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WHEN BLACK IS WHITE, AND MEN ARE WOMEN: So now that NAACP’s Rachel Dolezal has been “outed” as “white,” it makes me wonder: What is “white” anyway? Okay, admittedly, Dolezal doesn’t appear to have any African ancestry in her blood, as her parents say she is of German, Czech, and Swedish ancestry, with a smidgen of Native American in there somewhere.

Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the famous “separate but equal” Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, was 7/8 white and 1/8 black, and so he was required, by Louisiana’s law, to ride in the “colored” railway car.  Plessy argued that he had a “right” to ride in the white railway car:

It is claimed by the plaintiff in error that, in any mixed community, the reputation of belonging to the dominant race, in this instance the white race, is property in the same sense that a right of action or of inheritance is property. Conceding this to be so for the purposes of this case, we are unable to see how this statute deprives him of, or in any way affects his right to, such property. If he be a white man and assigned to a colored coach, he may have his action for damages against the company for being deprived of his so-called property.

But of course the Supreme Court never indicated how, exactly, Mr. Plessy could “prove” that he was “white”– i.e., how much “white blood” was required to be “white.”

Since Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court has generally not countenanced any race-based distinctions in law, as they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet the Court has, oddly, allowed race-conscious admissions programs in public universities, on the rationale that achieving racial “diversity” is a compelling government objective.  Yet clearly, this race-consciousness flows in one direction, in favor of “minority” students who are supposedly “underrepresented.” It does not seem to favor “overrepresented” minorities, such as Asians, who have recently filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, claiming they are discriminated against because they are too well-qualified.

So given the high importance the law apparently places on being a member of a “minority” group, how does the law decide whether an individual is a member of such a minority group?

The question arises more recently with our current President, Barack Obama, whose mother is white and father is black/Kenyan. Despite this 50/50 white/black ancestry, President Obama self-identifies as “black.”  But why? If one is of “mixed” race, may one simply choose whichever race one wishes?

What makes someone “black,” for example? Was Plessy really “black”? The railroad conductor thought he was. Is one’s race merely a subjective matter of self-identification?

Self-identification does appear, at least to the political left, to be the sine qua non of gender. Progressives/liberals have aggressively defended the “right” of Bruce Jenner to call himself a “woman,” if/when he so desires, despite the fact that he has not yet had his male genitalia removed, and will always have male XY chromosomes.

If gender is merely a matter of self-identification, should not race be also? I have always thought that, given the affirmative action-laden higher education admissions process, applicants should self-identify as “black” or “Native American” whenever they so desire.  I mean, why not? If they feel black or Native American, should not they be able to claim such an identity, as Rachel Dolezal has done? Doing so would quickly cause affirmative action to collapse of its own ridiculous weight.

Indeed, all of this race balkanization–with such extreme emphasis as belonging to this or that race–only further divides us, as race baiters like Al Sharpton well know. So why not accept the progressives’ terms of the debate–that our gender and race is all simply a matter of self-identity–and identify as a member of races that are favored/more protected by law? After all, no one can ever really know what lies in another’s heart. Does Bruce Jenner sincerely believe he is a female, or does he simply like to dress up in women’s clothes? Does Rachel Dolezal sincerely believe she is black? No one can possibly know the answer, perhaps not even Mr./Ms. Jenner and Ms. Dolezal.

What would a university do if an applicant self-identified as “black” on an application but showed up looking “white”? And if the university made such a judgment, what on earth would that mean? How would the university defend its belief that a student didn’t “look” black?  What sort of bizarre racial stereotypes would it rely upon in making such an appearance-based judgment? And if the university actually decided to take action against the student for racial misrepresentation, what on earth would that mean? How would the university judge whether the student was really “black”?  What percentage of blood would suffice for such a progressive institution? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent?

And if an individual, like Rachel Dolezal, has no black ancestry at all, would a progressive/liberal university allow her to self-identify as black, as they would (presumably) do for gender classification, if the student was born male and self-identified as a transgendered male (without yet having any surgery)? After all, the EEOC recently ruled in the Lusardi case that an individual in the Army who was born male, yet self-identified as female (but had not undergone surgery to remove his male genitalia) was to be considered a female and allowed to use the women’s bathroom.

The problem with progressive thinking is that black is white, male is female, and as Orwell observed in 1984, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” After all, if one can destroy words, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

JACOB SULLUM: Sorry, the Zimmerman case has nothing to do with “Stand Your Ground.”

The story that George Zimmerman told about his fight with Trayvon Martin, the one that yesterday persuaded a jury to acquit him of second-degree murder and manslaughter, never had anything to do with the right to stand your ground when attacked in a public place. Knocked down and pinned to the ground by Martin, Zimmerman would not have had an opportunity to escape as Martin hit him and knocked his head against the concrete. The duty to retreat therefore was irrelevant. The initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman, former Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee said last week (as paraphrased by CNN), “had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law” because “from an investigative standpoint, it was purely a matter of self-defense.” And as The New York Times explained last month, “Florida’s Stand Your Ground law…has not been invoked in this case.” The only context in which “stand your ground” was mentioned during the trial was as part of the prosecution’s attempt to undermine Zimmerman’s credibility by arguing that he lied when he told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he had not heard of the law until after the shooting. During his rebuttal on Friday, prosecutor John Guy declared, “This case is not about standing your ground.”

So how did Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, respond to Zimmerman’s acquittal last night? By announcing that “we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state.”

Because they are, as usual, willing to try to exploit tragedy for political gain. Zimmerman’s case isn’t about black-white relations either — both Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman (who’s blacker than Homer Plessy) would be counted as African-American by any college “diversity” office in America, and Zimmerman was hispanic, too, but from the press coverage you’d think he was Bull Connor. The only thing that Zimmerman has in common with Bull Connor, though, is that Bull Connor was a Democrat too.

Meanwhile, people are raising a case that actually did involve stand your ground — the case of Marissa Alexander — as evidence of racial bias in the judicial system. But Angela Corey was the prosecutor there, and she seems to want to lock up anyone who uses a gun in self-defense. The main difference seems to be that the jury in the Alexander case believed Corey, though that may simply be because Zimmerman got better representation. Which opens up a whole different kettle of judicial fish that I doubt anyone really wants to talk about.

FIVE MYTHS about the killing of Trayvon Martin. Though given Zimmerman’s ancestry, when Trayvon said “[N-word] still following me” is literally correct, since Zimmerman is blacker than Homer Plessy. Which makes it even odder that the press has consistently treated this as a black-white affair when, in fact, nobody involved was white. On the other hand, that coverage let them gin up black turnout for 2012, helping Obama.

JOHN HAYWARD: Yes, the Zimmerman trial is a racial circus.

In response to Martin Family Atty: ‘We don’t believe the focus was really race”:

That’s a remarkable statement to come from the Martin legal team, since race is the only reason we’re having this trial at all. Everyone from the Martin family’s lawyers, to the professional grievance industry, to characters like the New Black Panther Party was busy whipping up riot conditions and treating Zimmerman as a fugitive from racial justice, which led to filmmaker Spike Lee endangering the lives of an innocent couple that just happened to be named “Zimmerman.” And there’s a good reason the media referred to Zimmerman as “white” until photos of him finally leaked out, and they had to change it to “white Hispanic,” a very special demographic of which George Zimmerman seems to remain the only high-profile member.

Indeed. Though he’s actually blacker than Homer Plessy.

Related thoughts from Ann Althouse.

SO HOW’S THAT ZIMMERMAN TRIAL GOING? Prosecutors admit Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend lied under oath. “The murder case against half-Latino neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was dealt a devastating blow Tuesday, when prosecutors acknowledged that their star witness, the 19-year old former girlfriend of the late Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, lied under oath.” He’s also blacker than Homer Plessy was, by the way.

UPDATE: Oops! This is old, but somebody just sent it to me and I didn’t notice. Sorry — perils of multitasking, I guess.

But this is up-to-date: Legal Insurrection: Zimmerman Trial Day 2 – Analysis of State’s Witnesses. “Today can only be characterized as an utter debacle for the prosecution.” But is that how the jury will see it? Because that’s all that matters. There’s lots of video, so you can decide for yourself.

IF THE PRESS WERE PUSHING A ZIMMERMAN-VICTIMOLOGY STORY, would they be saying more about how a black/Hispanic male is being tried by a jury of (mostly white) women? Zimmerman, remember, is 1/4 black, making him blacker than Homer Plessy.

BECOMING CONSTITUTIONALLY COLOR-BLIND:  James Taranto has a terrific piece in the WSJ this morning, explaining how the clock is winding down on the constitutionality of explicit race-based preferences.  Good riddance.  In the words of Justice John Marshall Harlan in his Plessy v. Ferguson (U.S. 1896) dissent:

“Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”

HISTORY: Plessy and Ferguson: Descendants of a divisive Supreme Court decision unite.

IN THE MAIL: Mark Elliott’s Color-Blind Justice: Albion Tourgee and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson, which looks quite interesting. Tourgee was the lawyer for the losing (anti-segregation) side in Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that gave birth to the doctrine of “separate but equal.” He had been a champion of racial equality during Reconstruction, but the U.S. public tired of keeping troops in the South and the national press painted Reconstruction as an unrealistic failure, leading to the takeover of pro-segregation forces and the enactment of Jim Crow laws. Tourgee continued to fight these — with some support from Civil War veterans — but it was mostly unsuccessful, setting the stage for long-term problems that affect America to this day.

It should go well with this book by Jennifer Weber.