Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Intentional Pain



 Read this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal the other day.

It was all about how the federal government has slowly eroded the use of intent in determining whether or not someone has broken a law. Basically, when federal laws were created, the need to prove intent was paramount in getting a guilty verdict. But over the years as the types of crimes have expanded, so have the laws, and the focus on intent has waned. I suggest you check it out for some good information.

Intent is a tricky thing in America. I was taught as a child that ignorance was no protection under the law. That meant that when I screwed up, I couldn't plead ignorance and expect  reprieve from my parents. They would remind me that my ignorance would be no protection in the real world, and then proceed to punish me. Hell, I remember a teacher asking me to solve a math problem using skills she had never demonstrated to us, then grading me harshly because I didn't know those skills. And when I protested the inherent unfairness of this situation, she told me "You should have known..."

But, for many Americans, intent reigns supreme. The consequences of their actions must be weighed by their intent. If they hurt someone unintentionally, their punishment should be muted by their lack of intent. If they destroy something without intent, the destruction must be considered alongside their intentions. If they commit a racist act, it must be weighed against their unknowable heart's intent.

It's a mess.

But, after reading the Wall Street Journal, I see why the idea is so persistent. It's been ingrained in many Americans, particularly those who have grown up with a certain level of privilege, that it's not just about results, but intent. This is a luxury the privileged enjoy that many others do not because we are taught early, either by elders or life, that in many situations our intent doesn't matter. All that matters are the results and how those in power see those results.

Unfortunately, if you approach life from an intent-based perspective, it is very difficult to see racism or racial animus in today's world. This country has done a decent job of scrubbing most of the so-called "overt" racism from the surface, at least compared to how this country once behaved. Now, only those who take the time to properly study and consider the power structures in this country can see it, and many white folks aren't interested in examining power unless it results in more power for them. We are at an intellectual impasse because we have two competing views on how the world should work.

Not really a new thought, but one worth considering from a different angle..




Share

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blinders

My wife brings her problems to me.

Sometimes they are big problems, often they are small, but most of them come to me. We discuss them, we argue about them, and eventually, we figure out what we're going to do. Sometimes a real solution is developed, other times we walk away disgusted, but we only get to that point after hashing things out. The same process gets repeated with my problems.

See, you don't solve problems by pretending they don't exist. Sweeping them under rug, where they are allowed to fester and grow, solves nothing. If you're poor, you solve it by either reducing expenses or finding more money. If you're sick, you solve it by getting healthy. When you're hungry, the solution is eating, when you're tired, the solution is rest.

It's only with racism that the solution is doing nothing.


Don't agree? Then why do so many people of so many different hues consistently argue that discussions, debates and studies about racial problems in America and across the world are what's really causing racism to continue? Every single time a racial matter is discussed a determined minority of those involved will insist that if everyone would just shut up about race, things would be all better.

It's a puzzling belief, and one I obviously don't subscribe to since I have an entire blog dedicated to examining the way race affects black folks. I clearly see the the need for honest and frank discussions. But, sadly, I'm not mainstream. I'm the opposite of mainstream, and that is confusing. Why does it make sense to believe that solving problems is best done by ignoring them?

Honestly, it doesn't make sense. There is no reason to believe that is a viable solution, which leads me to believe that people who argue that we should ignore race actually aren't interested in solving racial problems. They either believe they are all solved, which is ludicrous, or they are comfortable with the status quo. The latter appears to be more likely since humans are typically happy with the status quo as long as the status quo benefits them.

And there are definite benefits to ignoring race. There is the ability to pretend that America is a meritocracy. The ability to celebrate success without questioning how it was obtained. They ability to believe in an overall just world. Don't forget complete absolution for any wrongdoing or injustice in this country. Basically, ignoring race and promoting the status quo is easier and more enjoyable than the alternative.

And you know how Americans love easy fun.


Share

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This is America

If the justice system is comfortable with potentially killing an innocent man, what is the system?

If men can be ordered to die despite compelling proof that they deserve to live, what is life worth?

If the law does not provide justice, then why is it law?

Because this is America.




Share

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This Is Law

Is being colorblind worse than being racist?

I wondered that recently.

Is believing that race is not a factor, or not a large factor in the way the world works as bad as actively practicing racism?

I can't decide. I do know that dealing with colorblind people is just as frustrating as dealing with a racist. Dealing with someone who actively denies reality, the reality that obviously exists based on objective facts, is just as frustrating as dealing with someone who is actively working to benefit one racial group over another.

I don't care if they have good intentions. I don't care if they are nice people. Their refusal to deal with reality, to acknowledge and handle the problems that exist in this world is dangerous. It's danger to me, it's a danger to my family and it's a danger to any thinking person seeking to improve the world around them.

This is law. And I stand by it.


Share

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sometimes I...

Sometimes the anger turns to sadness, and the tears just can't be held back.

Sometimes when you truly grasp how long this thing has been hurting people and destroying families, it can be too much.

Sometimes when you catch a glimpse of how many lives have been ruined, you wonder at God's plan.

Sometimes you thirst for vengeance.


Sometimes you need revenge like babies need love. Sometimes hurting others feels like the only thing that will soothe your hurt.

Sometimes it's shocking how far reaching this thing is, how it has stretched across continents and countries.

Sometimes you just can't stand to have another person whose benefited from this thing try to deny their favored position and avoid any responsibility for doing the right thing.

Sometimes it's so easy to hate.

Sometimes, I cry. Big, crocodile tears in-between sobs that shake my chest. Not for me, or for anyone I know, but for people I've never met and will never meet, but whose pain makes my very heart constrict.

Sometimes I wonder.

I wonder.

And

I cry.




Share

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reasonable People Might Agree

I didn't have to teach my sons how to discriminate.

I didn't sit them down and tell them to establish different rules for themselves than the rules they apply to other people. I didn't teach them to try to scheme to find ways to increase their advantage in every situation. And I definitely didn't teach them to allow others to suffer so they could profit. They came into this world as so-called innocent babes already inclined to do all of those things.

My job has been to try to curb their natural impulses.

Often, when we discuss racism and discrimination, it becomes a conversation about people's intentions, their hearts, and their upbringing. People take offense at the idea that they may be discriminating because that accusation is viewed as a direct assault on their morality. They reject claims of discrimination by noting that they have nothing against certain types of people, and are only living their lives as good human beings.

That assumes that human beings are "good."

I know many people don't like the whole "original sin" and "inherently evil human" concept. But, I believe in it. I think the problem is with the definition of "evil." Even doesn't only mean genocide and rape, it also means the opposite of good. So, if good behavior involves being generous and kind, evil involves being stingy and cruel. All of us struggle with evil, and it's not something we learn from watching television.

My sons like to have the advantage. They create rules for their games that benefit them, and change those rules as soon as the expected benefit isn't realized. They demand that their sibling be punished for infractions that they themselves beg to avoid punishment for committing. They are constantly seeking an advantage, constantly looking to block their peers advantage and always keeping score.

In short, they are little humans. They were born with vestigial forms of this behavior, and as they've aged, it's only gotten more serious.

This has provided me with some interesting insights into the behavior of adults. I've always known that most racism and discrimination comes from a desire to establish and maintain supremacy, but watching my children confirms it. More importantly, it confirms that avoiding racism and discrimination requires an intense desire and effort because that aim is not "natural."

That's why it's dangerous when people don't want to discuss or think about racism. It's dangerous when they refuse to educate themselves about historic and current power dynamics. It represents a threat because without that effort, it's impossible fight against these twin evils. Until people come to grips with the human instincts that lurk in their hearts, and decide that those impulses are incorrect, no change can occur.


One of the authors on a blog I read likes to use a quotation that basically says that cheating begins as soon as monogamy stops being reasonable. For many folks, evil begins as soon as being good stops being reasonable. The problem is that most of us don't understand how we truly define reasonable.



Share

Raving Black Lunatic