Yes, there is racial bias in police shootings

I imagine many of our readers were shocked by a much-hyped study which purported to show lack of racial bias in police shootings.  You can read a very important critique of it here.

First, there is extensive evidence (including in the datasets Fryer considers) of large racial disparities in who gets stopped by police, even controlling for differences in crime rates (perhaps especially under policies like New York City’s “Stop-and-Frisk”). Because of this, the “hit rate”—or the percent of times a stop ends with a confirmation of wrong-doing—is often higher for whites than blacks. Even if police pulled the trigger without “bias,” this disparity in stops would produce vastly unequal death rates.

This means that when we start the analysis by looking at encounters with police, we have already washed away some of the relevant racial bias. The unique data on police-citizen encounters Fryer relies on from Houston allows him in effect to “control” for the propensity to come into contact with the police in the first place. This is likely part of the reason he finds no evidence of bias in lethal interactions, while others have shown substantial racial disparities. For example, in a 2015 Plos One article, Cody T. Ross estimates that black Americans’ probability of being shot by the police is 3 times the rate for whites—and the disparity goes up to more than 20 in some counties. Similar community-level disparities that are unexplained by differences in crime rates emerge from a recent report from the Center for Policing Equity.

British Colonialism and American Racism

Meena Krishnamurthy:

Anti-black racism in America is much closer than some of us might realize to British colonialism in India. The very same sorts of arguments that were used to justify British colonialism in India can now be found within certain conservative narratives in America and are being used to justify anti-Black racism. We have suffered the dire consequences of a racist British occupation. We cannot allow our fellow Black citizens to suffer in kind from American racism.

 

Melvin Rogers on Diamond Reynolds

At the very moment these commentators often join Reynolds in seeking justice for her boyfriend and equal deployment of the law to rightly punish the officer, they remind us of the unequal status of black folks.

We would never expect others to display such composure in the face of such traumatic circumstances. We would not penalize their failure of self-control by tying it to untrustworthiness. In fact, we think, and rightly, that emotional eruptions at precisely this moment are appropriate. We think this, I suggest, because the gravity of the situation often elicits this from us. You have just lost a loved one, under horrific circumstances, and by one who is otherwise meant to protect and serve. It makes prefect sense to come undone in that moment, since the emotional eruption is often, at any rate, a judgment of value about the entire event.

Read the rest.

Kimberle Crenshaw: Say her name

When she speaks at public meetings, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has a trick. She asks everyone to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name. She then reads the names of unarmed black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement; names such as Eric GarnerMichael BrownTamir RiceFreddie GrayTrayvon Martin. Her audience are informed and interested in civil rights so “virtually no one will sit down”, Crenshaw says approvingly. “Then I say the names of Natasha McKennaTanisha AndersonMichelle CusseauxAura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign.”

Read the whole article!

Un-diversifying academia

An important article on universities’ failure to tenure and retain the members of underrepresented groups that they hire.

This disturbing trend of denying tenure to women and minorities at disproportionate rates vis-à-vis white males is revealed in June Junn’s study at the University of Southern California. Junn found that of 106 tenure cases, heard between 1998 and 2012 at USC, 92 percent of white males were tenured, whereas only 55 percent of women and minority scholars were.

What’s in a name?

Yale philosophy major, Karléh Wilson, brings philosophy of language to bear on the recent controversies surrounding Yale’s decision not to rename Calhoun College in the Boston Review:

A few weeks ago Peter Salovey, president of Yale, made a controversial decision: he rejected the students’ argument and opted to retain the name. The decision has significant national consequences. If Yale, by reputation a liberal bastion in a liberal state, retains the name of Calhoun College, what does this signal for colleges and universities engaged in similar struggles in states where racial equality is yet more elusive?

Calhoun College was named in 1933 in honor of John C. Calhoun, an antebellum statesman who played a critical role in articulating the southern defense of slavery. In 1837 Calhoun, serving at the time as senator of South Carolina (he had previously been Andrew Jackson’s vice-president), told the Senate:

“In the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.”

President Salovey’s reaffirmation of the college’s name has been taken by some as a sign of disrespect for African Americans. He has defended his decision by recourse to a novel and intriguing argument: he was motivated, he wrote, out of a sincere desire to remind subsequent generations of Yale students about our nation’s troubled past. The reaffirmation is thus intended to serve Yale’s educational mission, not to honor Calhoun. According to Salovey, from this point forward the name “Calhoun College” no longer honors Calhoun’s dishonorable legacy, and therefore no longer communicates disrespect for African Americans. “Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history,” Salovey emphasized. “We cannot erase American history but we can confront it, teach it, and learn from it. The decision to retain Calhoun College’s name reflects the importance of this vital educational imperative.”

President Salovey supposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” It cannot.

. . . Speaking is a social act. Our social world is constituted by familiar practices, myths, symbols, and stories. Words therefore acquire social meanings. A use of a word has a certain meaning because of facts about the culture, such as entrenched social practices. Salovey’s argument presupposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” Since it cannot, his argument fails.

To appreciate the point, consider the Wikipedia entry “List of places named after people.” The long list attests to a worldwide social practice of naming places, cities, towns, countries, and continents to honor respected figures. Because of the ubiquity of the practice of naming in order to honor, it is reasonable to assume that when a place is named after a person, its name honors that person’s legacy. Indeed, otherwise the practice is totally illegible. This accounts for the widespread practice of renaming streets, towns, cities, and institutions as political regimes change. Vladimir Lenin’s and Joseph Stalin’s names have been removed from institutions, cities, towns, and streets throughout the former Soviet Union, as have the names of many other former tyrants. Germany has no universities, colleges, cities, or streets named after Adolf Hitler or other Nazi leaders; previously, it did.

She concludes by noting that while Salovey has a significant amount of power as the president of Yale, it is not so significant as to enable him to change the social meaning of naming places after persons. The whole piece is here.

Yale’s Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore on the decision to maintain the name ‘Calhoun College’

From the New York Times:

The decision to keep Calhoun’s name overestimates his value for Yale students. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, argues that “removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” and living in Calhoun’s shadow will make students “better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future.”

But Pauli Murray has more to teach Yale students, 55 percent of whom wanted to change the name of Calhoun College and who will demonstrate on campus once again.

In 1938, she applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, in her home state, only to be rejected because “members of your race are not admitted to the university.” In 1940, she went to jail in Virginia after she refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus. During World War II, she served as head of the nonviolent protest committee in A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement. In 1943, she organized sit-ins to desegregate restaurants in Washington. A year later, as valedictorian of Howard Law School, she applied to Harvard Law School to do graduate work. It was customary for Harvard to accept the Howard valedictorian, but Harvard told Murray, “You are not of the sex entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School.”

Instead, after three decades of civil rights leadership, Anna Pauline Murray earned the degree of doctor of juridical science from Yale Law School in 1965. While at Yale, Murray was an author of the pioneering article “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which argued that sex discrimination resembled race discrimination and may be prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

Murray never gave up her fight for the values that sprang from her lifelong Episcopalian faith. In a moment of despair after her 1940 arrest, she wrote in her diary that it was “dangerous” to dwell on her “weaknesses.” “The great secret,” she told herself, “is not to think of yourself, of your courage, or of your despair” but of “Him for whom you journey.”

In 1973, she entered New York’s General Theological Seminary to prepare for the priesthood, a job from which she knew she would be excluded because of her gender. But in 1976, the Episcopal Church conference voted that “no one shall be denied access” to the priesthood on account of sex. In 1977, Murray became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal Church made her a saint in 2012.

As Murray looked back on her activism in a 1976 interview, she recalled: “In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”

Some may argue that it is impossible to bind all of slavery’s wounds; after all, there are other residential colleges at Yale named for slaveholders such as George Berkeley, Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles. But John C. Calhoun is the only one whose fame came from his guiding role in a racial regime that enslaved people, inspired secession and formed the specious legal foundation for a century of discrimination.

Yale students of color, especially those who live in Calhoun College, and the thousands who protested last fall do not need any more teachable moments on the injustices he wrought. They feel the legacy of those injustices every day.

So did Murray.

There’s another article on this at CNN by John McWhorter, and coverage of student protests at Yale Daily News.

Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Anita Hill

I really don’t need to say more than that, do I?  But if you want a teaser…

HARRIS-PERRY: How did race and gender affect how you were heard -during your testimony?
HILL: Those members of Congress had never even considered that Black women had our own political voice. They assumed that Black men spoke for us. For an African-American woman to have her own political voice and own political position, and to believe that our perspective should be added to the conversation, was just something they hadn’t even considered. I think that’s why, politically, things changed. I think that’s why women -became so agitated and so energized to make change on this important issue. And for Black women, it was like, Okay, we have to make sure we are speaking for ourselves.

 

For the rest, go here.

Diversifying a Discipline

I haven’t been able to read this yet because it’s behind a paywall, but I’m going to find a way around that because it’s important.

In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.