Saturday, July 25, 2009

Awful NYT article on race (whodathunkit)

A couple of quotes from this NYT article, written on the occasion of the arrest of Professor Gates. The basis of the article: "interviews", "Web postings" and "television talk shows", with "blacks and others", all of whom are for some reason white collar professionals.

“No matter how much education you have as a person of color, you still can’t escape institutional racism,” said H., a sports and entertainment lawyer in Chicago who is black. “That’s what the issue is to me.”
Institutional racism aimed at poorly educated blacks? Not much of an issue for him. Well, hey, the NYT tells me that this guy is black. Who am I to question his reflections on race relations?

The second quote comes from:
C., 37, a white cardiologist who lives in Hyde Park, is married to a black man and said that she could not count how many times people had interrupted the two over the years to ask her, quietly, “Is this man bothering you?”
Given a description like that, you just know that we're dealing with a white liberal with enlightened views on race. Let's see what she has for us:
“Even here in this diverse area I’ve heard people say, ‘Look at those black guys coming toward us.’ I say, ‘Yes, but they’re wearing lacrosse shorts and Calvin Klein jeans. They’re probably the kids of the professor down the street.’ ”

“You have to be able to discern differences between people,” she said, criticizing the practice of racial profiling. “It’s very frustrating.”
Seriously: "lacrosse" and "Calvin Klein". The moral of the story: look deeper than the colour of a kid's skin, and check whether he's a walking parody of bourgeois whiteness. Or: before you go around judging black people, make sure you internalize the fact that Carlton Banks is not a gangster.

I've omitted the names of the interviewees, because this isn't really about them. While their statements are dripping with classist ugliness, they're just random schmucks and I have no reason to expect better from them.

On the other hand, I would like to be able to expect better content from the NYT. I would like an article like this to be written by reporters who realize that they might want to do more than just pick up some random comments from black (or married-to-black) members of the professional class. But I guess maybe this is what passes as insightful journalism in mainstream American news nowadays.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Testimonies from Gaza

Breaking the Silence has realeased a booklet of testimonies about from 26 IDF soldiers concerning the assault on Gaza. BBC story here.

It would probably be hard to find better commentary than that provided by Jerry Haber, starting with this post. His main conclusions drawn from the booklet:
According to these testimonies the IDF soldiers did not generally adhere even to the IDF Rules of Engagement.

...the policy was to shoot first and not ask questions later.

White phosphorus was used against international conventions.

The devastation was enormous, on an unprecedented scale in the Israeli warfare.

Vandalism was unreported

Gazans were used as human shields, despite being outlawed by the Israel High Court
His subsequent posts are (and no doubt will continue to be) also worth reading. In this one, Jerry Haber explains some of the background, and why Breaking the Silence is very pointedly not pursuing these allegations through established legal channels:
BtS was founded about five years ago, during the Second Intifada. It started with a photo exhibition of IDF soldiers in Hebron. That exhibition made front page headlines. At one point, the IDF seized the pictures and said it would try the soldiers who had participated in illegal activities against the Hebronites. After the pictures were returned to the group by an embarrassed IDF, the group was invited to the Knesset to present the exhibition. They were invited to military preparatory programs to talk about their work. They were almost national heroes. And the group thought, naively, that things would change.

They didn't. The IDF's conduct only worsened.

I don't think that the IDF, under the present circumstances, can be seriously reformed.
And this one, concerning white phosphorous. The summary of the IDF's shifting official statements on white phosphorous reads like a parody of propaganda.