Judging the Guilty in Ferguson

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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134 Responses

  1. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    The Great Carnac predicts…we will do mostly nothing.

    I mean, the 50K body cams Obama is pushing for is a great idea & a good start, except for cases like WA, where the open records law is a bit too open.

    Not that I think such records should not be open, but perhaps a service fee is not out of line unless the requestor is connected to the requested footage or has a subpoena.Report

    • Not to derail this into a discussion about cop cameras, but this is heartening.

      Of course, the cop isn’t being fired for, you know, shooting someone, but rather for failing to have his camera on/insubordination.

      But it’s something.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        From the article:

        “If they fire every officer who doesn’t turn on his uniform camera, they won’t have anyone left on the department,” Grover said.

        I’d be okay with them just firing the officers who don’t turn on their uniform cameras who are in situations where they pull their gun.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Glyph says:

        But beatings, warrantless searches, interrogations – those are alright to have off-camera?

        “If they fire every officer who doesn’t turn on his uniform camera, they won’t have anyone left on the department,” sounds like it might be an improvement.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m comparing to the previous status quo which was “wait a few months, then give them a plaque”.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Aaaaaand Eric Garner’s murderer, a murder caught on tape in its entirety, gets off without so much as an indictment.

        Maybe cameras aren’t the answer.Report

      • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

        I was just going to note Garner’s murderer won’t even be indicted. Camera’s are nice and good but are far from a complete solution.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        Hey, I just thought of a partial solution to the abortion issue. Have a cop explain that the young man/woman made a furtive movement inside of the womb.

        About half of the pro-lifers will be satisfied.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:

        See, this is the problem when prosecutors try to give the Grand Jury ham sandwiches on dark rye. They want white bread.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      someone needs to write the software. That’s all. I have no objections to having the state of washington (or the requestor) pay for the damn software.

      We have decent facial recognition, and if you morph all the voices, you haven’t hurt anything… not sure about the rest.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:


        I was actually thinking about that, that there should be an application out there that can run through the raw footage frame by frame, blur out faces, and apply a random variation to voices on a copy for public consumption (and flag frames where it isn’t sure about a face). Then the unadultered raw footage can be preserved as evidence quite easily. If it doesn’t exist, something like this will create the demand to bring it into being soon. It would certainly ease the burden on the PDs.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

        Part of the issue is having enough processing power to do this in realtime. heck, with a month or two and some prebuilt libraries, I could probably do a decent job (note: I am in no way shape or form a sound engineer. I’d probably just hack off frequencies until it became hard to distinguish. Or use a “voice to text” translator, that’s probably easier).Report

    • My own thoughts on how officer-mounted cameras ought to work are somewhat different. No on/off switch — camera starts recording when you go on duty, stops when you go off. Everything is encrypted as part of the recording process. Decryption keys are held by limited authorities, misuse is a criminal offense. Such recordings should not be subject to open-records requests [1]. Recordings are tossed after some period of time (months?); copies are extracted and saved in the event of an investigation or complaint. The goal here is to have a record of a specific instance of an officer behaving badly — it’s not to provide an opportunity for people to go fishing. This also addresses some of the comments above on face blanking and audio disguising, since those are no longer real-time issues.

      [1] My reasoning is based on my time as an employee of the state legislator. An enormous amount of what I did was not subject to open records act requests. Meta-data on when and to whom I made a phone call might be; the content of the call should not be, absent some sort of legal proceeding. Every official publication was available — hell, we published them online within minutes of the official presentation — but working notes and drafts were not.Report

      • I have many questions. Not critical questions, but ones to hopefully flesh out how the information thus gathered would be used.

        Would you have the recordings be discoverable and potentially admissible as evidence by plaintiffs bringing civil rights actions against the officers?

        Or by parties in other kinds of cases?

        Or would they only be usable in internal review boards and disciplinary hearings?

        Would they be part of the package of information given to the defense as part of the prosecution’s mandatory disclosures?

        Would they be admissible by the prosecution, if the prosecuting attorney so desired?Report

      • Chris in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Burt, do you think the answers to those questions would be different from the current answers for dash board cams?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

          Probably not. Bu it’s not my proposal and I do think that there might be some policy reasons to at last think about treating a body-cam maybe a little bit differently. The field of view will change as the officer moves; the audio is probably going to be substantially different (sometimes better, sometimes worse) than a dash-cam, there may be some ability of the officer to turn the camera on or off (for instance, if the officer needs to use the restroom, she should be able to turn it off and have some privacy herself while doing that) and we may need some presumptions that would come in to play should something like that happen “accidentally” or “inadvertently.” There’s also the immunity from FOIA or its state-law equivalent to think about. Are dash-cam videos subject to FOIA? I thought they were, but I am not familiar enough with them to know if they are or aren’t.Report

      • Excellent questions all, and exactly the sort that we should have some sort of answers to before we do widespread officer-mounted cameras.

        I would think that excerpts should be discoverable. If a civil rights violation occurred at 8:10 PM (approximate), then some amount of the recording surrounding that time should be. Time spent by the officer in the bathroom at 4:00 PM, four hours earlier, is a harder question. I can imagine instances where bathroom recordings might be important, such as two officers planning a beating and how to cover it up. I don’t know who should get to search for such instances. My only personal experiences with discovery are the mornings I would arrive at work and find my office doorway blocked with yellow tape and a notice up that said the company’s legal team would be around to search it at some point. They generally took complete dumps of hard disks and pawed through my paper files — I have no idea how much of that ever made it to the plaintiffs’ lawyers or to court. There were arguments over my locked drawer that contained other companies’ IP covered by NDAs, but I don’t remember how that got resolved.

        There’s a whole ‘nother set of questions about how such recordings can be used (or more importantly, misused). Several people have pointed out how bad eye witnesses can be. One thing to worry about is lawyers who have had access to the video preparing witnesses so that they story they tell is consistent with the recording. Another situation might be that the recording is inconsistent with all of the eye witnesses on both sides — then what do you do?Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I gotta agree with no “off” switch that an officer can control.
        There should be some sort of privacy ruling to prevent pornography from being made out of FOIA requests (one hopes people wouldn’t be that STUPID, but… Get Rich Quick!).

        It’s one thing to say “I want xyz” or even “I think officer might have been at xyz place, can we pull his camera to check?”… it’s another to be publically releasing actual private data.

        coming from the medical field, I suggest we create some Trusted Users, who get to look at the raw data, and deidentify what needs deidentifying. Also, folks to call “bullshit” on FOIA requests when they’re particularly nonsensical. (note: requesting everything isn’t nonsensical, but…)Report

      • greginak in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I’m not all that worried about cops in the bathroom on video per se. Camera’s should stay on all the time. If there is a concern something might be important then it should be discoverable. If the cop objects and the other side is so set on getting it let them show it to the judge in chambers to decide. If the people who want it are so certain the bathroom footage is important they are willing to subject the judge to copcam video of a cop taking an epic dump then go for it.

        Camera’s can be really useful but they are no panacea. The cops may not, through no fault, be facing in the just right direction at the right time and there will be gaps in any collection of video. However i’d rather see a video then listen to eyewitness testimony. The video should not be publicly released however until after any trial or disciplinary procedure. It would be a freaking disaster if it was.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @greginak – I am a pretty big proponent of cop cameras, but seriously, bathrooms is too much of a privacy invasion. Not just for the cops, but for the other people in the bathrooms. If cops are wearing cameras and they want to criminally collude, there are plenty of ways they can do so without having a conversation in the can – conversations outside of work hours being the easiest/simplest.

        Thus I am OK with cameras that can be switched off when needed – but if it’s shut off when something questionable goes down, the cop should be potentially subject to disciplinary action, and our presumption should go against his version of events.Report

      • greginak in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @glyph Way to a squish. ( insert smiley face). I can see the privacy angle and i was a bit harsh in my statement. I’d be okay with camera’s being shut off when the cop is officially 10-bathroom break and the cop is completely responsible and culpable for making sure its on when he isn’t in the potty.Report

      • Ten-minute potty-break button, not “off”. If the officer doesn’t turn it back on, it comes on by itself. This is all software stuff, it can be as flexible as you want.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

        +1 for sane rules. Also, put a light on the camera, so the police officer knows when it’s recording.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @michael-cain – so if the officer had Taco Bell for lunch and takes 11 minutes in the bathroom, the camera turns on automatically and takes video of the other users of the bathroom? I think that’s a problem. We need to leave *some* discretion in the hands of the officer…but if that discretion results in the camera being off for long stretches and/or potentially-relevant video being lost, we impose various costs to that (perhaps the cop is disciplined; perhaps any encounter for which complete video is not available results in dropped charges; perhaps it’s as simple as making sure lack of relevant video is commonly understood to be a huge strike against the cop’s credibility in any disputed account).Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        If we made Taco Bell illegal due to it not being good for you, maybe we could avoid the 11-minute post-Taco Bell bathroom break. Kill two birds with one stone.Report

      • If the cop is eating Taco Bell, then we have an independent reason to question the cop’s ability to make sound judgments in the field.Report

      • greginak in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Sure, we’re having a nice discussion about cop camera’s and the judgmental foodies have to chime in.Report

      • @glyph
        Which is why my original proposal is that cameras be on all the time but encrypted with heavy controls on who and when and how decryption can be applied. The officer eats his Taco Bell, spends 20 minutes in the restroom, comes out in the midst of an altercation between customers, and is subsequently accused of using excessive force in settling it. Unfortunately, if either (a) the officer forgot to turn the camera back on — understandable! — or (b) the timeout hasn’t turned the camera back on, what may be critical evidence has not been captured. In that situation, the officer has a whole lot bigger problems to worry about than whether internal affairs, the prosecutor, or a defense attorney happens to see the video from the bathroom for that day. The other 200 times the officer visits the bathroom after lunch that year are never decrypted and never viewed, unless someone can make a pretty good legal argument about relevancy.

        Hardware gets better and cheaper all the time. Would an accelerometer that kicks the recording back on if the officer moves fast enough be okay? Audio monitoring of the ambient sounds to turn recording back on?

        Personally, I think key handling and copy control are the actual hard problems.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @michael-cain – cops use public restrooms all the time. Other people are also in those restrooms.

        At your local park or Burger King, you’d be OK if I installed cameras in the restrooms, with my solemn assurances that the video is encrypted and only the ‘right’ people can ever access it under the right circumstances?

        Because that’s what you are proposing. It’ll never fly. It SHOULDN’T fly. If it turns out that bathroom video has been surreptitiously taken by a pervy cop and released into the wild, that should be on the officer; not blamable on “well, see, the cameras are always on…”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        On the other hand, new George Michael video.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Sorry, that’s not the correct answer to “Who once got busy in a Burger King bathroom?”

        I would also have accepted Larry Craig, or Patrolman Mancuso.Report

      • Would they be admissible by the prosecution, if the prosecuting attorney so desired?

        A related question, for me, is could the cop camera be used as another way for the state to monitor its citizens and catch them for whatever offense they can be caught for? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing, or both?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        The camera might see stuff that the cop doesn’t?

        Given the sheer volume of data, I don’t know that it’s likely that people will pore over the footage captured in the absence of an arrest.

        I get the privacy concerns, seriously. However, if the cop is in a situation where he or she can be filmed, wouldn’t the citizens be?

        I imagine a raid on a residence might count as a place where filming shouldn’t automatically take place. Perhaps “the right to film the proceedings” could be attached to warrants?

        I know that if I were having my door kicked down wrongly, I’d want the cops to get footage and have that footage available. I suspect that if the cops were kicking down a door rightly, they’d want all the footage they could get.Report

      • Given the sheer volume of data, I don’t know that it’s likely that people will pore over the footage captured in the absence of an arrest.

        But software is a different thing, and it’s getting better and faster all the time. That’s part of why I think the recordings shouldn’t be subject to open-records requests — the day is coming, if it’s not already here, when it will be affordable to scan every minute of every recording.

        The fundamental question here is “Why are we discussing officer-mounted video recorders?” If the answer to that question is that the police are killing/injuring too many people through inappropriate actions, then control over when the recording is on has to be taken out of the officers’ hands, which then requires us to solve the access-control problems. I include @glyph ‘s point as part of that — ignore the restroom, an officer’s recording of me exiting Taco Bell as the officer enters is “potential” evidence since it establishes me at a particular place at a particular time in a way that the officer is unlikely to be able to do on their own.

        I’m a believer in not acting on policy issues until they’re “ripe.” When enough people believe that the police are out of control, steps will be taken. Maybe it will be officer-mounted video recorders that the officer can’t turn off. Maybe the laws that give police the benefit of the doubt (the ones that say that lethal force is authorized if the officer believes that his own life, or that of a bystander, is threatened) will be repealed. Maybe something else. The issue isn’t ripe yet, so we’re just discussing the pros and cons of the possibilities.Report

    • @mad-rocket-scientist My quibble here is this: If you can’t find a way to deal the institutional racism that drives stuff like this, whatever policies you have in place won’t matter that much. We’ll find a way around them, as we always have.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Focusing on just the police aspect – community policing has to be just that. The cops who patrol Ferguson should be in regular, at a minimum weekly, contact with the community leaders.

        I tend to be active with my neighborhood associations, and usually, the police have an officer come by the meetings to talk with everyone, even if it is just to let everyone know what police activity has been going on in the neighborhood (although usually people had questions or concerns for the officer, who kept a notepad handy to write it all down with). I can’t help but wonder, was Ferguson PD doing something similar, or was Ferguson just a ghetto to keep contained?Report

    • Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I call horsefeathers on this story. Put the video feed .tor files up and call it a day. This is not even a technically difficult problem to solve.

      That’s not the time it would take to redact the videos, to block the sound out that might be required and also black out faces and so forth.

      It isn’t clear to me why any of this needs to be done for any case other than an open criminal investigation, and I’m pretty sure “open criminal investigation” is still perfectly legit to refuse an open records request.

      You know, if the Citycouncilperson is going to get bent out of shape because they happened to get caught on a body cam walking into a restaurant with someone other than their spouse, I’m not sure why this is a problem. You’re already on film an astonishingly huge amount of your day.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Patrick says:

        A couple years ago there was a huge debate where it was pretty much resolved that the TSA backscatter scanners were disgustingly perverted and would obviously be abused by pervert TSA officers to ogle cute women’s naked bodies.

        So I’d say that America still has some issues in re: “pictures being taken of me”.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Patrick says:

        yet we don’t mind a nurse seeing us in the buff.
        I like to think police officers are a little more aware of “please don’t be a pervert, we arrest them” than stupid TSA folks.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        When chest cams come with x-ray spec technology, I’ll start worrying about that.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:


        If the video is just the cop on patrol, I think you are right. But once the cop makes contact with a person, be it just him checking on something, or in response to a call, then it’s different and privacy should be maintained. Not every police contact results in a criminal investigation.

        A few years back, I had a police officer deliver to me a restraining order put out against me by my neighbor (long story – I was trying to have them evicted, they were not so keen on that). The conversation I had with the officer, while quite pleasant, would not be something I would want to have as part of public records request.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        I would think that would qualify as part of an investigation.

        Here’s the process I see: the police officer’s chest cam has audio, so you just use an audio signal, kinda like what you see on COPS, except the officer narrates to the cam instead of a cameraman.

        “Code IIP: Officer Smith reporting to a call at 9:42pm”. At the end of the engagement with the investigation “Code OND: Officer Smith back in his patrol vehicle at 10:12pm”.

        IIP: Investigation in Progress
        OND: Officer Normal Duty

        Something like that. Then you just use normal audio search tools to flag a video stream. The whole thing needs to be recorded and stored, you don’t want *another* person to have to apply meta information to a video feed, you’d wind up having to hire a video analysis specialist for every chest cam you have in the field. Just have the officer chat up his day. They’re used to doing constant reporting over the radio already, right?Report

  2. CloudAK says:

    Havent finished it yet, but almost and so far Great article. thanks.Report

  3. krogerfoot says:

    Trayvon Martin. Darren Wilson.Report

  4. Damon says:


    Couple of thoughts:

    You live in a segregated community because YOU want to, consciously or not. This is not an accusation of racism, it’s just human nature. All humans are tribal and prefer to live with people like them, be that race, income, class, etc. and people self-select to do this. Sexual orientation is easier to gloss over as a difference than being black.

    Zimmerman: I’m not sure what part in that article you linked to supports your claim that he was “many terrible things”: The fact he visited a firearm manufacturer and inquired if he could purchase a shotgun, that he rescued a family from a wrecked SUV, or that he allegedly drives faster than the posted speed limit.

    Yeah, I’m sorry, but I don’t have any communal sins. Those sins I may have committed are my own. My family wasn’t here pre civil war, wasn’t in the south then, and didn’t own slaves or “fight for slavery”. I will not be tarred as being guilty of anything related to racism-except my own actions.

    I will agree that relationship between cops and civilians is screwed up, that the justice system is screwed up, especially given examples like this about asset forfeiture: http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicks29/aif-in-doubtatake-ita-behind-closed-doors-4y3w and that there’s a lot of work that can be done to fix things.

    I support cameras on cops, as long as the cops don’t have the ability to erase or turn off the recordings. So you’re calling for action. Cool, but let’s remember that way back when this thing in Ferguson started there was a report, which I’m too busy to find, that stated that the voting activity of the black community was virtually zero. They weren’t taking an active role in their gov’t. How do you plan to motivate them to become involved? It seems that they only wanted to get involved when a cop shot a kid. How do you think that can be changed?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

      You still benefit from racism, and racist policies on the books were there in plain black and white as recently as the 1970’s.

      I just don’t want to live near complete fuck-ups who are going to bother me and be annoying.

      • Damon in reply to Kimmi says:

        Yah, and I was less than 5 years old then. I surely benefited massively.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Kimmi says:

        Well, you see, you might not have benefited directly from racism, but you can be darn sure that if there ever happened to be a situation where you might benefit from racism then you’d probably benefit from it. So it’s just like you benefited from racism, because even potential future benefits that might not occur are still reasons to call you racist and demand that you apologize.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi says:

        That’s really not the argument, @jim-heffman . By all means disagree with the argument if you wish to, but if you’re going to disagree with the argument, disagree with the argument, not some other argument you wish the other side had made because it’s ridiculous on its face.

        There’s two juxtaposed ways you can go: economic and cultural. Culturally, norms have been established of white = good and black = bad. These get internalized to a deep degree, and in a way that crosses racial lines. That’s the point of implicit association exercises: they expose that those associations dwell within the unconscious. Try the exercise. Don’t dismiss the result as “just a bunch of hand-wringing liberal academics saying everyone is racist,” but understand that what’s going on is inside you and got there from the culture around you, a culture you absorbed and socialized into at a very young age. We all did, and the point is not to say the culture is bad for it but rather to make you aware of what’s going on so you can consciously work towards adjusting your own attitude.

        The other issue is economic. It’s a whole lot easier to make good money when you already come from money: money buys education and training and advantages and opportunity, it buys association with other people who have money and thus become business contacts and opportunities, and acquaints one with a culture that conveys techniques about how to effectively exploit education and opportunity. For a long time, nearly all blacks in the United States had little access to money and thus few had substantial educations and most blacks had little if any entree into a culture where access to potential contacts with money and opportunities to use education to better their personal circumstances. Consequently, they could not pass along money or the culture associated with money to their children, who felt and still feel the absence of those advantages. Instead, they are raised in a cultural environment in which only some parental figures value education at all, and few have the ability to engage socially in a fashion that is economically productive. So if we were to say that society is effectively racism-free today (which it is not) it would still be the case that blacks have less money and less opportunity to get access to it.

        TL/DR? Blacks are poorer than and culturally disadvantaged as compared to whites because their parents were, and even the best case will be that it will be several generations into the future before that is appreciably changed. Each of us gets to decide if we will be part of making that change happen, or if we will obstruct it happening whether that be through active resistance or passive indifference.

        That’s the argument, or at least something close to it. I find it to be substantial and worthy of sober consideration. Again, if you disagree with it, that’s your prerogative. But the argument is not the silly thing you said in your dismissive quip.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Kimmi says:

        “if we were to say that society is effectively racism-free today (which it is not) it would still be the case that blacks have less money and less opportunity to get access to it.”

        But that is not the same as saying that white people today benefit from current, existing, and constantly reinforced privilege. Saying to poor white people that they enjoy privileges and benefits that rich black people don’t–and that those privileges and benefits have put them “ahead”, by some ill-defined measure. Saying “you’re in a better starting position because of historical exploitation of other persons” could just as easily be said to blacks about Native Americans and Chinese.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Kimmi says:


        My wife’s school runs a program for first-gen college students — High School kids with college aptitude, first person in their family to have the opportunity and ability to go. You could fill a book with the things they don’t know that I knew by osmosis when I went to college.

        That’s privilege, right there. Invisible until I had it bluntly pointed out — I knew so much, and had so many implicit advantages that I didn’t even realize, that I took for granted until I had it shoved in my face that not everyone did. (And by “shoved in my face” I mean “helped my wife with this program, where it became impossible to ignore”).

        But who wants to admit that? Especially in America, where we’re all pluck and bootstrap pulling. Don’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, we had it easier than someone else.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi says:

        I’d agree, @jim-heffman , that we could easily say “you’re in a better starting position because of historical exploitation of other persons” with respect to Native Americans and Chinese. And Latinos and a whole bunch of other people whose ancestry doesn’t trace back to Europe and in particular to northwestern Europe.

        As for the consistency and reinforcement of the privileges in question, seems to me that @morat20 ‘s comment above deserves some consideration too.

        But thank you, @jim-heffman , for engaging the actual argument.Report

    • James K in reply to Damon says:


      You live in a segregated community because YOU want to, consciously or not. This is not an accusation of racism, it’s just human nature. All humans are tribal and prefer to live with people like them, be that race, income, class, etc. and people self-select to do this. Sexual orientation is easier to gloss over as a difference than being black.

      Thomas Shelling (one of the founders of Game Theory) did some very interesting modelling looking at that question. He discovered that even mild preferences for having a few people like you around will generate almost total self-segregation over long time horizons.Report

  5. Vikram Bath says:

    Darrel Wilson, the Ferguson Police Department, and the court system that found the actions of each appropriate are not separate from us. They are of us; we made them.

    Can you be more specific? What actions are we taking that produce red-lining? I never supported the criminal justice system’s development into what it is today.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      @vikram-bath My point is this: That law enforcement officials and the criminal justice system did not happen in a vacuum, nor were either built in their current fashion without our knowledge or, really, approval.

      The same thing is true of red-lining, as it was for Jim Crow prior. Go take a look at the Stanford study I linked to in the OP. That wasn’t a study of Republicans, or Tea partiers, or law enforcement officials. It was a study of white people. (Whose numbers, yeah I know, you are not among.)

      I suspect that the lunch table explanation given by @jaybird (even if he was using it facetiously; I’m never 100% sure with JB) is the closest to reality. The advantage that Heffman and Daon can’t see is what JB describes, and because that advantage doesn’t materialize for them they assumes that it doesn’t exist. (Or perhaps they do, and find the race part incidental.)

      If JB is correct, then the system only works for everyone if we all start out on the same square on day one. If we don’t, then it stands to reason that the children of those who were redlined a generation ago are going to have a decidedly more difficult time getting at a lunch table that will benefit them than I will.

      And — to come full circle — when we refuse to acknowledge that, when we refuse to do anything to change that dynamic, we collectively allow for a system that weights the value of people differently based on their race.Report

      • Damon in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        “The embedded racism is the racism of everybody sitting at different lunch tables.” Yeah, where you see racism I see preference and choice.

        Jaybird’s example sounds exactly like a guy stung after hiring a few guys who DID BS their way to a job and wanted to avoid exactly that, something I have experience with as well. It’s highly unlikely an employee on the team is going to recommend another person to their boss who’s incompetent. Racism? Unlikely, but possible. Not everything comes down to racism.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Yeah, where you see racism I see preference and choice.

        Racism is preference and choice. Saying, “Where you see birds, I see animals,” is not really a counter.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think these last two comments are both problematic. James K’s reference to Schilling’s segregation model reminds us that not all choices that lead to segregation are necessarily racist themselves, unless we’re willing to say any degree of preference towards others like ourselves is racist. Because as the model shows, segregation doesn’t require that blue-people don’t want to be around green-people, but only that either or both blue-people/green-people prefer not to be in the minority in their neighborhood–they may be perfectly fine with those-other-color people being a large minority in their neighborhood. Maybe that’s racism, but it’s of a pretty mild kind. A pretty tolerable kind I’d say, particularly to the extent that racial groups are co-extensive with subcultural groups, so that it may not actually be the race the person is bothered by, but certain behaviors whose frequency varies by subcultural group.

        I.e., my neighbor listens to Ranchera every Sunday afternoon in the summer, with his outdoor radio on loud enough that it’s louder in my yard than the music I play outdoors. I don’t mind. In fact I get a kick out of it; it reminds me of living in SoCal, and it’s part of the rhythm of summer for me. If a large number of my neighbors were playing Ranchera loudly most of the week, I’d probably want out.

        But this mild preference does lead to segregation, and that is the kind of “institutional racism” outcome that Tod’s talking about. But that’s where I think the term institutional racism is a counter-productive term. It allows people to say that their decisions weren’t racist–I don’t have any problem at all living next door to a guy who’s Mexican; he’s a good guy and we get along fine, taking turns mowing each other’s front yards and sharing beer; it’s just that suddenly there were so many people blasting Ranchera all the time–and so denying that “institutional racism” exists, because they’re focusing on the “racism” part and not the “institutional” part.

        I honestly think we need a better term, one that sounds less pejorative. That’d be appropriate when we’re trying to emphasize that it’s a systemic issue, and not really an issue of anyone’s personal bigotry. But I suppose we’re stuck with the term.Report

      • j r in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Part of the problem is that the term racism can mean a number of things. It can refer to conscious actions undertaken by purposeful actors and it can refer to an equilibrium that evolves from any number of unconscious or even not explicitly racist moves.

        As @james-hanley says, maybe we need a different term to describe the latter.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        What’s problematic in segregation is not segregation itself, in the abstract, but the fact that in a society with inequality along racial lines, segregation perpetuates inequality. So if white folks want to live with white folks in a society in which white folks and black folks have equal opportunities, that’s cool I guess, but in our society, it creates and perpetuates systematic inequalities along raical lines.

        Also, I believe you mean Schelling. Schilling is the Giants fan.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “Racism Without Racists” gets us a little closer.

        The problem is that, at this point, racism has nothing to do with how you feel about people from other groups. Or, at least, exceptionally little. It has more to do with how people don’t feel, don’t think, don’t know about them. Given that anti-racism, at least when I was a kid, meant that you should not notice color but be color-blind… well, you’re dealing with people who have done exactly what they’ve been taught to do was the right thing.

        And so you have these perfectly nice people who have been taught to not notice color who are surrounded by 95% of their own demographic.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        What’s problematic in segregation is not segregation itself, in the abstract, but the fact that in a society with inequality along racial lines, segregation perpetuates inequality. So if white folks want to live with white folks in a society in which white folks and black folks have equal opportunities, that’s cool I guess, but in our society, it creates and perpetuates systematic inequalities along raical lines.

        I don’t think I said anything that is in contradiction with that.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        James, didn’t mean to imply that you had. Rather, Damon seems to be suggesting that it’s not a problem at all.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        OK. The Schelling correction made it sound like the comment was directed toward me.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Self-plug: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/08/15/racism-and-cross-racial-love

        TLDR: Preferences can be kind of racist. There is no separate magisterium where choices are exempt from (rightfully) being attacked as racist.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        are you familiar with the housing lawsuits that occurred during the housing boom? the DOJ caught several companies deliberately giving black people higher interest loans, when they did qualify for lower interest ones. This was a systematic, and taught, thing.

        As much as we love to think that racism has gone away, it hasn’t, at least not in the corporate vulture world.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @chris @james-hanley @vikram-bath @damon @j-r @jaybird

        While I still think the lunch table/preferences concept is likely correct, as a verbal descriptor it has a tendency to do the opposite of what James believes the term “institutional racism” does. It’s rather important, I think, to take a step back and see *where* lunch table/preferences leads.

        As shown in the links I embedded in the OP, it doesn’t just lead to not wanting to live next to too many people who like a certain kind of music (although it certainly does that). It also leads to us having the police treat certain kinds of people in ways we would not find acceptable were they to treat us in that fashion. It leads to us finding ways to put them in jail for things we would not be put in jail for. It leads to us not simply wanting them to live in confines separate than us, but to live in confines lesser as well. Indeed, it leads us to want those confines patrolled in a military-occupied fashion with military equipment and vehicles. And as the Stanford study shows, when we are show these results we’re actually *more* supportive of the system.

        I’m not sure when looking at that data why we would want to water down the phrase ‘institutional racism’ to make ourselves feel better about doing it.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Tod, right.

        What’s more, it’s about as clear an example of the naturalistic fallacy as you’ll find.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        If I don’t want to live next to my neighbor who blasts Billy Ray Cyrus, am I racist towards white people?

        If I don’t want to live next to my neighbor who blasts Men At Work, am I racist towards Australians?

        What if my neighbor blasting Ranchera is a white guy who just likes Ranchera?

        Or are we supposed to assume that we wouldn’t mind Billy Ray, Men at Work, or Ranchera played by a white guy?

        “I honestly think we need a better term [than institutional racism], one that sounds less pejorative. ”

        Are we supposed to stay in situations we don’t prefer because it looks racist to find a more preferable situation?Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Are we supposed to stay in situations we don’t prefer because it looks racist to find a more preferable situation?

        I admit that I am impressed with your ability to always twist scnarios in such a way that your interpretation looks immanently reasonable. Instead of saying “because it is racist,” you say, “because it looks racist.” That way, some people might not notice that you’re trying to excuse racism.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @chris I think you’re wring here, with @jim-heffman .

        I don’t think that it is racist to hate the music of Billy Ray Cirus (or if it is, I might by a huuuuuuge racist.)

        I think, rather, it demonstrates the problem with presenting the lunch/preference concept in terms of music your neighbor plays, as you and I were both saying above. It allows Jim (and the rest of us) to ignore all of that data, and focus on the fact that it’s really ok not to like a genre of music.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        We’re using the word “racism” differently, here. If you define racism as something that exists in the human heart (deontologically!), then you have this group of assumptions about racism. If you define racism as the manifestation of different outcomes (utilitarianly!), then you have this completely different set of assumptions.

        And two people who are discussing racism have no common ground even though they’re using the same word.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And my preference for being among other Giants fans rather than Dodger fans is based on a simple, rational desire not to be surrounded by thr legions of Satan.Report

      • Damon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I guess I’d be considered a equal opportunity racist, since I’d PREFER to live with no one around. Sadly, I can’t afford my own section of land (that’s a mile square piece of land) where I can find profitable employment. 🙂Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        it leads us to want

        Yeah, just because there’s a collective outcome doesn’t mean “we” want it. That’s a pretty soundly established theoretical and empirical truth. But I suspect that anyone who says they’re not part of that we is going to be accused of denial, or whitewashing, or downplaying, or some other such horrible thing.

        I’m not sure when looking at that data why we would want to water down the phrase ‘institutional racism’ to make ourselves feel better about doing it.

        Well, if you think that’s what I was doing, then I think you’ve already made up your mind and aren’t going to be persuaded by any argument I make as to what I think I was doing.Report

      • j r in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m not sure when looking at that data why we would want to water down the phrase ‘institutional racism’ to make ourselves feel better about doing it.

        Can’t speak for anyone else, but that is not what I want. @jaybird says it best in his comment about using the same word differently. It’s not so much that I am anxious to absolve people of responsibility, but I want there to be a way for people to have this conversation without talking past each other.

        There is a common reactionary point that being accused of being a racist is the worst thing that you can do to someone, even worse than racism itself. That point is stupid. At the same time, however, there has to be a way to express the ideas of structural racism in a way that doesn’t imply that anyone who is not sufficiently progressive enough in his or her world view is the same as the guy burning crosses or dropping n-bombs all the time.

        One way that I tend to think about this is to make a distinction between racism and racial superiority/ethnic nationalism. We are all a little racist, meaning that we all make assumptions about people based on their ethnicity. to some extent. We are not all “insert your preferred ethnicity” supremacists or nationalists. That implies a different level of racialist world view. We do however, at least in the United States, exist in a culture shaped by white supremacy. We should all come to terms with that, but it is not quite clear that there is one obvious ethical route to doing so.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      That comment was in earnest. I was remembering the conversation I had with my friend Parker all the way back in 2012. His solution was “busing”. Get the kids to, at least!, go to each other’s schools and get to know each other.

      I’d like to think that the jocks will hang out with the jocks, the nerds with the nerds, the burners with the burners, and so on and so it wouldn’t necessarily be the case where the white kids sit over here, the African-Americans sit over there, and the Asian kids sit at the table in the corner (which is how it worked in every single college cafeteria I’ve had the pleasure of eating in)… but I suspect that, by high school, the cliques are set. Maybe we have to get to them in middle school or elementary first.

      What do we do with the grownups who are well-past college age?

      In the 1950’s, there was the “Take A Negro To Lunch” program that lasted about a minute. It sounds like one of those well-intentioned horrible ideas that we can easily make fun of today. God help me if I have any better ideas.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jack has been a minority at his school for his entire schooling. There’s only enough white kids at his school to qualify as a cohort this year, in previous years they were statistically too small of a group to count independently.

        His first self-portrait in kindergarten he colored himself with dark skin and brown hair. (for those that don’t know: my children are both blonde and about as white as it’s possible to be without being a purebred Scandinavian).

        I don’t know how much of that will last through which sections of his life, but it’s there.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

        I just talk with people on the bus. Is it a “solid friendship” or anything like that? No, but I do at least know people. And we can talk about issues, if we like.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    “The first pattern is that the more monied a neighborhood a school might be from, the more dominant they will be on the athletic field.”

    My high school experience tells me otherwise. My upper-middle class Jewish and Asian high school pretty much got our asses kicked at every sport except women’s track and field and co-ed fencing. The more blue-collar towns on Long Island were the ones who dominated in football, baseball, and basketball. There were also instances of anti-Asian and anti-Semitic slurs when we played those towns.

    The West has the smallest proportion of African-Americans in the U.S. IIRC only 10 percent of the African-American population lives in the West. This is changing because of newer African immigrants but that might be more in Seattle. I think Seattle has a large population of newer immigrants from Africa.

    The reasons for this are a long history of racism that was part and parcel of Oregon’s founding. Oregon was founded as a free state but there were laws in the 1840s and 50s that banned Black people from emigrating to Oregon. The insidious thing about institutionalized racism is that it remains long after the explicit laws are repealed. I think this attitude changed around WWII when the Industries needed Black people to do jobs because White Oregonians were fighting overseas. Black people probably got a message that they were not welcome in Oregon except in certain areas and that remains as strong cautionary tales sadly.


    • Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’ll just note this isn’t the suburbs. I assume that he’s talking city schools.
      It’s really startling to look at the disparities between the boys and the girls teams for basketball at my local high school. The boys team is way, way more monocolor than the girls’ team.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      My experience is somewhat similar, though my town was a unique mix of primarily Jewish and Black. There was a sizable Orthodox population, almost all of whom went to private schools (yeshivas). By the time I graduated, the school was about 50% black. White students were probably split between Jewish and Christian. There were also a sizable Latino/Hispanic population and both East and South Asians. We were dominant in basketball and football. We were competitive in baseball, soccer, and track-and-field. I know we had swimming, fencing, wrestling, tennis, golf and probably a few other teams, but I can’t speak much to those. I know we didn’t have sports like hockey and lacrosse.

      In the sports I know about, we were generally on par with or better than (depending on the sport) the whiter public schools in the area. We generally measured ourselves against the parochial schools which were predominantly white. We matched up well.

      I remember one time being called a “Jew bagel” on the soccer field. It was weird. Not because I’m not Jewish (the kid had no idea and probably just assumed as much because I was white and from my town) but because I never really heard that phrase used as an epithet. I mean, I guess I sort of knew that bagels were sort of a stereotypical Jewish thing but in my town everyone ate bagels because they were plentiful and delicious so it just seemed strange.

      That said, I never heard any other anti-Semitic remarks uttered during sporting events.

      Fans used to chant at each other, typically during basketball games. We tended to chant “Don’t drop the soap” at the all-male Catholic schools. They would chant “SAT Scores” or “It’s alright, it’s okay, you’re gonna work for us one day.” Homophobia and subtle racism… awesome!Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    I want to think further about the concept of embedded racism that the post focuses on. I’m not sure that it’s correct. Perhaps that’s because there is so much greater integration in my own community, so I do not see the kind of geographic separation that you described as occurring even in crunchy-liberal Portland. Perhaps that, in turn, is the result of the heavy hand of the state of California, as well as the incentivized private bar, enforcing anti-discrimination and public accommodation laws. (Damned interventionist nanny state, picking winners and losers like that!) But that’s not to say that there isn’t some pattern like what the post describes, since it is true that the wealthier you are even in my community, the more likely it is that you are white or Asian.

    But I would like to fisk at least one point that the post makes along its way. There is a suggestion that because the grand jury returned a bill of no good cause against Officer Wilson, that there are no more avenues by which he might face some form of legal punishment. As I pointed out in other threads, The prosecutor does not appear to be prohibited from filing an information against Wilson, and pursuing state level felony criminal charges in that fashion. There is no bar to a federal prosecution for violation of Mr. Brown’s civil rights. There is no bar to the presentation of a civil case by Mr. Brown’s family. The doors of the court houses are not closed. I offer no opinion here about the odds of success of any of these three potential routes to a jury. I only point out that the grand jury’s decision need not be the end of the road.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Worth noting that Portland is one of the whitest cities in the country.
      Also worth noting that the average black/hispanic person has a TENTH of the wealth of your average white guy, and that most of the disparity comes from prior racist policies.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi says:

        My point being, we have an appreciable number of middle-class and even affluent black and Latino families around. Could be all sorts of reasons for that. While I joke about California’s powerful anti-discrimination laws, a more likely cause is that the military and military contractors are significant local employers. Federal antidiscrimination laws and policies may be at play, as well as the relatively generous pay that such employers offer. This would be an incomplete explanation, but it probably is a piece of the puzzle.

        I should also note, with a wry nod of the head to a throwaway joke in the original post, that a substantial number of the relatively affluent black and Latino members of our community have adopted political attitudes leaning towards the socially conservative. That is to say, we have more than a few affluent blacks, but they’re a lot like Ben Carson, so there’s a chance that the locally-sourced soy-milk latte-drinking Portlanders of whom @tod-Kelly writes would say that we don’t have the right kind of affluent blacks because it seems likely that they would go out and do something impetuous like voting for Republicans.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

        sure. zic might mention that military contractors like hiring ex-military, and that military is definitely one way out of being in the ghetto.

        I’m not sure most people who don’t read Pew realize that blacks are basically Conservadems. When you want to know — “who’s in favor of torture and still voting democratic”… it’s generally the less melanin challenged folks.Report

    • Chris in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I don’t know much about Southern California, so I don’t know where you are in relation to Los Angeles proper, but Los Angeles itself is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

        No argument there. But I’m not in the city itself. I’m in an exurb, well to the north. Big ol’ mountains between us and the Valley.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        Burt, the town where I went to high school in Oregon, Lake Oswego, was similar. It was an outer suburb of Portland, more affluent than Portland by far. And while African Americans were certainly a minority population-wise, some of them definitely lived in Lake Oswego. There were no segregated parts of LO; the blacks there lived spread among the rest of us. But in order to confirm or deny the lingering effects of institutional racism, I’m not sure that matters.

        Why would LO (or your own exurbs) have to have ever set up new segregated areas for blacks? Portland and LA already have a place to stick them.

        I don’t know what they’d say, but I’d be interested (I’m not challenging here, I’d truly be interested) to know what your black neighbors and co-workers say about how they are treated by police — how often they are pulled over, if they notice they are watched when they walk down the street in a away you and aI are not, etc. Not when they travel to Watts (which I am sure they don’t), but when they’re just living life in the Valley. Their answer might be the same as yours. The African Americans I know in Portland, though, have very different stories to tell from my own — even the ones who live and work in the posh suburbs.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        OT but as a New Yorker, I find it highly amusing that someone named a place in Oregon after Lake Oswego. I know someone who grew up in Lake Oswego. She attended the fancy private high school in Portland. Caitlin?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        @saul-degraw That would be Catlin-Gable, I expect.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:


      “But I would like to fisk at least one point that the post makes along its way… I only point out that the grand jury’s decision need not be the end of the road.”

      This seems to me to only be a viable fisk at such a time when another road is taken and that road leads to a different outcome than happened last week. Until then, it seems like a rousing chorus of “we *could* do something” when we don’t is just more grist for my OP’s mill.

      “Perhaps that’s because there is so much greater integration in my own community, so I do not see the kind of geographic separation that you described as occurring even in crunchy-liberal Portland. “

      I think until recently, I would have said this exact same thing about my city. After all, my neighborhood does have it’s middle-class minorities. I don’t think that lessens the impact of what I’ve seen over the past year.

      Similarly, if we are to be somewhat expansive and consider your city to be LA, if memory serves its quite similar to PDX: The middle class neighborhoods having a small number of middle class African Americans, and certain previously (or perhaps currently) redlined neighborhoods where populations that dwarf those middle class AAs are essentially left to be “other.” If memory serves, in fact, during the Trayvon news cycle I recall that we had a number of commenters here say that the liberals here would be singing a different tune if their car broke down in Watts.

      And more recently, I recall that it was brought to our attention that the previous owner of the Clippers was ousted for making an offensive comment, but had been allowed to stay in his position — with really no outcry — for his seemingly far worse sin of actually red-lining the vast number of properties to which he was landlord.

      So I’m not yet convinced that I’m wrong, and that this is but a regional thing. I think this dynamic is pretty much everywhere in the US.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’m reminded of the Chris Rock bit about his neighborhood:

        I will give you an example of how race affects my life. I live in a place called Alpine, New Jersey. Live in Alpine, New Jersey, right? My house costs millions of dollars. [some whistles and cheers from the audience] Don’t hate the player, hate the game. In my neighborhood, there are four black people. Hundreds of houses, four black people. Who are these black people? Well, there’s me, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z and Eddie Murphy. Only black people in the whole neighborhood. So let’s break it down, let’s break it down: me, I’m a decent comedian. I’m a’ight. [applause] Mary J. Blige, one of the greatest R&B singers to ever walk the Earth. Jay-Z, one of the greatest rappers to ever live. Eddie Murphy, one of the funniest actors to ever, ever do it. Do you know what the white man who lives next door to me does for a living? He’s a fucking dentist! He ain’t the best dentist in the world…he ain’t going to the dental hall of fame…he don’t get plaques for getting rid of plaque. He’s just a yank-your-tooth-out dentist. See, the black man gotta fly to get to somethin’ the white man can walk to.


      • I imagine Ottawa would be considered somewhat progressive in an American context, and I have definitely seen what Tod describes. I recently started commuting to a different end of town, and the different racial make-up was astounding (I wouldn’t say Ottawa’s a particularly diverse city, to begin with).Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

      The embedded racism is the racism of everybody sitting at different lunch tables.

      I’ve lost count of the number of times my bosses over the years said that they needed a new guy for the team and asked us all if we knew anybody who knew anybody who was qualified and would enjoy working on our team. I would say that 95% of the people that I know that would be qualified and would enjoy working on our team are from my same demographic.

      It never struck me as “racism”, necessarily. He just didn’t want to hire someone who was able to b.s. his or her way through an interview and wanted someone that someone he trusted thought was good.

      But 95% of my teams have been from my same demographic.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Here’s where this becomes racism: a majority group (or even a minority group with power) lives in such a way that, while they make up say 70% of the population, 95% of the people they end up letting onto their teams are in their group, so that most of the people who aren’t in their group never actually have a chance of making it onto those teams. So most of the people who aren’t in their group have significantly fewer opportunities. So most of the people who aren’t in their group continue to suffer all of the problems that come with having fewer opportunities.

        Then people who are their group start suggesting that suffering the problems of fewer opportunities is actually the fault of the people who aren’t in their group.Report

    • Hoosegow Flask in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I can’t help but think that if Gov. Nixon were a Republican, there would be many calls from prominent national figures on the left for him to appoint a special prosecutor. I wonder how much party politics factors into everything considering Nixon and McCullough are Democrats.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Hoosegow Flask says:


        I’ve seen quite a few people on the left grumble about Gov. Nixon’s actions especially because it was the black vote that helped him become Governor.

        I always think that being a liberal politician is hard at various points. I feel a lot of sympathy for Obama and his remarks (which pretty much annoyed everyone). He can’t exactly go out there and say “Burn those motherfuckers down” or give a long lecture about institutionalized racism and how riots are cathartic acts for oppressed communities (even if they hit the wrong targets). That is simply not the role of a President or any politician who is elected to represent everyone (even the people who did not vote for them). He is supposed to keep people calm even in tense situations. What did people want Obama to say? What do they want him to do?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Hoosegow Flask says:

        Saul, this seems about right. A Republican governor can have a law and order response to Fergusson and get away without too much political damage because that is what expect from a Republican, law and order. Democratic politicians are stuck between a rock and a hard place. As an elected official, they can’t endorse disruptions to law and order. Most people not completely sympathetic would accuse them, somewhat rightfully, as neglecting their duty to maintain law and order. At the same time, using the police to maintain calm against protestors looks like a betrayal of Democratic and liberal values.Report

      • Chris in reply to Hoosegow Flask says:

        This is perhaps true at the local level. Outside of Missouri, and perhaps in Ferguson, Nixon and other Missouri Democrats (particularly Roorda) have been criticized extensively from day 1.Report

    • LWA in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I am a native of an exurb of Los Angeles (the city now called Santa Clarita).
      I used to scoff at the concept of structural racism, of communal white guilt, and adamantly state how my actions were my own, etc.
      Until I started to notice how even how race-blind actions had unequal effects.
      There was the proposal to build a low-income apartment near us, and I had friends whose families vociferously protested, driving all the way down to the County Regional Planning in downtown LA. Their conversation was about how it would bring in “those people” and it was obvious who they meant.
      There was the continual political pressure to expand freeways, but never bus lines. Even today, I ride the train from Orange County, and notice how the train has white riders, and the buses have brown or black.
      There was the demand over and over for gated communities; one in Woodland Hills got the city to give them the (then) public streets, and then enclosed them neighborhood with a wall and gate to keep out…who? The equally white people in the next neighborhood? The Kardashians less than a mile away?
      Its like Lee Atwater so famously said, instead of saying “ni**er” you say “Law and Order”.

      Or its like the Congresspeople who see agricultural subsidies as legitimate assistance, but food stamps as welfare.

      I could go on, but the point is that we embed race into nearly everything we do, including and maybe especially in places like Southern California where the geography lends itself to detachment. The far flung suburbs allowed people to follow their worst tribal instincts and move away from any sort of contact with each other.Report

  8. Kimmi says:

    “As much as your inner-John-Hughes-movie wishes it not to be so, the results of a competition between a “rich-kid school” and a “poor-kid school” are sadly predictable, and in fact are often so lopsided as to be painful to watch and (according to my son) depressing to participate in, even as the victor.”

    … except for the Jewish school’s basketball team. There are some sports where giving your opponent a 12 inch advantage (or more) makes the whole thing kinda… pointless.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Kimmi says:

      My father played football in high school, and while his town wasn’t exactly rich, they were certainly “comfortable”, particularly when compared to the coal-cracker kids from upstate who were poorer than the dirt they dug up. And he said that those games were the worst stompings he ever got.

      So, y’know, maybe the rich white suburbs beat up on the middle-income white suburbs, but maybe that’s not as generalizable as you think.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        My crew team always beat the stuffing out of crew teams from the parts of town where they vacationed in the continental United States.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Our crew team isn’t practicing today. it rained, you see.Report

      • I wonder if this isn’t something that hasn’t changed over time. When I was growing up, the best football teams in the district tended to be the poorer schools. My wealthy school had a notoriously bad team. One of our rivals was the predominately black school ‘cross the tracks, and they usually beat us good. This wasn’t some bizarre exception.

        Flash forward to today, and our school is pretty good and the other school isn’t very good at all. And most of the good schools are schools like ours.

        This may not bear out, but if I had a lot of time I’d look into it. The statistical history is there. Somewhere.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        more than that, I see the difference being big school versus small school, and rural versus urban.

        In small schools, there’s no real incentive for a kid to move for the “best coach” or whatnot. In a big school, your coach may actually have college ties.

        Also, some schools may want a good sports team, and others don’t.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    Tod, I’m not sure why you referred to John Hughes movies as being examples of poor kids beating out rich kids. John Hughes movies were all about celebrating relatively comfortable white teenagers from 1980s suburban Chicago. There might have been an exception here or there like Bender or the two leads in Some Kind of Wonderful but most of the characters in John Hughes movies were very white and at least comfortably middle-class in terms of wealth.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    In the DC area and in Honolulu, my impression is that the best high school age athletes in poor to working class neighborhoods are recruited by private (often Catholic) schools*, while decent athletes in more affluent neighborhoods simply go to the neighborhood public school. Thus a ‘brawn drain’ on the public schools in the poorer neighborhoods.

    *(see also Lebron James in the Cleveland-Akron metro)Report

  11. Burt Likko says:

    Another question, I suppose principally for @tod-kelly as the author but anyone with good information should jump in.

    The blurb on the front page says “For the majority of Americans outraged by the tragic shooting of Michael Brown …”

    Are a majority of Americans outraged by the shooting of Michael Brown?

    Are a majority of Americans outraged by the refusal of the grand jury to indict Darren Wilson?

    I’m not so sure that they are.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      @burt-likko I think you’re reading it with an extra coma. The blurb doesn’t start out,

      “For the majority of Americans, outraged by the tragic shooting of Michael Brown,”

      it starts out,

      “For the majority of Americans outraged by the tragic shooting of Michael Brown,”

      It’s talking about the majority of those Americans outraged, not the majority of Americans — whom, I suspect, are somewhere on the “The System Works” to “The Thug Had It Coming” end of the spectrum.Report

  12. crprod says:

    I live in Durham, NC. Right now, it’s about 42% each for black and white, Asian about 5%, and most of the remainder Latino. Right now the two most black high schools in the district each had a state championship in the past five years. The three other football high schools, largely thought of as being relatively white, have rarely enjoyed success. Basketball is more variable. Some of the more notable players have transferred within the system and the eventually left to attend some remote basketball factory school.
    As far as slavery goes, my great great grandfather, for whom I am named, owned a hundred slaves in Alabama. A second cousin, four times removed, was noted as the first member of Congress to refer to abolitionists as socialists.
    For me in 2014, what I’m interested in reading about is the relationship of US slavery and the rest of society. I plan to read Sven Beckert’s new book “Empire of Cotton: A Global History”, but it only the most recent book on the subject to appear this year. According to the review in Slate, it discusses the relationship of the state, capitalism and slavery.Report

    • Chris in reply to crprod says:

      @crprod Venable?Report

      • crprod in reply to Chris says:

        Yes. When I saw a name like Abraham Woodson Venable, I knew that it was highly likely that he was related to my great great grandparents from Prince Edward County, Virginia. They were Jacob Woodson Morton and Mary Jane Venable, who managed to be related to Congessman Venable in about three different ways. There were a lot of closely related people there, and that pair of my ancestors were double first cousins.Report