Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Unapologetic Mexican's Take On The Melting Pot

At the risk of turning into a directional map for the purpose of routing readers to other blogs, I simply must turn you all on to this cartoon by Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez (The Unapologetic Mexican). He used it to illustrate his response to a commentator who has a generalized problem with the existence of people of color in what he apparently perceives as "his world." Not only is Nezua's response extremely clever (no, I'm not going to tell you about it - you have to go read it), but the cartoon is slammin'. This is clearly a man to watch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Annual Post On Sports

It isn't very often that I read an article in Jet - or even the New York Times - and find myself reminded of my stats classes in grad school. There's a reason for that. Such articles are few and far between because most ordinary folks can't understand what statistical analysis really means, as a rule. This is one of the reasons people are so quick to say flatly, "You can prove anything using statistics." What they mean is that statistics can be used to "prove" anything - right or wrong. But the reality is that "statistics" can only "prove" "anything" to them. If you have a clue, statistics can only bear out the facts.

When I first read about the study conducted by Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, I knew there wouldn't be much flap over it, even though there ought to be. Then, when I saw the article in the Jet Magazine, I really winced. It was virtually unintelligible. That is, I read it twice, and I couldn't make heads nor tails of what it was supposed to be saying. I would have ignored it, if I hadn't already understood the first piece.

Wolfers and Price found that, during the course of the thirteen N.B.A. seasons from 1991 through 2004, White referees called fouls at a greater rate against Black players than they did against White players. In fact, they went so far as to say that the difference in the rates "is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game." Whoa!

The crunchy part read something like: "Across all specifications, we find that Black players receive around 0.12-0.20 more fouls per 48 minutes played (an increase of 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 per cent) when the number of White referees officiating a game increases from zero to three." The bottom line: a difference of about two victories in an 82-game season.

The N.B.A. went ball-istic, of course (sorry I couldn't resist). The Commissioners rushed right out and had their own study done, which "found," needless to say, no such problem. Three independent experts hired by the Times to examine both studies, however, declared the Wolfers-Price work far more credible, though they may have been ham-strung somewhat by the fact that the N.B.A. refused to provide the underlying data they claimed to use to make their alternate conclusions.

The N.B.A. shouldn't take it all so hard. First of all, the fact that the whole society is rampantly racist is easy to document. Are the N.B.A. Commissioners trying to claim that it and it alone stands above the socially institutionalized norms? I would hope not. Secondly, it's not as if someone is accusing them of intentional oppression. When they said the league does not consider race in the hiring process for referees, nobody (and certainly not Wolfers or Price) claimed otherwise.

When the referees are taken out of the equation, however, it's hard not to catch the differences. "Player-performance appears to deteriorate at every margin when officiated by a larger fraction of opposite-race referees," write Wolfers and Price, except for shooting free throws (when the referees are irrelevant). And there you have it.

The researchers have tried to reassure the N.B.A. Commissioners that they're not calling anyone racist, per se, but bias based on skin tone can be subconscious, they say. "You see two players [collide] on the floor and you have to call a block or a charge. Does the skin color of the players somehow shape how you interpret the signals your brain gives you?"

The numbers say they do. "Basically, [our research] suggests," says Wolfers, "that if you spray-painted one of your starters White, you'd win a few more games." Damn! No wonder the playing fields are still not level. Folks that look like me gotta win part of the time.

Black Dialogue!

Side note before I post my next Jet comment: run, don't walk over to Professor Zero to catch a double performance by The Perceptionists!! I won't say anything else except don't miss the second song. Oh. My. God. They are too good!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Billy Ray Johnson Finally "Won"

Billy Ray Johnson, a developmentally disabled African-American man in his forties was beaten almost to death in 2003 by a bunch of young White guys at a Linden, Texas, "pasture party" (where they had "invited" him, apparently to provide the entertainment). As many of you probably know by now, Johnson was recently awarded $9 million dollars in a civil court case handled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a good thing, right? Of course, it is, but none of the perpetrators of this crime got more than 60 days in jail and I can't find anywhere who's gonna cough up the $9 million.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad they pushed the envelope. I'm glad the jury voted unanimously in Johnson's favor. And I'm glad he'll get whatever he does get however long it takes. He's going to need help to pay for the intensive care he's going to need for the rest of his life. But come on now, what makes this different from the day before the beating occurred? Do we really believe that liquored-up White boys in Linden, Texas, are not going to exercise their racist inclinations any more? Or are they just going to bury the bodies in the future - the way they used to?

The fact is that none of these good ol' boys went to prison, where they would have been doled out a regular dose of retribution in the general population, assuming they lived through the orientation process. They got off, just like Emmett Till's murderers got off in 1955. And Billy Ray Johnson and his family are the ones who will continue to suffer, not to mention other people of color who know better than to think this means they're protected by the laws in the U.S. of A.

How long are we going to insist on the idea that there's progress while White men can still walk away from a crime such as what they did to Johnson? How long are we going to pat ourselves on the back about the civil case, while criminal charges are not upheld? How long are we going to see this new verdict as a "win" for Billy Ray Johnson, who will live out the rest of his life in a nursing home?

Administrators at a Los Angeles charter school fired two teachers this spring for helping seventh graders plan a Black History Month program on the Emmett Till killing. The administrators wouldn't discuss the firings, but apparently, they felt the story was "too graphic" and one of them was quoted as saying, "We don't want to focus on how the history of the country has been checkered, but on how do we dress for success, walk proud, and celebrate all the accomplishments we've made." Well, at least everybody's on the same page, huh?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ditto, And Mo' Ditto

In the interest of clarifying any ambiguity a reader might have as to my "editorial policies," (yes, ma'am!), I'm linking this morning to The Unapologetic Mexican's very clear expounding on why I can co-exist with lizards in mi casa, but not with cockroaches. And if that makes no sense, you'll want to drop on over and read this post.

Many years ago, when I was living with my two young children in a rundown apartment in a rundown neighborhood, I got tired of fighting the roaches and reached a point where I thought, "Well, WTF? How bad can it get?" A month later, I had learned that I didn't have nearly the tolerance I was going to need to deal with how bad it got. And at that point, it was all out war.

While I hate to have to be heavy-handed, this is my house. Be aware, trolls and other people who wave the First Amendment as they puke Ugly and then want to wipe their mouth on my sleeve on their way out the door. Now that I'm baaa-aaaack, we'll be having none of that. ;^)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hate Groups In The House

I got my latest Intelligence Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday.

*big sigh*

It is invariably a bummer to read and yet, like a bloody car wreck, you can't take your eyes off it. I turn page after page, reading the articles, studying the photos, increasingly nauseated, but glad for the information. People who hate Jews. People who hate Mexicans. And, of course, people who hate African-Americans. Not to mention what they think of people like me. What a potpourri of horror.

This issue holds the annual "Year in Hate" list of all the recognized hate and patriot groups (by location), as well as hate websites, which can mask where they are, of course. As usual, Florida ranks third, after California and Texas, for sheer number of active hate groups -- pretty impressive when you consider how much smaller in size we are. Forgetting about the rest of the state, there are represented within spitting distance of where I am (in alphabetical order):

American Front
American National Socialist Workers' Party
Confederate Hammerskins
Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Heritage Foundation
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
League of the South
National Socialist Movement
Nationalist Coalition
White Revolution
White Nation Network

So now we know.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Malcolm X

I couldn't let this day end without acknowledging that it is Malcolm X's birthday. And while I would love to do some hellified tribute to his truth, I think it would be more to the point to just go ahead and give you an opportunity to hear an example of how he himself laid it out there. "The Ballot or the Bullet" is one of my favorite speeches by Malcolm X. Here is one version in print and a slightly different version to which you can actually listen. May we be appropriately thoughtful as we honor his memory this day by considering what he was saying about a situation that has improved so very little - in reality - since he said it.