Tag Archives: biases

Ahmed Mohamed and the Clock

Ahmed Mohamed started the week by making a clock. Before the end of Monday he was arrested and talking with the cops. Fourteen years old, Mohamed was suspended for reasons that aren’t clear to me. I understand the initial stereotyping. It happens. Mohamed, a Muslim, can’t simply be a bright kid who likes to make things. That’s too American for someone who doesn’t “look” American. Once he gets arrested and the police clear him of any wrong-doing, why doesn’t the school apologize and let Ahmed Mohamed back into class? I don’t know.

From TP:

Ahmed’s story resonates with many who weren’t mainstream “cool” growing up — those who preferred to spend time taking things apart and rebuilding them, watch old movies with the A/V club, or play video games. His story also embodies the social urgency called to correct the racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural discrimination behind police profiling and the deep-seated perceptions that too often lead to the brutalization of marginalized communities.

But those biases aren’t limited to police encounters, trickling into everyday life and workplaces — an issue the tech industry is working to improve. That’s why, beyond the many lessons Ahmed can teach society about the gross dangers of prejudice, his story also provides a powerful anecdote in acceptance and the importance of diversity in tech.

When all is said and done, can this teenager move on with this life? Can he be better? Well, the answer is maybe. He has to battle through the crap which can be overwhelming sometimes. Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin shows how difficult it can be as she writes, “Whereas Ahmed Muhammad, an evidently obstinate-answering student bringing in a homemade ‘clock’ that obviously could be seen by conscientious teachers as a dangerous wired-up bomb-looking contraption (teachers who are told ‘if you see something, say something!’) gets invited to the White House.” I love it when Sarah is showing her racial bias.

Let’s look at the death penalty again

I have been bothered by the death of Troy Davis. What the hell? There was an opportunity for those who love life… I keep thinking about this case. Why did this guy “have to” die? Where was the governor of Georgia? Could Mr. Davis been pardoned? Where was the president? No one could have saved this man?

From NYT Editorial:

As the unconscionable execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week underscores, the court has failed because it is impossible to succeed at this task. The death penalty is grotesque and immoral and should be repealed.

The court’s 1976 framework for administering the death penalty, balancing aggravating factors like the cruelty of the crime against mitigating ones like the defendant’s lack of a prior criminal record, came from the American Law Institute, the nonpartisan group of judges, lawyers and law professors. In 2009, after a review of decades of executions, the group concluded that the system could not be fixed and abandoned trying.

Sentencing people to death without taking account of aggravating and mitigating circumstances leads to arbitrary results. Yet, the review found, so does considering such circumstances because it requires jurors to weigh competing factors and makes sentencing vulnerable to their biases.

Those biases are driven by race, class and politics, which influence all aspects of American life. As a result, they have made discrimination and arbitrariness the hallmarks of the death penalty in this country.

For example, two-thirds of all those sentenced to death since 1976 have been in five Southern states where “vigilante values” persist, according to the legal scholar Franklin Zimring. Racism continues to infect the system, as study after study has found in the past three decades.

The thoughtful reflection of who Shirley Sherrod really is

This morning I watched the Rachel Maddow Show on-line. She was talking about the connection between ACORN, Van Jones, the New Black Panthers and Shirley Sherrod. I thought it was Brilliant.

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I talked about this today on Local Edge Radio. Many people never evolve. Some you do change never talk about it because in today’s world it is showing weakness. Shirley Sherrod changed her world view and had the nerve to talk about it. She should be bronzed.

From Glen Greenwald:

Everyone is presumably aware by now of the facts surrounding the disgusting fraud perpetrated on Shirley Sherrod, engineered by Andrew Breitbart, amplified by Fox News, and meekly submitted to by the Obama administration.  Those who aren’t can read excellent commentary from Jamelle BouieJoan Walsh, and Chris Martinez.  Much has been written about the incomparable sleaze of Breitbart, the standard propaganda boost from Fox News, and the typical cowardice of the administration in the face of such attacks.  All of that is well established by now and quite unsurprising, so I want to focus on what ought to be the enduring lesson from this ugly episode:  the courage of Shirley Sherrod.

Just as CNN fired Octavia Nasr for one of the few insightful and interesting observations she ever voiced about the Middle East, Sherrod’s speech — which caused her to be fired — is simply inspiring in its uncommon candor, courage and wisdom.  Few people are willing so publicly to confess to tribal biases and detail how they struggle to overcome them, even though that’s a challenge whichany person who evolves at some point must confront.  That process — far more than the pretense of having always been bias-free — requires difficult self-examination, and its public discussion offers vitally needed lessons for everyone.  Many people are unwilling ever to engage that process privately, let alone candidly describe it publicly.  Those with the courage to do so, like Sherrod, should be heralded for that candor.  Instead, she was slandered, falsely disparaged, and fired.

Contrary to the excuse being offered by those who did all of that, her actual message — that she was plagued by racial biases decades ago and overcame them with the recognition that it is poverty that unites people in need — was clearly evident even from the deceitfully edited Breitbart video.  This is part of what she said on that edited video:

That’s when it was revealed to me that it’s about poor versus those who have.  And not so much about white. It is about white and black, but you know — it opened my eyes.

But — just as happened with Octavia Nasr and so many before her,including the now-destroyed ACORN — the blinding, lying,depressingly common right-wing hysteria churned out by Brietbart/Fox meant that no nuances were permitted, no reason could breathe, and few people had the courage to defend Sherrod or even demand that she be allowed to speak before being thrown to the trash heap. (more…)