Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Not-So-Smart City

The normally intelligent, if sometimes wrong-headed, Smart City Memphis blog derails with a bizarre post titled, "Tennessee Waltz, Like Katrina, Shows Racial Fault Lines."

Let's begin with a string of quotes and see if you can spot the problem unaided:
Here, white Commercial Appeal editorial writers flippantly dismiss African-American questions...

It was a sting operation in which FBI agents and prosecutors set out to entrap African-American elected officials....

They deserve a better explanation of how and why this investigation was launched in the first place, and why it fixated on African-Americans....

At a time when racial profiling has come under increasing criticism, without more information, African-American fears only deepen the feeling that the Tennessee Waltz is profiling taken to a whole new level....

This is why glib assurances about fairness from federal officials leading the Tennessee Waltz are not enough. For the sake of the city, they owe it to explain how they came to concentrate on African-American politicians in all branches of city, county and state governments.
The post is full of assertions of motive but no evidence whatsoever, except in looking at the number and racial makeup of the people indicted so far in the Tennessee Waltz investigation and drawing a solipsistic conclusion.

From every news report I've read, the E-Cycle agents approached every legislator and then sought introductions from those State-level folks to local-level government officials. A great many black officials are on record as having been approached and turning the company down. If you want to argue anything, then look at the separatism of black politicians that led black State officials to hand off E-Cycle only to local black officials. Or is black solidarity a bad thing to mention? (I do not support this, but merely offer it as an exercise for the reader to consider.)

Read this passage:
Many feel that the highly publicized crackdowns by the Shelby County attorney general are at the expense of black people. They point out that in a city where more than 60 percent of the people are black, they can’t even change the names of parks named for Confederate heroes. They mention that the average salary of a white citizen of the Memphis region is twice the average salary of a black citizen. They tell about tax freezes that are granted for companies that pay below average salaries for workers who are largely African-American. They tell of the government subsidy of sprawl that enriched white developers.
That pervasive "they" is a sure marker of "liberal white guilt." There is a persistent whiff of paternalism in this piece that is repugnant.

The folks angry about all the black indictees in Tennessee Waltz also seem to be conveniently overlooking all the whites implicated in various scandals, or proto-scandals, emanating from the former Rout administration in Shelby County. Rout, Lanier, Jones and other lower-level officials are all white. Are they victims of a kind of double-reverse discrimination?

The post also packs in a whole lot of unrelated and debatable "facts" to paint their particular picture. I just don't have the time to challenge them all.

Is there racism in Shelby County? You betcha. Lots of it, every day. Whites still control a lot of the power and money levers here, so they can effect the worst results. But I routinely see and hear black racism too, on a smaller and more intimate scale, every day. As more and more blacks get their hands on the real power, you'll see anger and resentment for past wrongs (rightfully earned, I point out) flipped back on the former oppressors. It's unavoidable; it's human nature.

So does a cronyistic and corrupt local government culture inherited from whites then corrupt the new, black generation coming after them? I hear "They got theirs and now we're getting ours" all the time. So my answer is yes.

That doesn't make it right. It just is what it is.

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