the question of race

I don’t like writing about race. The fact that it’s an issue at all depresses me. It makes me even more pessimistic about the fate of mankind. But, on occasion, I don’t have a choice but to face it.

I knew I was going to have to write something about race last week when a local reader of MM.com wrote to tell me that someone had flyered her neighborhood with racist literature. She was nice enough to give me the two pieces of paper that were on her doorstep. They’ve been sitting here on my desk for the past week… “Non-Whites are turning America into a Third World slum.” That’s what one of them says. The other is a warning for white women not to have sex with black men because they’re likely to have AIDS. Then, today, someone left a comment here on my site in reference to the Orange Taylor trial that I had to remove because it contained what many of us interpreted as hate speech.

Given the economy in Michigan, it isn’t much of a surprise. Economic downturns tend to bring out the worst in people. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s just a few paychecks that stand between us Nazism, but history teaches us that desperation and hopelessness make people look for scapegoats. So, as the number of foreclosures continues to rise in Michigan, and as the American auto industry slips closer to collapse, it’s not much surprise that we’d see things like this cropping up. And it doesn’t hurt that today Orange Taylor, the black man being held for the murder of white EMU student Laura Dickinson last Christmas, was not found guilty, in spite of the fact that his ejaculate was found on her body. (He is still in custody and will be retried in January.)

The Taylor trial ended in a hung jury. It sounds like two jurors felt there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that he was in her dorm room at the time of her death, but, from what I can tell, only one of them is speaking to the press. Her name is Lauretta Codrington, and she, like the accused, is African American. I just did a Google search on her name and found that several hate sites are already suggesting that she kept the jury from finding him guilty out of loyalty to her race and/or hatred of whites. Maybe it’s overreacting on my part, but my hope is that the police keep and eye on her and her family over the coming weeks. We tend to feel somehwat inuslated from such things here in the Ann Arbor area, but you never know.

Maybe I’m reading too much into all of these little pieces, but I get the feeling that things are about to get worse. Maybe it’s the affect of spending the last hour reading through the websites of white supremists, like the organization that did the flyering here in Ypsi a few days ago. I just get the sense that we’re in a very precarious place. I’ve felt that way since David Ware, an unarmed African American man, was shot and killed by police here in Ypsi earlier this year after a drug bust went bad. It just seems that, since then, we’ve been headed toward something. Then, on top of it, we had the murder of Laura Dickinson. I don’t know where it’s all headed, but I hope that someone in the community steps up to address the building tension in a meaningful way soon, before things boil over. I still remmber Vincent Chin, and I don’t want to see that happen here again.

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21 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    My hope is that several of you will now tell me that I’m over-reacting.

  2. Posted October 25, 2007 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I think overt, extremist racism has always been here and might not ever go away, given the history of our country. While that poses a bigger risk as far as chances of violence, the bigger problem is covert, or institutionalized racism. This exists in subtle but very impactful ways: in communitites, in schools, in public systems like the courts, corporate America, ect. This is what explains a lot of problems surrounding race such as the achievement gap, poverty, the prison system, and so on. And then of course, people in power blame it on the actual people not being motivated enough or trying hard or whatever (kind of like people who argue against affirmitve action but fail to take in consideration the true impact covert and institutionalized forms of racism have on all these factors).

    I think worrying about the extremists instead of the true roots of the problem is like worrying about terrorists instead of … I think the racial tension and violence like what was going on in south in the Jim Crow era and in response to the civil rights movements in the 60s, is hopefully a part of history that’s behind us.

    I think and hope that we all wake up to the impact of the other, more subtle forms of racism that I described, and start making changes there. If we are going to address the problem/issue of race/racism as a community, let’s inform each other of the reality of the systems we have in place, and see if we can start addressing those issues, which are much, much more serious. I’m biased, but I think it all starts with schools and school systems (or at least that’s my personal conscious area that I’m working on figuring out and changing). I could write about that for another few days but I’ll stop now!

  3. Mark H.
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Sadly, Mark, I don’t think you are overreacting. Bad economic times almost always in US history increase overtly racist organizing and propaganda, like the kind of leafleting in Ypsi you mention and the inane attempts to turn the trial of the defendant accused of killing Laura Dickinson into a racial issue.

  4. Posted October 25, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Mark, are you black? You can’t possibly be a true Maynard, you must have been bought by a Maynard long ago or been adopted into the family.

    Do you have any idea of the history of the Maynard family? You’re a fucking disgrace!

    Here is how a real Maynard attacks these issues, with honesty and clarity!

    Mark, there is NO such thing as hate speech, unless you’re black or Jewish, in which case it serves to protect YOU and NOT society.

    Another Black Male in the “Wrong Place at the Wrong Time.”?

    By Curt Maynard

    Yep, apparently that’s the case, Orange Taylor was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when he stumbled upon the already dead body of Laura Dickinson in her dorm room on December 13, 2006, and decided to “pleasure himself,”? which presumably means masturbated until ejaculation onto her body. Sound unlikely? Well, not to one of the black jurors on the case, a Ms. Lauretta Codrington, who voted to acquit and then refused to change her mind despite the fact that everyone else on the jury, with the probable exception of another female if Codrington can be believed [She is thus far the only one saying that two people refused to convict], thought Taylor guilty as hell. According to Ms. Codrington, race never entered the [juries] discussion,? which may well be true, the white jurors were probably petrified they’d be charged with a hate crime if they were to point out the obvious, the reason Orange Taylor wasn’t convicted is because a black female on the jury refused to, or was incapable of, considering the overwhelming amount of evidence that should have convicted him.

    Codrington also neglects to tell us that she herself was involved in a racial bias suit back in 1991, in which she accused a white landlord of discrimninating against her, I wonder if she told the prosecution this during jury selection, or if it just “slipped her weak mind.?” Maybe Codrington ought to be in jail huh?

    read the rest at the PC Apostate [blog it]

  5. Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Mark – all you have to do is read the Comments in the Freep to see that racism is alive and well in this city (Metro Detroit), state and country (I also read the sfgate and as liberal as SF is, the racism is palpable there as well). It’s appalling.

    I just finished Native Son last night and of all the people I’ve see over the past three weeks while reading it the only person who had read it (this includes friends of mine who were english majors) was the blue-collar African American I talk to as I walk into and out of work every day.

    Sadly, the mindset in Native Son is much too prevalent 60+ years later.

  6. Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Shoot. Bloody typos: I’ve seen…

  7. Steph's Dad
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    If I’m not mistaken, Mark has said that he believes Mr. Taylor is guilty and should be in prison, Curt.

  8. oliva
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I think to “overreact” in this matter is good, and I truly appreciate it, but it is awfully depressing. Seemed like we had finally, finally, showed signs of encouraging movement away even from institutionalized, entrenched racism, even just in some ways but so evidently,* enough to be at a tipping point and prepare to tip once and for all–but there’s something spooky and awful about the more personal encounters with racism too, and that it’s cropping up too much again is alarming. Thank goodness for your statement of concern, written even though it would have been less painful and less depressing to skip it. A way to remind us all to be vigilant against racism and especially careful if it seems to be growing.

    *for example, this year it’s true that Elizabeth Edwards could say: “We can’t make John black. We can’t make him a woman”–those being good things to be for fund-raising purposes. Glory be and what a good long way we’ve come when you hear those words. But hate threatens to trounce that glory–and no doubt it’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen. So thanks again, MM.

  9. maryd
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I appreciate your comments. You are not overreacting. Regardless of popular opinion, I am aghast at the assumption of guilt. I cannot assume anything about this case and do agree with the juror about reasonable doubt. And I am glad I did not have to sit on this jury. Thank God we do not have the death penalty.

  10. Jim
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    It shouldn’t matter, but for the record: Two of the jurors in the Taylor trial were black. The other black juror voted to find Taylor guilty; the other juror who voted to find him not guilty was white. The jurors who have talked to the press have said that race was not an issue in their deliberations, and that all jurors took their responsibility very seriously.
    http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews/2007/10/all_but_2_jurors_believed_tayl.html

  11. egpenet
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    hI ask, how can we the people over-react to the fact that slavery was abolished in favor of institutionalizing racism.

    Virtually every federal, state and local governmental program places black Americans in a disadvantageous poaition.

    I ask all Ypsilanti residents to read the Ypsilanti Public Housing Residents manual and wonder what it would be like to have that document as the cornerstone of your neighborhood.

    I ask all Michigan residents to look at the prison statistics and realize that we have shunted black fathers from their reesponsibilties as citizens and fathers away from their families and into prison for selling incredibly small quantities of drugs.

    I ask all citizens of Michigan to realize that our state laws are set up to reward young black and poor white women for having babies out of wedlock, the more the better.

    Aside from criminal activities of Orange Taylor and David Ware, which are cruel and obviously henious acts … in contrast to Mr. Cosby’s arguments … we have traded slavery for welfareism and incrimination.

    There is ALSO a class thing going on in the black community. Middle class black teachers carry paddles in Detroit … and they beat the poor kids who don’t do what they are told. The majority of working class black families are wonderful, contributing and great American citizens, who have sacrificed their sons and daughters alongside the rest of us.

    But the system is set up against the poor … black and white. It “seems” to insult the Protestant ethic of the majority that some among us are simply in need .. not only of money and food, but of motivation and sheer hutzpa.

    Pious the XII said “the poor will always be with us.” That totally pisses me off. WE create poverty by our selfishness and our laws.

    Cosby’s new book is an upper class black whitewash of the problem. I wish he had gone after Bush, Congress, and the States.

    Futhermore, the prominent reverends Jackson and Sharpton are off the mark. Their “preaching” misses the target. We neeeeeed Osama and others to change thee approach to poverty, change the criminal justice system, change the laws, promote marriage as Faracon does, promote family, promote education.

    No child left behind is stupid. It’s so stupid that the Federal Government didn’t bother to fund it! Don’t be taken in by the rhetoric of a president who cannot even speak a completye sentence. NCLB is racist … because it actually ends up denying black and other poor kids what they need … which is a challenge to succeed. My plan would be called … No Child Left Unchallenged!

    And Mark … thanks for taking that clearly hate speech off the blog. I shudder to think what a few of our neighbors REALLY think. I apologize from my side of Ypsilanti for any pain caused by that snide commentator earlier this week.

    I urge anyone who can to read the poems of Langston Hughes, Gil Scott-Heron (the godfather of rap), and Malcolm X. Get it under your hat that racism is very much alive and well in Amwerican … it’s the law!

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    The nice thing about the new racists is they no longer believe if they commit a race crime the law/courts will look the other way. The opposite is true. They’re convinced society has turned against them and they are a persecuted class.

    And, if there’s one bright spot to the disproportionate number of black men in prison, it’s that extreme racists are terrified of going to prison.

    So, I suspect we’ll see our fair share of angry poor white men lashing out with anonymous nooses and notes left on doorsteps. But, I doubt many/any of these folks will risk the kind of hate crimes that aren’t protected as free speech and risks them being sent to their worst nightmare.

    The lynch mob no longer has the comfort of bombing a church one night and standing the drugstore counter the next morning, without fear of ramifications.

    We all have a very long way to go, but that, at least, is something.

  13. Chris Womak
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    “And, if there’s one bright spot to the disproportionate number of black men in prison, it’s that extreme racists are terrified of going to prison.

    So, I suspect we’ll see our fair share of angry poor white men lashing out with anonymous nooses and notes left on doorsteps. But, I doubt many/any of these folks will risk the kind of hate crimes that aren’t protected as free speech and risks them being sent to their worst nightmare.

    The lynch mob no longer has the comfort of bombing a church one night and standing the drugstore counter the next morning, without fear of ramifications.”

    Oh, you have seriously misread the signs. The resentment that is building among whites must ultimately free itself from the pressure it has thus far sustained.

    You’ve been lied to, America is no longer a “melting pot,” it is a “powder keg,” that’s about to blow.

  14. Publius
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I’ll take the challenge. The type of overt racist words and actions that have recently been seen are newsworthy because they are so rare. I would say the overwhelming majority of people 99.9999% find the type of racist comments and actions abhorent. Do you know anyone personally that thinks or acts this way? One thing the mainstream media is good at is scaremongering.

  15. KT
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Sounds like your advocating violence, Chris.

  16. Katy
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Far from mainstream media, this is something in our backyard, reported not by the media but by our neighbors.
    I have no comment on the meat of the issue here, though I am a smidge curious if the Birchers are in any way tied to this. Maybe not directly, but I certainly think there’s the potential for overlap in the two groups’ member base.

  17. Posted October 29, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Hi all-
    As a employee of a civil rights organization, I can sadly tell you that racism is alive and well.

    Check out the work of the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan (we are a local nonprofit). Here is a quick glance:

    “Level playing field? Color blind society? There are those who claim that racism is a thing of the past.

    The Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan has the evidence to prove them wrong. African-American testers in our community are treated less favorably about 40% of the time when compared with white testers.

    However, housing is one of the few areas of civil rights law where complainants are winning and each new victory tells a story, just ask Nikia Holland.

    Holland et.al. v Camelot Apartments
    Nikia Holland, an African-American woman and her white friend Suzanne Trader contacted the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan to complain the manager of Camelot Apartments. Their complaints included: the use of racial epithets, harassing white tenants to stay away from African-American friends and tenants, and failing to make repairs in the Ms. Holland’s apartment. After taking the complaint, the Fair Housing Center sent African-American and white test teams to Camelot Apartments. Testing evidence supported the claims of race discrimination. Nikia Holland and her friends Suzanne and Eric Trader recently accepted $47,500 to settle a race discrimination case against the owners of Camelot Apartment in Ypsilanti Township.

    Over the last 15 years we have turned housing discrimination cases into over $1,000,000 worth of settlements. We can fight housing discrimination and win!

    The Fair Housing Center actively enforces federal, state and local laws banning housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status (children), age and marital status, sexual orientation, student status and source of income.”

    To learn more and to find out how you can help end discrimination, visit the website listed.

  18. Robert
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Publius, I wish I lived in your world.

    Racism is a symptom, not the disease. I’d say the vast majority who feel they have cured the disease in themselves, have really just alleviated the symptoms.

    During a public forum, I once tried to argue with a Clinton Administration official who made the statement, “As long as there is race, there will be racism.” I thought the statement suggested, or at least allowed the perception, that race was the CAUSE of racism. The room really hated that I thought there should be clarification on that. What do you all think?
    Here’s some stuff none of you are going to like; I think anyone going around telling themselves or others that they are not the least bit racist, most certainly are. I think the suggestion that it is “tolerance” that keeps people from being racist, are racist for thinking so. I think using terms like “people of color” is racist and bigoted. How many people would understand why, I wonder.

  19. Robert
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, that didn’t provoke anybody. Oh well. It was mostly about semantics and evolution of language anyway.

    More interestingly, Curt Maynard is one of those white supremacist types, I take it. Hey Curt, will YOU talk to me? Nobody else here will.

  20. Robert
    Posted November 6, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    You know you’re a pariah when even white supremacists won’t talk to you.

  21. Posted April 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Kristen Cuhran writes:

    Nikia Holland, an African-American woman and her white friend Suzanne Trader contacted the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan to complain the manager of Camelot Apartments. Their complaints included: the use of racial epithets, harassing white tenants to stay away from African-American friends and tenants, and failing to make repairs in the Ms. Holland’s apartment. After taking the complaint, the Fair Housing Center sent African-American and white test teams to Camelot Apartments. Testing evidence supported the claims of race discrimination. Nikia Holland and her friends Suzanne and Eric Trader recently accepted $47,500 to settle a race discrimination case against the owners of Camelot Apartment in Ypsilanti Township.

    It is interesting to me that Nikia Holland is identified as “an African-American woman” but the owner of Camelot Apartments in Ypsilanti Township is not identified as a Jew. Camelot Apartments are owned by FH Management, which is owned and run by Susan Sills. Susan is the daughter of Rhoda (Hebrew name: Ruchle) Nemeth and Arthur (Hebrew name: Avram Mechle) Sills. All this proves nothing in and of itself but it begins to make sense when considered in the the light of “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.” That is, if one actually has the integrity and courage to fully consider such ‘forbidden’ thoughts.

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