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White Men Can't Jump Think

Listen to this CNN report and you’ll understand the reason for the title of my post. The only real problem is that while the mentality expressed in the report is typical of what bigoted white people often express, I think the actual reporters were black themselves. Maybe I need to do a post on Stockholm Syndrome.

News reporters interviewing black students express surprise that the students believe there is racism in America. After stating that blacks have more rights than ever before — “they don’t have to sit in the back of the bus; they get to go to school” — the interviewer can’t believe what he’s being told. “You believe…today? 2008? The United States of America is a racist country?”

The report goes on to explain that blacks don’t base their beliefs on “personal experience,” but on news stories. In other words, the story implies, even though the black students who were interviewed haven’t experienced racism, they believe that America is a racist country. The report implies that this is just wrong; it implies the most black people do not experience racism. There’s even another interview with a black man stating that this is “just an excuse.” (I’m fairly sure the short clip is taken out of context.)

What these white (at least on the inside) interviewers need to do is some research.

According to the Bureau of Justice of Statistics, by the end of 2005 there were 3,145 black male prison inmates per 100,000 in the United States compared to 471 white male inmates per 100,000. (Sandra Williams,“Racial Bias for Black Prisoners” (March 9, 2007) suite101.com.)

This is a sad statistic. Yet even more sadly, “a careful analysis of race and the death penalty in Philadelphia which reveals that the odds of receiving a death sentence are nearly four times (3.9) higher if the defendant is black.” (Richard C. Dieter, Esq., “The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides” (June 1998) Death Penalty Information Center.)

Black Americans are not the only ones to suffer racial prejudice, either. The California Progress Report notes that,

There are also disparities by offense type, with African American and Latino prisoners (52% each) more likely than whites (44%) to be imprisoned for violent offenses. (“Who’s In Prison? The Changing Demographics of Incarceration is our site of the day” (August 10, 2006) California Progress Report.)

And if you want to see evidence of more “everyday-type” racism in America that doesn’t relate to “news stories,” read the comments that have been posted to that last story.

As a criminal defense attorney, I’m used to seeing racism play an important part in the charges against my clients. Sometimes it’s a matter of my client being stopped on the road because he was a Mexican with a bald head — must be a gang member! — and in at least one such case his only “crime” was that he decided he did not want to talk to the officer. Other times, the charges are much more harsh for my “clients of color” than they would be for similarly-situated white clients.

I don’t know. Maybe CNN just meant to say “black folk should be glad we don’t still lynch them.” Whatever they meant their message to be, one need look no farther than the CNN report to see that, yes, America is still a racist country.

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