Friday, July 09, 2004


Who Watches The Watchmen?

From an AP story in The San Diego Union Tribune written by Michael R Blood, this section is about a protest scheduled by Mr. Dymally about Riordan’s comments:
“But the organizer, state Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Los Angeles, abruptly canceled it after an apparent mix-up over the girl's racial background. Dymally was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News Thursday saying the child was ‘a little African-American girl. Would he (Riordan) have done that to a white girl?’ The girl is white, with blond hair. Dymally did not return telephone calls. His office issued a statement Wednesday calling Riordan's remarks to the girl ‘outrageous and irresponsible’ but issued a statement under the Assemblyman's name Thursday saying, ‘To err is human; to forgive is divine.’"

So my question is, who committed the error, and who is being forgiven? I was not there, but I don’t feel especially traumatized by what Riordan said. Look have you ever heard someone say to a kid, “You little stinker,” or something similar in a joking silly way? Of course you have. For me, this is the sort of comment Riordan made. Big deal. He apologized and the kid is doing just fine. But what’s up with Mr. Dymally? I guess we know where his head is at. He doesn’t seem to be concerned with American issues or California issues, his focus is the racial issue. And he’s so far gone that he is now seeing racial issues even in circumstances that don’t involve race. Big deal?

Well, maybe. What must life be like for someone like this? Maybe it’s like contact lenses. They sit there on your eyes, and you can perceive nothing that hasn’t been filtered by them. Racial Contact Lenses. The anger a person like this must feel. If the drive up window gets your order wrong, it’s because a bunch of racists are working in there. Life isn’t perfect. Nobody is. If you asked for no onions on your burger and you got onions? Stuff happens. Didn’t get a job? Must have been that racist supervisor. Never mind that if fifty people apply for one position, by definition forty-nine of them won’t be hired. Get in trouble for committing a crime? It’s just that racist justice system. Have I reached absurdity yet? No, not yet. Look what else I found about Mr. Dymally.

Simeon Gant wrote this article. I don’t think I’m taking items from the article out of context, but read the whole thing and keep me honest.

"Sacramento – On Thursday, Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, shelved his bill that would have equalized punishment for possession of cocaine base (“crack”) for sale with the same crime involving powder cocaine. Current sentencing guidelines result in a pattern of racial discrimination with African-Americans serving longer prison sentences than Latinos and Whites convicted of similar crimes...

Although African-Americans account for only 6.4 percent of the state population, statistics from the attorney general’s office indicate that African Americans accounted for 66.5 percent of crack cocaine convictions in 2000 and 2001. Whites made up only 3.4 percent of such convictions.
The disparity in sentencing and the racial breakdown of crack versus cocaine convictions results in a criminal justice system in which African-Americans are serving significantly longer sentences than whites for the same crime."

Let’s start with the first bit. Please notice the words “similar crimes.” Well, there are many different levels of manslaughter and murder type crimes. They involve different sentences. But they’re similar too in that all of them end up with somebody dead. If a child drowns in your pool, should you really get the same sentence as a revenge killer who tortured his victim? You’ll note at the end Mr. Gant has managed to switch from “similar” to “same”. But they aren’t the same. If it was the same, they wouldn’t have two laws. And guess what? There’s a third law and it deals with heroin. And another law for pot. And other laws for other drugs. See, they need different laws because the drugs are different. And so it goes for powder cocaine and crack cocaine. What’s that? You say they both come from the same base material? Therefore they are really the same? Ummmm. Well, tell that to your gas tank when you fill it up with oil. They’re both petroleum based, and yet they’re not the same. Reread this section a few times if you need to. I’ll wait. Back? Ok, good.

I’m lazy, but even I can do enough research to tell at least one relevant difference between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Here’s what the Indiana Prevention Research Center at Indiana University has to say in its discussion of various forms of cocaine: “Crack cocaine is especially dangerous because of its high addiction potential.” Strange. Giving a stronger sentence for a drug that is especially dangerous. What could they have been thinking? Since it seems the difference in sentences is justifiable medically or scientifically speaking, there must be some other reason. Let me borrow Mr. Dymally’s RCL’s.

Ahhhhh. Now I see. He’s not angry that people who commit more serious crimes aren’t punished the same as people who commit less serious crimes. He’s angry that African-Americans who commit more serious crimes aren’t punished the same as Latinos and Whites who commit less serious crimes. Still doesn’t work for you? You gotta wear the RCL’s. Then you’ll see the evidence that shows how it’s racist for more serious criminals to get more time than less serious criminals. You see, it’s racist because African-Americans are only 6.4% of California’s population, but they make up 66.5% of crack cocaine convictions in California in 2000 and 2001. Ok, lenses off. Even for sarcasm I can’t take any more.

Where to begin? THE TWO NUMBERS ARE TOTALLY UNRELATED! How’s that? 6.4% tells us the proportion of African-Americans in California. 66.5% tells us the proportion of convicted crack cocaine users who happen to be African-American. Again, reread if you need to. Mr. Dymally would have you believe that law enforcement seeks African-Americans to arrest. No. They seek crack cocaine users to arrest. If they happen to be African-American, so what? Population is irrelevant. It is a totally phony issue created by people I like to call Populationists. Let’s have a ridiculous example, just for fun. Professional sports. ‘Nuff said.

Let’s think of all the things Mr. Dymally’s Populationist position implies. For one thing, Nixon wouldn’t have to resign. After all, you couldn’t impeach him and kick him out of office. If you did, 100% of impeached presidents would be White, but Whites, even then, didn’t make up 100% of the population. And does Mr. Dymally really want to allow only 6.4% of California’s African American children to go to college? If he’s a Strict Populationist, he would have to say yes. One might not agree with Strict Populationism, but one could still have some measure of respect for consistency of principle.

The more likely case is that Mr. Dymally is a Hypocritical Populationist. This sort of person will embrace Populationism only in cases in which he perceives some desirable end may be achieved. In other cases, Populationism is avoided. I’m pretty sure Mr. Dymally doesn’t want to limit African-American college attendance, so it seems he would be in this second category.

Oh. And back to my question about Mr. Dymally's statement. What bugs me is the statement could be read to say that Riordan erred by being "outrageous and irresponsible" and that Mr. Dymally is willing to forgive him. This troubles me because when I first read it, the sequence of events in the article made me think Mr. Dymally was apologizing for his own outrageous and irresponsible statement. So which is it? If you can answer that, maybe you can help me with the psychology that automatically associates the word "dirty" with being African-American.
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