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September 17, 2005

Racist teenage idiot logic

Posted by The J Train

Via the Straight Dope Message Board (my favorite site on the internet, where I'm known as DoctorJ), here is the tale of a well-deserved ass-beating.

This 18-year-old genius wore to his high school a shirt on which a Klansman is waving to a couple driving away in a "just married"-type car...dragging two black men on nooses behind it.  The interval between his revealing of the shirt and his old-school beat-down was so short that it would have to have been measured by special instruments.

(The SDMB discussion is mostly about how one should feel toward his attackers, and appropriate punishment for them.  It's an interesting topic.  It's the reverse of the debate over hate crimes--should we soften the punishment for a crime just because the offender's motives were generally acceptable to our society?)

Even in the Cafe Press era, it scares the hell out of me that enough people find this image endearing that someone is selling them T-shirts.  That didn't stop me from laughing out loud at this line, the best I've read in a news story in a long while:

"I'm not racist or anything," he said. "It's just, some people I hate, some people I don't get along with. And black people just happen to be the ones because they think they're better than everyone else."

Couldn't make that up if I tried.

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» Quote of the Time Being from The Uncredible Hallq
Interesting how all racists these days know to avoid the label, and smart of them in some cases. The big shots avoid anything that can get them denounced as such while they spread slightly subtler bile. [Read More]

Comments

Wow. Just wow.

Never could understand that logic myself, unless it points to the insecurity of poor whites. "What if we become poorer than the blacks? No one will talk to us then!"

This kid sounds like a future Darwin Award winner.

Martha Nussbaum has an interesting discussion of different kinds of emotional-state based reasons for mitigating penalties in "Hiding from Humanity."

"should we soften the punishment for a crime just because the offender's motives were generally acceptable to our society?"
uhm, yes.

How do you know a crime was committed. Well, you know a crime was committed because there is the physical evidence of a crime. for example, you go to somebody's house and there is a dead body with a bullet in it. ah, evidence of a crime being committed. Further investigation reveals that the bullet got put in the person in an act of self defence - ah! self defence is an action that is generally acceptable in our society therefore there was not a crime - oh wait, the person who defended themselves had plenty of time to leave the house and call the police from a neighbor and get them to come arrest the intruder suffering from a schizophrenic episode. Depending on what state one is in this may be a clear case of self-defence, thus negating the crime, or a case that will need to go to trial in which a decision may be reached that it is a case of self defence.

Before anybody thinks I'm arguing that this particular case of the racist t-shirt and the response to it are self-defence - no I'm not. I'm just arguing that as a society generally acceptable behavior is used as an argument for reducing the consequences of crime all the time.

a minute of reflection should bring forth numerous other examples of excusable behaviors.

It's about time Americans realise that Racism is very deeply embedded in most institutions. Racism will never be wiped out, because the system caters for it.

If it isn't blacks tomorrow, it'll be Arabs or someone else.

The need to feel superior.....

"My Dad was like, whatever, it's your life."

Man, that's good parenting!


LOL I think the kid misunderstood what his father meant. And sometimes you have to let the kid find out that fire is hot if they've gotten through enough years of ignoring visible evidence.

I don't think violence was the "right" response... as deeply personally satisfying as it must have been. As deeply and personally satisfying as it would have been to me. Had I found myself in the position of the confronter, I would have been very tempted to do (and possibly done) exactly the same thing. I seriously doubt that a punishment will be applied which will discourage this response in the future.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your views on pacifism. This isn't going to do anything wonderful for race relations, but I think that the urge to do sensationalistic, stupid, hateful crap like wear that tee-shirt is infinitely more of a problem than addressing the urge to smack around a cheerleader for several hundred years of violent racism.

Both sides of the hate will have to be addressed, but right now one side is institutionalized and evil, and the other is an expression of the human will to survive.

LOL I think the kid misunderstood what his father meant. And sometimes you have to let the kid find out that fire is hot if they've gotten through enough years of ignoring visible evidence.

My kid came through the door with that tshirt in her hands (although as she's not a racist moron I see very little chance of that happening) she would find out exactly how hot fire is in a heartbeat.

Bryan has a very good point--intent and circumstances can mitigate or worsen appropriate punishment. But we need to distinguish motivations which *excuse* a crime from those which we merely sympathize with a lot. Many people of a very jealous disposition would sympathize with a killer who caught his wife in bed with his best friend and murdered them both in a blind rage, but that doesn't excuse the behavior in the least.

I'm tempted to see the beat down of the racist teen as understandable but not excusable, unlike the self defense case. But I'm still undecided.

"My kid came through the door with that tshirt in her hands (although as she's not a racist moron I see very little chance of that happening) she would find out exactly how hot fire is in a heartbeat."

*grins*

Please forgive me as I drop my attempt at objectivity and reveal what my feelings are about that particular part of the situation, and say "YAAY, GO YOU!"

J Train: You obviously haven't been on some Usenet newsgroups if this surprises you or if you consider it unusual. The teenager you describe is mild in comparison to some of the racist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying loons I've dealt with, the worst of which openly say that they think Hitler's only mistake is that he didn't go far enough.

Orac: Have you ever accomplished anything hanging out on those Usenet groups? It always struck me as being about as productive as talking to a chatterbot or one of the text generators that fills out the body of some kinds of spam.

Yep--there's a difference between "understandable" and "excusable." Also a difference between "should go to prison" and "should get community service/some other penalty."

I definitely don't think this attacker should go to prison. That would be a horrible waste. Something along the lines of anger management therapy would be better.

Where I grew up, leaving aside the simple fact that no white kid wearing that t-shirt would have been beaten down, somebody doing something equally stupid for the environment would have gotten a beating for sure.

And nobody would have blinked -- it would have been filed under "Don't be a dumbass."

Anger management? Isn't this getting a little solemn? I've just been listening to 'Rum, Sodomy and the Lash' by The Pogues and the line;

...where you decked some fuckin' Blackshirt who was cursing all the yids'

stood out.

In Texas, it used to be legal as long as you shot both of them, quickly, while you were still pissed off. But to the matter at hand, sometimes the "Don't be a dumbass" track is necessary.

This thread is a testament to how difficult it is to reconcile the poetic and non-poetic dimensions of justice.

I definitely don't think this attacker should go to prison. That would be a horrible waste. Something along the lines of anger management therapy would be better.

I think we can all sympathize with the beat-down. That doesn't mean the law should. Think through the consequences of the "it's OK if we think it's loathsome" atttidue towards attacking somebody - if it were a bunch of kids beating up another teen in a Gay Pride T-shirt, would you say the same thing?

(And please, don't say "but that's different!" Nobody made us Emperor, whereby only behavior odious to nice, right-thinking liberal people can be punished by vigilantes.)

Think through the consequences of the "it's OK if we think it's loathsome" atttidue towards attacking somebody - if it were a bunch of kids beating up another teen in a Gay Pride T-shirt, would you say the same thing?

Yeah, fair enough, although the behavior in question is far more like a gay kid wearing a shirt that says "All y'all crackers can suck my dick, and you'll like it." It's not just an expression of something about yourself (particularly not as an often-persecuted minority), but a direct attack on someone else.

It's not just an expression of something about yourself (particularly not as an often-persecuted minority), but a direct attack on someone else.

Fine, instead of a Gay Pride shirt, imagine one that says "I'd be straight but I'm allergic to polyester." OK to wrist-slap a bunch of homophobes who beat the living tar out of the shirt-wearer?

"All y'all crackers can suck my dick, and you'll like it."

"I'd be straight but I'm allergic to polyester."

Neither of these come even remotely close to the shirt in question, which joked about the lynching of black people, which is something that actually happened with considerably frequency in the U.S. Since gays don't have a long history of, you know, hanging racial groups they don't like from trees, this analogy can't do the work you want it to do no matter what the hypothetical gay teen's t-shirt says. It could depict someone sodomizing Jesus on the cross and it still wouldn't even approach the offensiveness of the "Just Married" shirt.

And Thad points out why it's almost impossible to come up with something as offensive and stupid as this kid's shirt was, and why so many of us have the "don't be a dumbass" reaction.

This wasn't vigilantism or hate crime, this wasn't a gang beating 'the living tar' out of a victim. This was one high school kid punching out another, who had it coming. If he had rounded up a gang with baseball bats, ok. But it was a spontaneous punch among high school kids.

Neither the school nor the parents nor the local law saw it as being anything other than that. Talk of 'mitigating punishment' and speculating about prison is out of proportion.

Any genuinely committed pacifist could take another view, but if a smack in the mouth was ever justified, this was it.

I smacked my *boss* once for making a singularly cavalier racial comment: he took my very real concern for a young man's life and dismissed it because of the race of the young man. I had the odd experience of watching my own arm cross the distance to his face. We were equally surprised, my boss and I.

"I'm not racist or anything," he said. "It's just, some people I hate, some people I don't get along with.

This is known as the Redneck Variation of the Roy Cohn Gambit.

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