Saturday, June 03, 2017

How The Media Exacerbates Racial Division

The media and especially what used to be called print journalism enjoy an almost religious status in America. Journalism is accompanied by a mystique, they are the dogged truth finders wearing a snappy hat with "Press" on a card in the brim. They ask hard hitting questions and make crooked politicians and corrupt business leaders alike sweat and squirm and then they bring the news, pure and unadulterated, to we the people. The press carried such critical importance for the Founders of America that the freedom of the press is enshrined right after the freedom of religion in the First Amendment and included alongside the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble, rights that are also under serious assault in this country especially on campus. The reality is quite different. The media now, and probably since the founding of this country, is largely a partisan, antagonistic cabal. I have been sitting on two examples for a while and just am getting around to posting this.

Story one in the Washington Post. Even the title is pregnant with click-baityness: Judge: Mostly white Southern city may secede from school district despite racial motive. The gist of the story is pretty straightforward. Gardendale, Alabama is part of the Jefferson County school district which includes Birmingham. According to Wikipedia, Birmingham is around 75% black with a median household income of around $38,000. Gardendale by contrast is 88% White with a median household income of $79,000. Another interesting contrast, Birmingham has around a quarter of households listed as a mother with no husband present and around 31% married couples. Gardendale is reported to have over 56% of households with a married couple and around 11% a mother with no husband present. The dramatically disparate relative rates of married couples and the huge disparity in income are not coincidental.

The story is laced with charges of racism on the part of Gardendale without even the courtesy of having them thinly veiled, including the top photo of the story showing posters of the all white girl's cheerleading squad and the essentially all white football team. The horror! For example:

A federal judge’s ruling this week that allows a predominantly white Alabama city to separate from its more diverse school district is stoking new debate about the fate of desegregation initiatives after decades of efforts to promote racial balance in public education.

Judge Madeline Haikala of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham ruled that the city of Gardendale’s effort to break away was motivated by race and sent messages of racial inferiority and exclusion that “assail the dignity of black schoolchildren.”

She also found that Gardendale failed to meet its legal burden to prove that its separation would not hinder desegregation in Jefferson County, which has been struggling to integrate its schools since black parents first sued for an equal education for their children in the 1960s.

Still, Haikala ruled Monday that Gardendale may move forward with the secession, basing her decision in part on sympathy for some parents who want local control over schools and in part on concern for black students caught in the middle. The judge wrote that she feared they would bear the blame if she blocked the city’s bid.

So this judge is going to magnanimously allow parents to have some say over their local school so that black students don't get blamed. It is telling that the effort for "integration" started in the 1960's. It is 2017 so basically for 50 years the government has been trying to force black and white school kids together and has so far failed. This is assumed to be the fault of terrible racist white parents but hold that thought until the next story. The WaPo story goes on.

Under Haikala’s decision, Gardendale may begin operating the two elementary schools within its boundaries this fall. If the city shows good faith in carrying out desegregation efforts at those schools over the next three years — including by allowing and paying for transfer students and appointing a black member to the all-white city school board — it may be allowed to take over the middle and high schools within its boundaries.

Even then, Gardendale would have to pay Jefferson County for the high school building that sits at the center of town, which cost the county more than $50 million to build. The high school plays a key role in the county’s efforts to integrate, using career and technical education programs to attract students from far-more-segregated areas.

So the judge will "allow" them to have their own schools, as long as they play nice and are forced to have a black member of the local school board. The town again is 88% white but apparently only a black representative on the school board can ensure a quality education (as if that is the point of this demand). How noble and generous of her! The idea that a judge sits imperiously while the parents in a town have to come to her hat in hand to ask if they may please have some control over their own schools is so contrary to the idea of America that it makes me nauseous. Notice also that Gardendale has to pay for the high school building in the center of town that "cost the county more than $50 million to build." Um, where do you suppose the funds came from that the county used to build that school? I am thinking a big chunk came from Gardendale with their median household income of $79,000. I am not good at math but it sort of sounds to me like Gardendale is being forced to buy back the high school building that they, at least in part, paid for already once. That seems fair.

My point is that the story was entirely one-sided. There are very few quotes from people from Gardendale, only one from a public statement rather than a quote as far as I can tell, and lots of scathing commentary from the judge in the case, the lawyer for the plaintiffs seeking to stop the independence of Gardendale schools, a random Penn State professor and of course the obligatory comments from a representative of the NAACP. The "story" is little more than a hit piece against the people of Gardendale who probably just want to have some control over their children's education.

Contrast that to this piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The new face of Cobb County: Whites will be minority in 4 years. It starts off with this:

The first time Tammy Garnes visited a school in Cobb County, 10 years ago, she left in a hurry. It was just too white.

“I want to surround my children with black people,” said the film producer, who was sitting at a table in Marietta’s Double Take Cafe with a friend.

Well that is clearly racist! If a white parent was interviewed and said they didn't move to an area because the school was just too black and they left in a hurry and that she wanted her kids surrounded by white children, that would be scorched by the media as just being racist. So the next thing we read is the author, Bo Emerson, taking her to task for her racism. Right? Um, no.

But when the Garnes family made a second visit to Marietta two years ago, Tammy found a different world: A diverse school, several fellow black California expatriates, a sophisticated town and a true gumbo of cultures. Since then she’s enjoyed Guatemalan cuisine, made Hindu friends and sent her daughter to a friend’s Brazilian baptism.

“We didn’t think that was what Cobb County looked like,” said Garnes. “It is a true melting pot, and that is a beautiful thing to see, with everything happening in the world.”

Wow, she went back and there were fewer whites! It was now a "sophisticated town"! What a miraculous transformation! It is so much better a place to live now! No hint of what she said being disturbing or racist. In fact the rest of the article moves back and forth between example of old white people being afraid of the minorities and how wonderful life is in Cobb County now that it is less white.

I don't know what life is like in Cobb County. Atlanta has too many freaking people and traffic is crazy and it is too hot. I do know that anyone white that was interviewed anywhere, anytime by any newspaper and said they wouldn't move into an area because the school was full of black kids and they wanted their kid surrounded by whites would be labelled a racist. But when the person being interviewed is black and she and her husband are film producers...

During their time here Paul Garnes has produced three feature films, including the Academy Award-winning “Selma,” and more than 200 television episodes. Tammy Garnes produced the introductory movie that plays at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington.

...the story moves on without missing a beat and instead focuses on white fear of minorities moving into their neighborhoods.

So to recap:

A majority white school district that wants local control over their own schools is motivated by racism.

A black woman who doesn't want her kids in a school with a bunch of whites and wants her kids surrounded by other blacks is a swell person.

Ironically the media in this country is one of the main sources of endless clamoring about race and racism, quick to report any "hate crimes" and slow to report when they turn out to be hoaxes. It is almost like the media has a particular political agenda to promote and a worldview to push, a worldview where all whites are racist and need to be punished and all minorities are swell and victims of racism from whites and the cops.

Maybe the real world is more complex than that. Maybe the endless badgering of white people about how racist they are has reached a point where they stop caring about being called racist. Maybe the media is, consciously or unconsciously, actually making race relations worse by the way they report on race in America. Maybe I am way off base here but these two examples are not aberrations but really the exact sort of thing you see endlessly from the older mainstream media. No wonder more and more people get their news from non-traditional sources. I don't really need to listen to media sources that endlessly insult me these days. Meanwhile old school journalistic outlets look around befuddled because they can't figure out why people don't listen to them anymore. In fact they are mostly outraged that the dirty little people outside of the major cities would dare to not listen to their betters, i.e. the media.

I am all for having conversations about race but all too often these "conversations" are entirely one-sided. That is supposed to be OK because of alleged past injustices but I didn't own slaves, I didn't refuse service to blacks or keep them from drinking out of the same water fountain I did. Endlessly beating me up with "news" that tells me I am racist even if I don't realize it, that only whites (and maybe some Asians) can be racist, that I got to where I am because of unfair advantages, is not going to endear me to those messengers. If we are going to have a productive conversation in our society, in our neighborhoods, in the church, anywhere, it has to be a real conversation. Otherwise it is just a scolding lecture and an increasing number of Americans are sick to death of that and not going to listen.

More on this topic to come because it is one of the most dangerous fault lines in our society and I am afraid we are nearing a serious breaking point, a point that the media keeps shoving us toward "for our own good".

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