx says:

            and yet, you get the most pacifistic nation on earth.
            Yes, there is denialism, but there’s nothing that would help RECREATE what they wanted back then. Whereas you get Perry threatening to secede…Report

  3. Scott says:

    Some of the issues look like racism and others look like small town politics.Report

  4. Rufus F. says:

    I think people who need reasons to drink are simply unmotivated.Report

  5. Tod Kelly says:

    I have a few quick and random observations:

    1. Why am I not surprised that the movement to get rid of the sheriff chose to name themselves something like “League of Concerned Citizens?” Seeing a “League of Concerned Citizens” in your city should be a big red flag for busybodies, people called to arms by talk radio, or some equally dubious scenario.

    2. I’ve said this before, but this whole recalling people because you lost is a terrible, terrible trend.

    3. This is a pretty great (or terrible) example of how poorly we talk about and deal with race in this country.Report

  6. krogerfoot says:

    I grew up near Jasper. My JHS and HS football team bus drove through Jasper on the way to a lot of our away games. The black kids always descended into a state of jumpy hysteria as we passed through, since the place was a KKK stronghold. It was serious and not-serious at the same time. Everyone giggled and teased one another about it, but the underlying feeling came from a real fear that the white kids respected. The coach once decided to stop in Jasper for some reason. Maybe he hoped that five minutes there would dispel the malevolent atmosphere we felt around the place, so we’d see that it was just another Podunk E Texas backwater like the one we came from. Or perhaps he was just an asshole. While he was buying his Copenhagen in the gas station, the black kids dared one another to get off the bus, run in and buy a candy bar, go to the pay phone and call home – “Hey mama, guess where I am?”

    The Byrd murder was shocking for its incredible cruelty and element of betrayal – if I remember right, the driver of the truck and Byrd had a cordial enough relationship that Byrd felt comfortable accepting a ride from a white jailbird. That the incident occurred in Jasper, though, shocked precisely no one.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to krogerfoot says:

      There’s a town in between where I grew up and where my wife grew up that is known as a hotbed of racial bigotry. The federal government kept trying to move black people into the federal housing there, they kept getting scared out, and eventually they ran out of black families willing to play guinea pig.

      Unfortunately, the town is at the perfect stopping place for the drive between here and there. I’ve bitten the bullet and made the stop once, but I try to avoid it. The last time I stopped there it was with my brother and some of his frat brothers, one of whom was black. We couldn’t decide what to make of the fact that we all unconsciously made the decision to have two or more people at his side, even though he himself wasn’t worried about it.Report

      • krogerfoot in reply to Will Truman says:

        Christ – all that local color I threw in to my stupid anecdote, and now M.A. links to a story about Vidor, the town I thought I was talking about when I was talking about Jasper. Makes me proud to be from E Texas, that I can’t keep my hotbeds of racism straight. I grew up just about equidistant between the two of them. In case you’re keeping score.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to krogerfoot says:

          Used to live near the largest group of the Nazi party in America.
          Right smack dab in Pennsyltucky.

          Did you hear the one about Washington, pa? (about the last election — what one canvasser heard — nate silver had it up, I won’t link it)Report

  7. Kazzy says:

    I mentioned this on a subblog the other day, but I think it bears repeating given some of the above conversation about the inability of us to truly move on from our racist past. And I will again refuse the credit since I’m basically regurgitating the TED Talk of attorney Bryan Stevenson.

    In fact, I’m just going to quote him:
    “I talk a lot about these issues. I talk about race and this question of whether we deserve to kill. And it’s interesting, when I teach my students about African American history, I tell them about slavery. I tell them about terrorism, the era that began at the end of reconstruction that went on to World War II. We don’t really know very much about it. But for African Americans in this country, that was an era defined by terror. In many communities, people had to worry about being lynched. They had to worry about being bombed. It was the threat of terror that shaped their lives. And these older people come up to me now and they say, “Mr. Stevenson, you give talks, you make speeches, you tell people to stop saying we’re dealing with terrorism for the first time in our nation’s history after 9/11.” They tell me to say, “No, tell them that we grew up with that.” And that era of terrorism, of course, was followed by segregation and decades of racial subordination and apartheid.

    And yet, we have in this country this dynamic where we really don’t like to talk about our problems. We don’t like to talk about our history. And because of that, we really haven’t understood what it’s meant to do the things we’ve done historically. We’re constantly running into each other. We’re constantly creating tensions and conflicts. We have a hard time talking about race, and I believe it’s because we are unwilling to commit ourselves to a process of truth and reconciliation. In South Africa, people understood that we couldn’t overcome apartheid without a commitment to truth and reconciliation. In Rwanda, even after the genocide, there was this commitment, but in this country we haven’t done that.

    I was giving some lectures in Germany about the death penalty. It was fascinating because one of the scholars stood up after the presentation and said, “Well you know it’s deeply troubling to hear what you’re talking about.” He said, “We don’t have the death penalty in Germany. And of course, we can never have the death penalty in Germany.” And the room got very quiet, and this woman said, “There’s no way, with our history, we could ever engage in the systematic killing of human beings. It would be unconscionable for us to, in an intentional and deliberate way, set about executing people.” And I thought about that. What would it feel like to be living in a world where the nation state of Germany was executing people, especially if they were disproportionately Jewish? I couldn’t bear it. It would be unconscionable.

    And yet, in this country, in the states of the Old South, we execute people — where you’re 11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get it if the defendant is black and the victim is white — in the very states where there are buried in the ground the bodies of people who were lynched. And yet, there is this disconnect.”
    http://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html (8:53 mark for that specific quote)

    We never reconciled. Which is why white teenagers in Jasper somehow felt it necessary to desecrate Mr. Byrd’s burial site (which, judging by the picture, seemed to be a pretty typical burial site and not a memorial or anything of that nature). If what Will said above was correct, and that they were motivated by a sense that their pride in their town or their neighbors or their state was somehow compromised by his death and that this was Mr. Byrd’s fault (which was almost assuredly complicated by teenage stupidity)…. shit… we better get reconciling.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

      Nobody alive today owned a slave or lynched a black man. And it’s not as if any schoolchild is unaware of this part of our history. Sorry, Kazzy, this stuff is more a weapon to keep us apart than an active problem. Concern trolling, I think they call it.

      And as for Germany being a bit on the Barney the Dinosaur side of things because of its extensive crimes against humanity 70 years ago, well, nothing lasts forever, especially humility.

      More here. The numbers are not all what y’d expect.


      • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Which country do you think handled its history better: Germany or America?

        America never closed the wound that slavery ripped open. Writing about it in history books ain’t cutting it.

        And I have no idea what that link is indicating. Polls are not what is being discussed.

        If Germany had the death penalty and executed a disproportionate number of Jews, it’d raise just about everyone’s eyebrows.
        The same should be true of America and our execution record as it relates to black folks. EVEN IF it has absolutely nothing to do with the legacy of slavery… it is one hell of a PR blunder.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

          Hey Kazzy, this is not to disagree with you on substance at all, I just can’t help making the snarky joke that there just aren’t a lot of German Jews to execute any more, so Germany is unlikely to have *that* PR problem in the forseeable future.

          Jokes in poor taste aside, you are damn right. Not just Cap. Punishment, but that War On Drugs sure looks a lot like another attempt to just keep that ol’ slavery thing going, doesn’t it?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

            Well, yes. To the joke, that is.

            I wouldn’t go so far and say that the War on Drugs and/or Capital Punishment are explicitly intended to be a modern-day slavery. I won’t even say that is there implicit intent. But the result is concerning and should be a hell of a whole lot more concerning. And I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I never thought of it quite this way until hearing Mr. Stevenson.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

              As far as the TWOD, maybe you can’t liken it exactly to slavery, but my understanding is that there was initially explicitly a racial component to the outlawing of weed (originally used primarily by Mexicans & blacks), opium (ditto for Chinese), and this was the basis of the current regime.

              So, yeah, the intent was originally there, and we shouldn’t be surprised that it continues to look like it, when you look at the current stats.

              Here’s an ACLU paper that hits some of the high points on it. If you don’t like/trust the ACLU as a source, I have also seen it other places (NatGeo actually did a series of programs on Drugs and I think it was there too, and I know it was in the History Channel’s series ‘Hooked: Illegal Drugs & How They Got That Way’) .


              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                There’s also the differential penalties for powered cocaine and crack.Report

              • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                See, even though I think it’s wrong the sentencing disparity exists, and obviously it has the effect of disproportionately negatively impacting blacks, I can buy that racism may not have been the motivating factor – that due the reported qualitative difference in highs/addictive potential (some of which is true, and some of which was hype), people *really* believed that crack was more dangerous, and thus warranted harsher penalties.

                Whereas for the basics (weed, coke, opium, etc.) it pretty clearly was racism from the word go. The irony of course being that banning these substances leads to more concentrated (easier to smuggle, yet on the whole more addictive and prone to overdose) and untested/dangerous substitutes – which we then need harsher penalties for.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Glyph says:

                Mr. Glyph, didn’t the higher penalties come out of the crack epidemic, and from black pols who wanted to “do something?”

                I recall reading up on it, Len Bias’s death [although he snorted it], Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill and the Boston Celtics, a whole mess. I don’t feel like litigating it, but I recall there’s something there to the hysteria that wasn’t about screwing the black man.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’ll admit that’s possible. My memory’s a bit fuzzy, and I may not have gotten the straight story in the first place.

                Evidence is always welcome.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, that’s the point I was making. W/R/T the crack/powder differential, I don’t think racism was the animus.

                Unfortunately, the effect is indistinguishable from the original parts of the WOD that were clearly so.

                As an aside, I wonder if there is a name for that phenomenon? That is, an enterprise that clearly had some racist overtones initially (WOD) leads to further policies that have no racist intent, but wind up looking a lot like it anyway through their impact? Is it mere coincidence?Report

              • {Stuff} flows downhill, Mr. Glyph?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                When you are in a hole, dig faster?Report

              • Y’know, this flesh-eating zombie bath salts thing is gonna blow the paradigm.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Zombie Bath Salts? It’s all about the Krokodil, man. Look it up.

                (If you have eaten recently, don’t Look It Up. Very William Burroughs stuff. So disturbing that I remain unconvinced that there is not some hype/hoax component here – Bath Salts too, for that matter. It is pure speculation that Rudy Eugene, the zombie face-eater, was on them).

                But regardless, these things are the Bathtub Blindman’s Gin of Drug Prohibition. People take them because they want to get high, and they cannot procure a less dangerous product legally.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                But I think the fact that it was most common among the black community helped feed what where somewhat overwrought claims.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                Crack is affordable freebase. How did the penalties for the two compare? (Real question; I have no idea.)Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

                It’s worth keeping in mind that violent crime was at the highest level in living memory, and that the worst of it was concentrated in black neighborhoods. Attributing all these problems to crack was misguided (it had been on the rise since 1960), but there really was a lot of legitimately scary stuff going on.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Glyph says:

            We could use something like Turkish immigrants, or Germans with Polish descent, or folks from East Germany or something as a different proxy.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

          I think the concern trolls keep the slavery wound open. I think it sucks. There’s a message of despair sent out to black America that trying is useless, the game is fixed, and we’re still in Jim Crow except now it’s undercover. This is a lie, and it’s a dirty and harmful lie and hurts out nation—and the black man—greatly.

          America ended slavery and lynchings on her own: she reformed herself. Germany did it at the end of Allied tank barrels and the receiving end of carpet bombs. There is no comparison, and again, I object strongly to the comparison.

          And to close the circle on this, the last participants in a lynching of a black man [James Byrd] are now fucking dead, at the hand of the state of Texas.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


            What reform efforts did America undertake? Reconstruction? The Civil Rights Movement? Regardless of how each country went about it, one country is a hell of a lot closer to reconciliation despite the other side having 90-year head start. He also mentions South Africa, which formed a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. And unlike America and its penchant for newspeak, that commission actually was dedicated to uncovering truth and fostering reconciliation.

            Germany had Nuremberg. South Africa had TRC. America had…? Even if both those approaches were less-than-ideal, I struggle to find a true American analogue. Saying, “Okay, we won’t kill and enslave you any more,” followed up with, “Okay, we won’t kill you any more,” followed up with, “Okay, we’ll acknowledge you as humans equal under the law,”, spread out over 100+ years, doesn’t quite cut it.

            I also find it interesting that you say “America ended…lynchings” in the same comment in which you mention James Byrd. Exactly what definition of “lynching” are you using that wouldn’t include what happened to Mr. Byrd?Report

            • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

              Mr. Byrd’s “lynchers” are dead. As for the rest, Germany didn’t conduct Nuremberg, the Allies did. As for South Africa, I’m not sure if it did much good, too soon to tell.

              Good point by Mo that the North ended slavery by force in the South; Eisenhower desegregated Little Rock with troops as well. But it was still an intramural affair.

              As you know, there were a few war crimes trials after the Civil War, but no ” “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to put slavery itself on trial. Neither did Lester Maddox or Bull Connor ever go on trial for their last gasp of Jim Crow.

              And now, 150 years later, Kazzy, there is even less justification to be putting slavery on trial, or 50 years later, the segregationists who are now six feet under.

              Such rhetoric is keeping the wounds open, yes. There is not a schoolkid in the country who doesn’t know the Truth, and it is the aforementioned “concern trolls” who are standing in the way of Reconciliation.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Byrd’s “lynchers” are dead.

                Lawrence Brewer was executed.
                John King is pending appeals.
                Shawn Berry managed to squeak into a life sentence, eligible for parole in 2038.

                or 50 years later, the segregationists who are now six feet under

                Strom Thurmond and Jerry Falwell passed away only recently.

                Pat Robertson and Ron Paul are still alive, as are many of their contemporaries.

                Racists, and the sons of avowed racists, still hold national and state offices. We’re not there yet and to insist that things are fully healed is deplorable.Report

          • Mo in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            The North ended slavery on their own, the South ended it at the end of rifle barrels and General Sherman’s scorched earth march to the sea.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Mo says:


              • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                I don’t know why I never thought about it this way before, but it struck me just the other day how crappy it would have been for the Southern white nation as a civilization had it been allowed to separate itself and try to forge ahead into the Twentieth Century as a nation built on the cornerstone of slavery. How much more horrible a reckoning would that eventually have necessarily led to for the South?

                (People honestly argue: How much more horrible could it have been than the kind of proto-mechanized, total war that was the reckoning that was experienced?, and that’s indeed a question I don’t have an answer to. I just know it would have been a different, no nicer kind of horrible, that’s all.)Report

              • At the cost of over a half-million dead, I have asked pacifist-type people if the Civil War was “worth it.” It’s one of those puzzlers that puts you all in.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yeah, it’s something of a shocker to realize that the Civil War still accounts for a majority of all American battle deaths from all its wars.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yes, I agree. I’m not completely sure the question really makes sense, either, though.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Tom’s question? It makes some sense to me, as I sorta kinda partly come from a pacifist tradition. The great challenge for pacifists is whether war is really always unjustified in the face of other great evils.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                It certainly makes some initial sense. Not saying it’s nonsensical. Just saying, the closer you look at it, the less it’s really a coherent historical question, IMO. No one knew the costs before setting out, while the kinds of reasons I’m talking about were entirely clear, for example. Either side could have altered the costs at any time throughout by changing its valuation of those reasons versus the costs being incurred, for anther (one rightly, the other, murky), but that’s rarely how war works.

                But when you go to look at it, I think you find that there wasn’t really “a thing” that was either worth “it” or not. it was an entire period, and entire world of inputs and outputs, decisions and tradeoffs. Not just a number or a two or five written on a page that’s either justified or no.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I think it’s not so much a question designed to be answered as a question designed to make you ask more questions.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:


              • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                …I just know that it would have been really, really bad for them had the white aristocrats of the South been allowed to create the thing they wanted (yes, after being forced to that point) to create.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                But we don’t really know what would have happened. It’s possible the system would have proven unstable by the early 20th century, particularly as farmers found tractors more cost-effective than slave, and the south might have devolved into a South African style apartheid. At least that’s far from the least plausible hypothesis. Given how apartheid-like it was for over half the 20th century, anyway, would that outcome–assuming for sake of argument it was the probable one–really have been worse than the actual outcome of over 600,000 dead plus a century of apartheid? I’m not suggesting the answer is unequivocally no, just that for me, at least, it’s not an easy question to answer.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                No James, I don’t know. Sometimes I say things to assert them. It occurred to me that it would have been a really bad thing for the South, even just defined as a society of White men and women, to attempt to enter the Twentieth Century as a newly-forged slave society. Call it an intuition, not a claim of empirical knowledge. You can absolutely differ.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I think the nature of emancipation would have been profoundly different, and therefore slavery’s carry-on effect on the black population through time. I suspect blacks in the South actually didn’t experience the absolute worst-case scenario that was possibly in terms of their advancement and securing of their liberty. I think their advancement could have been significantly delayed and their subjugation considerably deeper and longer, compared to what it was.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I agree. Completely. I just find myself unable to determine whether I think that’s more or less acceptable than what really did happen.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                It’s something of an imponderable. Or maybe a ponderable. But I tried to make that clear – that I didn’t have that answer, but just was truck with this sense that for the South it would have been a very bad thing to be allowed to do what they intended to do. Worse than 600,000 dead? I don’t know how that can possibly be answered. Very bad, that’s all.Report

              • Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

                James, I think your slow dissolution followed by a strict apartheid system scenario is probably right, though I suspect that you’d have seen a few mass migrations from the South to the North, first by newly freed slaves, and later by freed slaves who realize that freedom in the apartheid South isn’t really freedom. I also think you’d see mass migrations of white people from North to South as the South’s economy lags further and further behind both pre-emancipation and post.

                In short, the South would be a big mess, so bad that border states would be begging to be taken back (particularly Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, maybe Arkansas), with strict requirements set on their repatriation. Then there’d be hardline states like South Carolina and Mississippi that would drive themselves into the ground.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Chris, the problem with that idea is would the North have allowed millions of uneducated, poor blacks to move to the North where they would undercut wages and compete for jobs? Imagine the current immigration mess x 1,000,000.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I do agree though the Southern economy would be an absolute mess without the rest of the country.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Chris, the problem with that idea is would the North have allowed millions of uneducated, poor blacks to move to the North where they would undercut wages and compete for jobs?

                Probably. And the North didn’t support the fugitive slave act very much.

                In fact it would have been less, in absolute numbers, than our current rate of immigration, or the rate at which we let in uneducated poor Europeans around the turn of the 20th century.

                I could see a scenario where we treated them like European countries treated Jews escaping from Germany (hell, like we also treated them), but the evidence doesn’t seem to point strongly in that direction.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Chris, Agreed. I thought of some of those points, too, but didn’t want to ramble on too long. I’m glad you brought them up.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The difference between the Great Migration and this alternative history proposal is that these black migrants are now basically immigrants. In the early 20th century, the black people moving to the North were still Americans and yeah, they did run into problems moving up North even with that advantage.

                Now, it is true the North didn’t really enforce the Fugitive Slave Law, but not many slaves were escaping. I can easily see one of the main political parties (a larger Know-Nothing Party with a more explicitly populist anti-black/Southern European immigrant plank) winning victories on making it harder for black Southerners to get into the country. The fact that economically it would make sense wouldn’t matter. A few posters/cartoons of black hordes running over a border and with the racism of the time, you’ve probably got a good vote getter.

                Of course, I can also see an alternative scenario where the Radical Republicans basically run the country for a period of time due to backlash from the “moderate” policies of Lincoln losing the Civil War and as a result, the law is more friendly to blacks even if society is still at the same point.Report

              • Trumwill Mobile in reply to Michael Drew says:

                My take is that they likely would have taken them in as long as slavery existed, but once slavery was changed to something with a slightly less unpleasant perception, it would have been used as an excuse to say “enough.”Report

              • Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Jesse, I don’t think they could have stopped it. The borders were too fluid and the territories too vast. In fact, if states in the East tried to stop it, the migration would have gone west instead.

                Also, I meant to say a migration of poor whites from south to north, not north to south.

                Interesting thought: the South would have been basically a 3rd world country by the time of the 2nd World War. How would the South be affected by the Cold War? One can imagine that, in order to secure its southern border, the U.S. would have done a great deal to help stabalize and improve the South’s economy.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Or installed a reliable military dictator.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                the South would have been basically a 3rd world country by the time of the 2nd World War.

                Actually, several of them.Report

              • Michael D, for what it’s worth, this (that the south is immeasurably better off for not having been allowed to leave) has long been my view.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m honestly stunned I never really saw it that way before. I mean, I’m sure I heard people say exactly that. For some reason I just never really saw it clearly from that perspective before.

                Can you imagine (eventually, presumably – inevitably, I pray!) having to somehow walk back all that that country would have become as the Twentieth Century dawned and started to develop?Report

              • I think the Confederacy, and alternate scenarios, is something that some people are lead to think about more than others. So it’s not a surprise, or even a blind spot, really, that it hadn’t occurred to you or that you haven’t thought that much about it.

                Walking it back might be even harder than you imagine. The terms of the Confederacy were such that even if there were an inkling for change and a reform movement, it would have been extremely difficult institute. When oil was discovered in Texas or any natural break like that would as likely resulted in (another) secession than the ability to do anything with it and advance as a nation.

                The only saving grace the south might have had is a lot of external pressure, mostly from Europe, which might have tolerated the existence of a Confederacy (particularly if it ended the war), but might have applied a lot of trade pressure to moderate. Some have speculated to this effect, anyway. At some point I’m going to look into that.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Ok. You try your whole damn life, you claw your way up to middle class INCOME, and you look at your wealth, compared to your neighbors — you still at 20% of his?
            And you say this game ain’t fixed?

            Where have you been, dear?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

              So you should be able to claw your way up to a position where other people envy where you are and then we can say that the game is no longer fixed?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                effort ought to breed stability and at least giving your children about what you got. At least for a middle class lifestyle. Lacking wealth means if you lose a job, you go straight back down to the lower lower class…Report

          • balthan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re not a fan of Tim Wise.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

          If Germany had the death penalty and executed a disproportionate number of Jews, it’d raise just about everyone’s eyebrows.

          We actually don’t execute a disproportionate number of blacks. At least, not disproportionate to the rate at which they commit murder.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Administration of the death penalty is, however, extremely lopsided when it comes to sex. A man who commits murder is about ten times more likely to be executed than a woman who commits murder.

            Nobody cares about this, though, because conservatives aren’t looking for ammunition against the death penalty, and leftists aren’t interested in that kind of sexism.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:


              I’ve stated several times (perhaps not here, because there haven’t been a ton of conversations about the death penalty) that the gender cap is hugely concerning on a number of levels.

              As for the statement that the execution rate for blacks is equal to the murder rate, I’d need to see some evidence to back that up.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              “The raw data of death sentences in Philadelphia between 1983 and 1993, provide the first piece of disturbing evidence that race discrimination may be operating. The rate at which eligible black defendants were sentenced to death was nearly 40% higher than the rate for other eligible defendants. A sentencing rate is simply a ratio of the number of death sentences for a particular group compared to the total number of cases of that group which would be eligible for a death sentence. In the chart below, a death sentencing rate of .18 for blacks means that for every 100 eligible black defendants, 18 will be sentenced to death. For other defendants, only 13 out of 100 will be similarly sentenced.”

              Not the most up to date or comprehensive data, but in the face of nothing to the contrary, I await your response.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

                Nationwide, a slight majority of homicides are committed by blacks. Nationwide, a slight majority of prisoners who have been executed were white.

                I’m sure that in certain localities blacks are overrepresented among those sentenced to death, possibly due to bias, and possibly due purely to chance. I’m not sure that “Death penalties handed down in Philadelphia between 1983 and 1993” denotes a sample size large enough to draw any meaningful conclusions.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:


                Again, that’s explained by greater likelihood of getting the death penalty for killing white people, lower likelihood for killing black people, and the fact that most killers kill people in their own race. So whites will kill more whites and blacks will kill more blacks. It suggests were’ not disproportionately targeting blacks for the death penalty, sure, but it also means we’re disproportionately treating black victims as less important than white victims.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            See here. If you’re right, it may only be because most murders are intra-racial, and those who kill whites are more likely to receive the death penalty. Since whites kill mostly whites, and blacks kill mostly blacks, whatever racial equality exists for defendants may be based on racial inequality for the victims.

            There is also evidence showing that your most likely to get the death penalty if you’re a white person killing a black person, and least likely if you’re a white person killing a black person.

            No worries, though. Tom assures us that’s just concern trolling, and we shouldn’t let black kids know of those disparities because it will only discourage them.Report

            • Take it up with Mr. Berg, who can straighten out your misapprehensions on the death penalty. As for the rest, I really only have time for those who are able to state my position accurately and fairly.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “As for the rest, I really only have time for those who are able to state my position accurately and fairly.”


                I’ve said this before and I am going to say it one time and one time only (because I have no interest in devolving into a discussion about you or anyone else here unless they happened to own a slave)… but I think the onus is on you to state your position accurately and fairly before demanding that of others. You offered a link and said, “The numbers are not what you’d expect,” which not only makes a presumption about what we’d expect but also offers nothing as to what your “position” is.

                In reference to your second comment, you refer to concern trolling keeping the slavery wound open. James snarkily points out this position gives more credence to concern trolling than the treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system w/r/t the “slavery wound”. What did he misstate about your position? And, please, answer my questions directly, as I’d like to understand your position and respond to it fairly.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well it’s all grist for the mill. We’re talking slavery and then it’s on to the whole megillah, every bit of race unfairness flung at the wall at once. Feh. It’s not a discussion, it’s a diaperful.

                As for the link to the European polls, I admit I didn’t explain why I posted it. They are usually ignored, and often I pop in a link I’ve been reading out of general interest. In this case, the interesting thing is that we hear from our own elites how uncivilized America is for having the death penalty, compared to the more urbane Europeans. But with the exception of traumatized Germany, the people of many Euro countries favor the death penalty—it was their elites that banned it.

                The only difference, then, is that in the US, our laws more democratically reflect our positions. And I did suggest—ominously—that the Germans may not stay Barneyish forever. Keep an eye on ’em—you can’t keep a good Hun down.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                But that is neither here nor there. So what if America is more in line with the rest of Euro*? The point is that Germany, even if only temporarily, responded to the blood on their hands with “humility” (your word); America responded to the blood in its hands with… What exactly?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                * Forgot to add… Interesting to see a conservative lauding our similarities to Europe! :-pReport

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                Kazzy, my position is pretty much the Vatican’s, that cap punishment has no real value in the present Western context, i.e., it serves no greater good like deterrence or preventing more murders by wasting murderers.

                However, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or immoral about capital punishment. If it served the greater good of saving the innocent at the price of executing the guilty, the moral calculus is fine. It would be a matter of self-defense on the part of society.

                But I get bugged when the race thing is played—it’s simply not so that the death penalty is applied unevenly. First of all, a higher %age of whites on death row are executed, just to keep things “even” and to make sure that card can’t be played.

                Second, it is true that blacks get a slightly higher %age of death sentences per murderer capita, but this is accounted for by the fact that we give the death sentence more often to cop-killers, and also to those who murder strangers as opposed to friends and family. And to my mind, quite rightly.

                And of course, the difference in murder rates, 7-1 or so.

                I’ve seen this argument 1000 times on the internet and the race disparity “proofs” always require hopping on one foot while humming Dixie. I have also learned that litigating it is pointless in fora like these, and to argue as I have here usually ends up in a charge of “deplorable” racial insensitivity if not outright racism.

                So fish that, OK, Kaz? I’ve dropped enough breadcrumbs that anyone interested in the truth of the thing can track it down for themselves. As I said from the first, I rather lean against, but the sophistry on the facts is annoying, and feeds the greater narrative of black hopelessness, which is the far graver problem than residual racism.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

                If we could be 100% sure of never ever ever ever ever executing an innocent person, maybe the moral calculus of “protecting society” could work in some small way.

                To claim that the death penalty isn’t applied unevenly, though?

                Sobering statistics are readily available as well as case studies to show that your assertion is not true.

                Now if you can show some actual sources to back up your claims…Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sir, take it up with Mr. Berg, who is litigating this elsewhere in this thread. Blithely linking to advocacy websites without context is not legitimate argument, however. Mr. Berg has the floor in that discussion, his assertion that

                Nationwide, a slight majority of homicides are committed by blacks. Nationwide, a slight majority of prisoners who have been executed were white.

                remains unmolested at this point, a brute assertion of numbers that neither hops on one foot nor whistles “Dixie.” If you want to play that numbers game, one must account for that before hopping and whistling.

                FTR, even the “100% sure” argument might allow for more executions than I personally am comfortable with, for reasons given above, and for reasons not yet given. Neither would I be comfortable with the bar of 100% certainty rather than our legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” in anything that involves human beings.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                That seems more a response to an earlier post than this one, which is all fine and good. But I’d be really curious to see your answer to this question:

                “The point is that Germany, even if only temporarily, responded to the blood on their hands with “humility” (your word); America responded to the blood in its hands with… What exactly?”Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                The problem with the comparison is that America went to war with itself to put a stop to it, Germany didn’t. Germany also came out of it in a different world than the US did when it came out of its own.

                I do agree with the Stevenson quote. I oppose the death penalty and the war on drugs. But reconciliation 150 years later for slavery is logistically problematic. Reconciliation 50 years after Jim Crow is also problematic.

                I truly don’t know how we fix this. Germany did so with a foreign occupying army, undemocratic means, the elimination of free speech, and other things we’re not going to do. And, of course, the actions in question being in living memory for most of its population.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m not in the docket, Kazzy, you & yrs are. If I had more heart for polemics and prosecution, I’d press the issue.

                “Concern trolling” and keeping slavery alive although it’s 150 years dead, and beating the Jim Crow drum after 50 years in the grave is the offense against the polity here.

                It hurts our nation by dividing us and it hurts black America by feeding its sense of hopelessness.

                And we have people in their 20s harping on the sins of 30 or 100 years before they were born. This is a “false consciousness” or whatever BS the theorists call it, second hand experience from revisionist texts and movies.

                Yes, Atticus Finch was real in a way, and we all fancy ourselves Atticus Finch, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, that we’d have the guts to stand up against the mob and racism and defend one-armed Brock Peters from the racists.

                But this is all fantasy moral heroism, man. Atticus’ real heroism is not in standing up for the obviously innocent black man Brock Peters, it’s in standing up against the mob of his own people.

                It’s a different mob today in 2012, brother, but in their way they’re all the same. And so are heroes.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                I asked a direct question twice, which went directly to my overarching point. You opted not to answer. I see no reason to carry o.


                I pretty much agree with what you say, i’m largely looking at what did and didn’t happen, not necessarily what should or shouldn’t happen. I’d like to think that the shipnhasn’t sailed on true reconciliation, but I have no idea how we get there. I suppose Congress formally apologizing in 2008 was a tiny step, but substantive efforts need to be made that directly deal with, instead of circumvent, slavery.

                Oh yea… And we sure as hell need to stop putting the onus on black folk to reconcile, as so many so often do.Report

              • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

                Technically, we went to war with the CSA to end slavery. And Lincoln endorsed the Corwin Amendment (which passed the House and was ratified by three states) during his inaugural address to prevent cessation. So while ending slavery was a happy outcome of the Civil War, it was not its purpose.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                TVD: If it served the greater good of saving the innocent at the price of executing the guilty, the moral calculus is fine.

                There’s a lot of utility in utilitarianism, even for a rights guy, no?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                Mr. Still, I framed it as natural law, as the right to self-defense. Someday I may not have to say everything twice. I look forward to that day, when folks think first, type later.


              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                Cmon now Tom. I did think first. I thought it was a utilitarian argument. It still seems like one to me. I’m not gonna push on it cuz you obviously disagree.

                (But it’s a utilitarian argument.)Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                I see yr argument, Mr. Still, but a purely utilitarian argument would read that if we execute 1 innocent man to save ten or a hundred, that would be OK.

                But in arguing self-defense via natural law, I’m not really opening the “error” door, which is a side issue. Better to execute one guilty man than let an innocent one die, would be the moral calculus, and not a very difficult one.

                The Vatican’s “pro-life” position is that to execute a guilty man but save no innocent life by doing so is unnecessary and therefore has no moral justification.

                That’s my best understanding, anyway.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Blithely linking to advocacy websites without context is not legitimate argument, however.

                The irony is delicious. This whole section of thread, including the above comment by Tom, is nested under a comment where Tom linked to a website without context. Nominally a polling, rather than an advocacy site, but it was Rasmsussen’s site, famous for consistently overestimating the Republican vote.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                OK, Kazzy, have it your way. I object to your message of prejudice and hopelessness as woefully out of date.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                Personal attack.

                Good day to you, child.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                No personal attack, sir. I object to your message.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I have a conveniently numbered response to nonsense like this. Out of consideration for folks I respect, I’ll refrain from using it. Instead, I’ll just note that Mr Berg, with whom I usually agree, presented neither sources nor data, whereas I did. If there are misapprehensions on any subject here, the benefit of the doubt generally goes to the person with data, rather than to the person without.

                And then there’s you, who likes to present links to data without actually bothering to figure out what they say, and have–like so many times before–inadvertently used your own sources to demolish your own arguments. God love you, Tom, if you didn’t exist I’d have to create you as a sock puppet, just for the entertainment value.Report

            • Mo in reply to James Hanley says:

              “There is also evidence showing that your most likely to get the death penalty if you’re a white person killing a black person, and least likely if you’re a white person killing a black person.”

              Wait, which one is it, are you most likely or least likely to get the death penalty as a white person that kills a black person?Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

              You’re right, we should give more white people the death penalty for having run somebody over with their car, and give fewer black people the death penalty for rape and robbery at gunpoint. Otherwise we’re racist.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I think we should give no ne the death penalty. But if we can only give it to one guy, opting for the black guy who didn’t kill anyone over the white guy who did does seem at least a tad bit racist, no?Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m not sure what DensityDuck is talking about, but the US hasn’t actually executed anyone for a crime other than homicide for nearly fifty years.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Since I’ve already made one tasteless joke in these comments, I guess I will post another, made by a pro this time, that seems appropriate to this sub-thread – a tweet sent by Donald Glover (he’s a comedian/writer/musician – he’s on Community. Talented dude.)

                Childish Gambino ?@DonaldGlover

                A “racist rapist” sounds worse than a regular rapist when u first hear it, but it’s actually better cause less people get raped. ?#thoughtsReport

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:


                Nothing? Come on, it had everything this thread was about; rape, race, and Utilitarian calculus.

                It’s also reminiscent to me of Louis CK’s ‘useless facts’ bit about how the complete social leprosy of child molesters inadvertently leads to more child murder than we’d otherwise have, since a molester is better off killing the victim & hiding the body, than letting the victim go & increasing his own risk of capture; but this is info we just can’t do anything with.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Glyph says:

                This is actually a legitimate problem with one of the arguments for hate crime legislation: That a hate crime is worse than a regular crime because it terrorizes a certain group of people. The problem, of course, is that regular crime terrorizes everyone.

                And Louis CK’s argument reminds me of David Friedman’s argument for why capital punishment for crimes other than murder is problematic.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Glyph says:

                That a hate crime is worse than a regular crime because it terrorizes a certain group of people. The problem, of course, is that regular crime terrorizes everyone.

                There are plenty of problems with that theory of yours. Here are four.

                1) Hate crimes were a standard tactic in the enforcement of segregation, and are aimed at those in minority groups who are already more vulnerable to such a tactic. This makes hate crimes a different variety from “normal” crimes.

                2) Hate crimes don’t just harm one person (at a time). They deliberately create rifts and distrust between groups in society, sending an impression that certain groups are unwelcomed by the society itself. It’s no coincidence that those who perpetrated some of the most heinous hate crimes simultaneously made public pronunciations of a coming racial war. In many cases, hate crimes have been an attempt to provoke riots and antagonism in the misguided belief that authorities would then have to “crack down” on the targeted minority groups.

                3) Hate crimes that don’t involve murder involve serious psychological damage. Hate crimes directed at sexual orientation have more severe psychological effects even than racial hate crimes.

                4) Hate crimes and hate rhetoric tend to spread if unchecked. Groups that initially were “just” segregationist have spread their hate towards religious minorities, women, homosexuals… anyone they thought to be a vulnerable target.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                So there’s actually a good reason to punish people for their thoughts?Report

              • Trumwill Mobile in reply to Glyph says:

                James, the “punished for thoughts” is contested. Punished for motivation, perhaps, but we already do that. Punished for disproportionate effect, also, if the intended result is more than a fire on someone’s lawn or graffiti on their property.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Glyph says:

                So there’s actually a good reason to punish people for their thoughts?

                Punished for their thoughts? If they merely had their thoughts, and did not cross the lines normally involved in speaking them (notable exceptions to “free speech” including attempts to start riots and threats of violence in general), then no.

                Punished more seriously for committing a crime with disproportionate effects, certainly. A crime committed with the intent of terrifying a community or splitting apart society along lines of race, gender or sexual orientation is a worse crime than one committed because of what I can only call “simpler malice” or even a simple lack of foresight.

                Drunk drivers may be drunk and become murderers, but the chances they are trying to start racial rioting in the idea that police will have to “crack down upon” their targeted group are close to zero. On the other hand, Charles Manson.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                “This is actually a legitimate problem with one of the arguments for hate crime legislation: That a hate crime is worse than a regular crime because it terrorizes a certain group of people. The problem, of course, is that regular crime terrorizes everyone.”

                I’m not a particular fan of hate crime legislation. However, the extent to which I might be convinced is when there is an explicit intent to terrorize the group in question.

                I don’t imagine most, if any, rapists rape to send a message to women.
                And I’d be surprised if Mr. Byrd’s murderers were intending to send a message to the black residents of Jasper/Texas/America; my hunch is they were simply indulging in an opportunity to engage in a mob mentality that encouraged and affirmed their hatred.
                Burning crosses on a lawn? Swastikas and broken windows at a synagogue? Almost assuredly intended to send a message. However, in most cases, these are also covered by other laws.

                So, TRUE hate crimes, as in those specifically intended to terrorize a group of people, should be illegal in most all cases. But ideally under existing laws OR a far more narrow definition and application of “hate crimes”. The cases in which they are not are when someone is engaged in genuine acts of free speech. Want to burn crosses on your own lawn or paint swastikas on your own door? Go for it, I guess. Do it to someone else and you are likely already guilty of a half-dozen other laws before we even consider “hate crime” application.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Glyph says:

                Spot on, Kazzy. Virginia v. Black: cross-burning is an act of terror and not protected by the First Amendment.


              • MikeSchilling in reply to Glyph says:

                It looks to me like Virginia vs Black cuts the baby in half. The law that was struck down made cross-burning illegal under all circumstances, since historically it has always been intended as a threat. Kazzy (if I understand him) wants cross-burning criminalized only as an act of vandalism or trespassing The Court, taking a middle road, said that if an intent to intimidate can be proven, cross-burning can be criminalized per se.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Based on my IANAL perspective, that seems to be right. We have existing laws about acts intended to intimidate or terrorize. As I understand them, they should suffice in prosecuting acts like cross burning.

                Uttering “fag” while beating a gay man, to me, doesn’t constitute a hate crime, unless it was part of a larger pattern of targeting gays (wherein the uttering of that word need not be present if intent can be proven otherwise). Of course, at that point, I don’t know how much difference attaching a “hate crime” is to someone being charged with beating enough people to constitute a pattern intended to intimidate the gay community.

                Of course, I should say, that I am an ubermensch of privilege and might well be underselling how one individual act can intimidate a community. There is also the possibility, I suppose, where a series of otherwise unrelated events can terrorize a community. Five different and unrelated groups of whites dragging black men to death could, should, and would likely terrorize the local black community. However, I’m not sure to which group you apply the statute to. And, again, I don’t know that it matters since the whole lot of them will likely be in jail the rest of their life.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                No, we don’t punish motivation, we punish intent. If I kill you through carelessness, my punishment is lighter than if I kill you intentionally. If I kill you intentionally, but in a moment of passion, my punishment is lighter than if I carefully plan it out.

                The idea that we punish it more because it is intended to terrorize is a way of punishing something that is otherwise protected. If I publish and speak about the need to ruthlessly eliminate all Scotsmen, I scare Scotsmen with whom I have no contact and to whom I do nothing physical, and I cannot be punished for it. If I lynch a Scotsman, I scare Scotsmen with whom I have no contact and to whom I d0 nothing physical, but I can be punished for it.

                I don’t buy the argument that it’s punishment for scaring people; it doesn’t travel. It’s a punishment for the hatred itself.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                Virginia v. Black: cross-burning is an act of terror and not protected by the First Amendment.

                That’s not what the ruling says at all.

                The First Amendment permits Virginia to outlaw cross burnings done with the intent to intimidate because burning a cross is a particularly virulent form of intimidation…

                As the history of cross burning indicates, a burning cross is not always intended to intimidate. Rather, sometimes the cross burning is a statement of ideology, a symbol of group solidarity…

                It may be true that a cross burning, even at a political rally, arouses a sense of anger or hatred among the vast majority of citizens who see a burning cross. But this sense of anger or hatred is not sufficient to ban all cross burnings.

                The prima facie evidence provision, as interpreted by the jury instruction, renders the statute unconstitutional [because it] strips away the very reason why a State may ban cross burning with the intent to intimidate. …The provision permits the Commonwealth to arrest, prosecute, and convict a person based solely on the fact of cross burning itself

                In short, a state can ban cross burning whose intent is to intimidate (because states can ban intimidating acts), but it cannot burn cross-burning generally, precisely because it can be expression that is protected by the First Amendment.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                James, I’m not sure I’m following you here, so let me ask you a question. Is intent never punishable? Seems to me that it is: eg, if enough evidence establishes motive, intent and means, then even tho there was no illegal action, the intent to act is prosecutable.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                Ahhh. Now IC. Disregard the above comment – the intent of it reveals I was confused.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Dangit, a really interesting thread developed off a silly comment and I missed it.

                Stillwater, IANAL (and I wish Burt or somebody who is might chime in) and my guess is laws vary state to state, but at least when it comes to attempted murder, it is my understanding that the intent itself is not what is being punished. That is, for the charge of attempted murder to stick you have to have taken at least one concrete/direct yet unsuccessful step towards the act.

                So saying, ‘I’m gonna kill that guy’ probably wouldn’t do it. But sketching a plan to his house with points of entry might, and obviously contracting with a killer over the internet – who is ALWAYS a LEO, come on, people – definitely would do it.

                Even with something like the charge of criminal conspiracy, the act of forming the conspiracy with another person(s) may be analogous to the ‘killer contract’ and even then, I think one of the members has to have taken at least one concrete step for the charge to stick.

                Now where this wraps back around to hate crimes I am unsure. But I am not particularly a fan of hate crime laws for the reasons James, Kazzy and others have ably laid out. They seem at best superfluous, and at worst a way to criminalize thought.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “In short, a state can ban cross burning whose intent is to intimidate (because states can ban intimidating acts), but it cannot burn cross-burning generally, precisely because it can be expression that is protected by the First Amendment.”


                Wouldn’t this allow for criminalizing other actions that are intended to intimidate? In case it was not clear, I think all of these need to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

                As an example, imagine a town that is racially diverse but largely segregated, with a “white part” and a “black part”. One day, a group of whites see a black guy in a bar in their part of town. They proceed to beat the crap out of him and dump his body, still alive, back on the black side of town with a sign that states, “This is what happens when you cross Main Street. Let this serve as a warning.”

                Would this be a case that would warrant a charge beyond assault/battery? Some sort of “assault with the intent to terrorize” or however else laws against terrorizing acts are written? I don’t think the phrase “hate crime” is even necessary. But an act like that certainly does do harm to folks other than the beaten man. Fear is a real thing. It does harm. And this isn’t an irrational fear that folks imagined; it was the result of a deliberate attempt to instill fear.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:


                What if it was just an effigy of a beaten black man with that sign?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                I… Don’t… Know.

                So I understand you corrctly, do you think the state should not be able to outlaw “intimidating acts”.

                Also, doesn’t intent and motivation always matter, both in charges filed (e.g., 1st vs 2nd bs 3rd degree murder) and in sentencing?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                I absolutely think the state can outlaw intimidation of specific individuals. Groups? I think that’s different, and a dangerously slippery slope.

                I’d have to go back and catch up again on crim law to answer your other question. Once upon a time I knew just enough to answer it, but it’s been too long since I looked at it. There’s some fine distinctions going on in how those terms are used in law that I just can’t remember off the top of my head, and (not to my credit) don’t feel like looking up right now.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Good point re: individuals vs groups. The main thing given mepause is that I am not nor have I ever been in a group that was targetted for intimidation. I can imagine the psychology of, and thus the harm done to, such folks being different than that of you or I. I’m not necessarily saying it is (I’ve read some research to that end but nothing specific I can point to). This is a moment where a bit more diversity here would be helpful.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

              Hm. You may be right about that. I’m still working my way through that paper.

              That said, it seems to me that eliminating this bias would result in executing proportionately more blacks. Personally, I’m fine with that. Those who kill black victims deserve to die just as much as those who kill white victims. But on paper it would look worse.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

              If you’re right, it may only be because most murders are intra-racial, and those who kill whites are more likely to receive the death penalty.

              It’s likely that this is to some extent due to the fact that a higher percentage of white murder victims (30%) than black murder victims (15%) are female. Women make more sympathetic victims. Not saying that that explains everything, of course, but it almost certainly does explain some of the racial discrepancy.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Forgot the link to the source.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Good point, that’s another interesting element in the mix.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:


                The numbers can be cut a lot of ways. Stevenson is a trial lawyer who works specifically on the death prnalty and I’ll see if I can dig up more comprehensive work of his than the TED Talk.

                Still… After WWII and the Nazis, even if done at the point of the gun, Germans realized that the government killing Jews, even if justifiable, would be very troubling. We’ve reached no such conclusion. And I think looking at the lack of reconciliation, whcih i believe this phenomenon to be a symptom of rather than cause of, is a conversation worth having.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                It may seem like a minor distinction to you, but German leadership realized it would be troubling. They went over the public’s head on the matter.

                They were right to! Also, the people came around. But the nature of how it happened – and how it happened in Europe more generally – should be noted. A less bloodthirsty and more introspection would help, but what we’re asking for here is the will of the public to be ignored (with hopes that they will come around).Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I meant to make the Germans/Germany distinction somewhere as it is an important one. Persoaally, if this issue isn’t addressed top down, I don’t think it works. But that is more than I cam get into right now. Maybe if/when I get FP status, I can write more extensively on the matter.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                To be clear, if I wasn’t, I have no problem with undemocratic means as long as they occur within our republican democratic process*, if that makes sense. I ultimately came down against PPACA, for instance, but the fact that the public was against it does not bother me much. Nor would it if the death penalty were quashed in such a fashion (as it was in so many other countries).

                * – Or the courts, of course, though I am more skittish about that than are a lot of other people.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Personally, I sometimes think the crying of the “will of the majority being usurped” assumes that our elected officials should be entirely focused on “representation” and not-at-all focused on “leadership”. I think there is space for both.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                And I think looking at the lack of reconciliation, whcih i believe this phenomenon to be a symptom of rather than cause of, is a conversation worth having.

                There’s a lot of power in reconciliation. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. Maybe a guest post? (Or here, acourse.)Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

                Still… After WWII and the Nazis, even if done at the point of the gun, Germans realized that the government killing Jews, even if justifiable, would be very troubling.

                Honestly, this strikes me as a complete non sequitur. The Nazis’ killing of the Jews was wrong precisely because it was unjustified. The execution of a murderer for the crime of murder is entirely different from genocide. These things really aren’t comparable in any meaningful sense. Furthermore, the Nazis aren’t in power anymore.

                I suspect that this really sounds profound if you’re opposed to the death penalty anyway—otherwise it just comes off as silly.

                Or, think about it this way: You know what else the Nazis did with the Jews? They put them in concentration camps. Big prisons, basically. Is it troubling that the modern German government puts criminals—Jewish criminals, no less!—in prison?

                The Nazis also stole money and valuables from the Jews. Do you therefore find Germany’s high taxes troubling? What if it turns out that they tax Jews disproportionately because they have above-average incomes*?

                *I’m actually not sure whether that’s true. American Jews do, but I can’t find statistics on German Jews.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                If I were going to write an over-the-top parody of libertarianism, it would include the observation that genocide and taxation are both coercion done at the point of a gun.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Of course, I didn’t do that. The analogy I made was:

                Genocide : Capital Punishment :: Exprorpriation : Taxation.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                An argument can be made that thanks to the “War On Drugs”, federal prisons resemble concentration camps full of hispanics and blacks…Report

              • Scott in reply to M.A. says:

                Who would make such a silly argument, the loony left?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to M.A. says:

                Ecch.. the stats say they’re full of poor people. Yes, lots more poor people are black and Hispanic but lots of white folx are poor too and they appear in the prison system correlative to income.

                Even if we take the drugs out of it, I’m looking at some DOJ numbers and I’ll get back to you with what I can get out of my R toolkit, but it seems this pattern still holds for other crimes.

                Don’t expect me to have any sympathy for crooks, I don’t. I’m just pointing out that these Konzentrationslager are equally opportunity establishments, full of poor people of every race.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Ah, that’s an interesting element in the mix.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Which country do you think handled its history better: Germany or America?”

          This is a Germany, mind you, where while the Nazi party is illegal, the (real) Communist Party is perfectly legal, and the (different) successor to the party that ran East Germany for its history is still a going concern. And a Germany that finally, in the year 2000, started giving citizenship to Turks born in Germany.Report

      • krogerfoot in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        I realize I’m late to this discussion, but the point was that terror was the backdrop for Americans’ lives within living memory. When fellow citizens point out that the threat of lynching and terror was a part of their lives, it doesn’t do to wave your hands and say “Slavery was a long time ago!!” A lot of us started waving away the past awfully early – “Come on, it’s the 70s, man! Everyone’s been allowed to vote for almost eight years now!” We didn’t call it concern trolling back then, but we didn’t need any magic words to shut down discussion.

        The last “get-a-rope” style lynching was in maybe the 1930s (?), but people died during the Civil Rights years. Their killers still walk the earth. But I don’t mean to be a bummer, man.Report

        • Yes, but you tripped back to the 1970s. Those good old days of moral unambiguity. Proved the point, and shut down the discussion—at least on your own end.

          BTW, where were you when Medgar Evers was shot?Report

          • krogerfoot in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            “Proved the point, and shut down the discussion—at least on your own end.”
            (Wide-eyed, innocently): Me? Shut down a discussion? But that’s what I was complaining about. Maybe I wasn’t so coherent – when I said that we didn’t need magic words to shush a topic, I meant people just didn’t talk about things like the pre-Civil Rights era in mixed company.

            “BTW, where were you when Medgar Evers was shot?”
            Before my time. I got to Jackson in 1987, and lived down the road from where he was killed, and about 100 miles south of where the man who bragged of killing him lived. Gov. Barnett, the man who made a point of shaking hands with the killer during his first hung-jury trial, died the year I moved in. I had nothing to do with that, either.Report

            • They are dead and gone, then. The governor, the assassin as well, Byron De La Beckwith. My point, sir.Report

              • krogerfoot in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Right, and still none of them ever owned any slaves either, that was a long time ago, yada yada. I understand your point, and you understand mine.Report

              • And you were doing so well.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And yet other killings still occur, and other racial injustices and targeting go on.

                I’ve been trying to find the name of the town involved in racist shakedowns and I just did. Welcome to Tenaha, TX and be aware of the laws Texas passed to enable this kind of behavior.

                A 5-year-old from 1965 is only 72 today. Children raised by white segregationists angry over the civil rights movement can easily just be in their 50s today.

                The likes of Pat Robertson, Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan are still very alive and active in politics. Jerry Falwell and Strom Thurmond, while dead, are not long in their graves and their children still embarrass the US with their presence.

                Even without direct racial hatred, Republicans are trying to pass poll taxes and disenfranchise voters who tend not to vote their way across the nation. Pennsylvania’s Republicans just admitted publicly that the goal of their so called “Voter ID” law was to disenfranchise enough minorities that Romney could win their state.

                Your response?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                A 5-year-old from 1965 is only 72 today

                Wait, I was born in 65. I was under the impression I was 47 years old, not 67!Report

              • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to James Hanley says:

                Well, people born in the 60s have terrible math skills.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

                I feel 72 a lot of the time. Does that count?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                So maybe it’s not too soon to start yelling at the kids to get off my lawn?Report

              • M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                5 years old in 1965 would be born in 1960.

                That’d make them 52 years old. Which is better than the point I was making because there are a hell of a lot of 52-year-olds around.

                Also, that’ll teach me to try to do math before my morning coffee.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Indeed, the irony is that you accidentally undersold your point. 😉

                But it’s an old truth that change happens intergenerationally because we don’t change people’s minds; we teach kids and their parents die off.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                You’re sure you were born in’65? Because the memory is the first thing to go.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I’d check my driver’s license, but I can’t remember where I put it down.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to M.A. says:

                More absurd than usual. The goalposts have been moved to the parking lot.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Suddenly, society is irrelevant, eh? But I don’t think you’re moving the goalposts, Mr. not-Van Dyke. I just think you bought yourself of Handy-Dandy TM Collapsible Goalposts. You’ll pop them back up the next time society becomes useful to you, which as a Burkean concervative surely won’t be long.Report

              • Can’t debate Bull Connor’s granddaughter. This is absurd.Report

        • M.A. in reply to krogerfoot says:

          Not just that, there are still plenty of rural towns in the USA today where anyone with skin darker than a slice of wonderbread would be best advised not to be after dark.

          It’s not a pleasant reality, but it is reality. The sentiments still exist, and you can still find people clinging to them. I’ve driven through a few of those towns, had my car break down in one and had the tow truck driver “kindly explain” to me on the ride to the mechanic’s that if I didn’t see any black folks (he used the impolite term) around, it was just fine because they didn’t want “any of that trouble they always bring with them” in their town. Of course he “didn’t have any problem with” blacks… as long as they “stayed away.”Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

      Actually, based on the above story, the numbers are exactly what I’d expect. Germany is the big outlier in support for capital punishment, having much lower support than any other European country.

      What did you expect?

      Also, Rasmusen cites this:
      In a startling analysis, Mr Zimring shows that most executions are performed in a few states in the south and south-west where the lynching of African- Americans, other forms of mob violence and six-shooter justice were most endemic at the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

      His attempted rebuttal is appallingly bad:
      Zimring snookered The Economist. As explained above, support for the death penalty is weakest in the South, not strongest (probably related to the South having a larger black population),

      But Zimring wasn’t talking at that point about support for the death penalty, he was talking about numbers of executions.

      So in general, those numbers, both polling in Germany and number of executions, really do serve to highlight the difference between the U.S.–or at least its slave and lynch-heavy states-and Germany, insofar as their response to past atrocities supports current death penalty policy.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

        Germany => history of systematic killing by government of Jews => vehemently opposed to systematic killing by government of anyone

        America => history of systematic enslavement and killing of Africans/African-Americans => staunch defenders of systematic killing, which disproportionately falls upon African-AmericansReport

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      He said, “We don’t have the death penalty in Germany. And of course, we can never have the death penalty in Germany.” And the room got very quiet, and this woman said, “There’s no way, with our history, we could ever engage in the systematic killing of human beings. It would be unconscionable for us to, in an intentional and deliberate way, set about executing people.”

      Wow. Just, wow.

      Maybe there is hope for us, after all.Report