False equivalence does not justify racism
September 17, 2014
False equivalence is a fallacy which describes a situation where there is a logical and apparent equivalence, when, in fact, there is none.
The Union readers recently experienced it in the Aug. 28 Diana West's nationally syndicated column titled, "Eric Holder: Leading the rush to judgment."
In an attempt to denigrate the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and to equate her personal experiences as a white woman with that of African American men, West presented the epitome of a false equivalence and gave new meaning to the word racism.
West accused Eric Holder of running a lynch mob. If memory serves me it was white men, usually in hoods, who formed lynch mobs. She asserted that Holder's personal experiences as a black man are not "racially unique."
Shame on you, Diana West, for your emphatic blindness and for your morally bereft use of false equivalence.
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How would she know? When is the last time she tried to hail a cab or walk down the street in a white neighborhood in black skin? How about never.
According to Nicholas Kristof in an Aug. 30 New York Times editorial, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism! Obviously, Diana West subscribes to that theory as her tone deafness is astounding.
Maybe you are tired of hearing about Ferguson. But please don't look away. How about we talk some facts?
The net worth of the average black household in the U.S. is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. Yes, you read that right.
Nearly 70 percent of middle-aged black men who didn't graduate from high school are in prison.
In Louisiana, for example, a study found that a person is 97 percent more likely to be sentenced to death for murdering a white person than a black person. You read that right, too. We do not all start with an even slate.
"Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a (Jim Crow) legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness and internalized self-doubt," says Kristof.
Despair lies over communities of color like pollution. Sports? Well, maybe. But racism suffocates that world, too.
Note the NBA Atlanta Hawk's Bruce Levenson's Sept. 8 claim that "My theory is that the black crowd scare(s) away the whites …"
Professional sports are really nothing more than a modern-day plantation system. Whites are the owners and managers, black players are the "boys."
Money will never buy respect. And racism is ever present in high school sports too, especially when teams that are majority black play all-white ones and cries of the n-word are heard during scrimmage.
In the U.S., about half the inequality in lifetime earnings is due to factors determined by age 18, according to the 2014 Shriver Report. Access to high-quality preschool is essential as it ensures that low-income children in urban and rural communities of color enter school ready and able to learn.
Due to budget cuts, Head Start, one of the most successful pre-school programs in the nation, serves only half of eligible 4 year olds.
Without high-quality early childhood intervention, an at-risk child is 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent, and 60 percent more likely never to attend college.
Diana West probably owes at least some of her success to parents who read to her, put her in decent schools and urged her to attend college.
As Kristof says, "Count your blessings for winning the birth lottery."
The most appalling aspect of West's column is its mean-spiritedness. I'll bet she never read the heartbreaking longings of Harlem poet Langston Hughes who wrote, "I, too, sing America. I, too, am America." Or the shattering poetry of Countee Cullen who wrote:
"Once riding in old Baltimore
"Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
"I saw a Baltimorean
"Keep looking straight at me.
"Now I was eight and very small,
"And he was no whit bigger,
"And so I smiled, but he poked out
"His tongue, and called me, 'N—–.'
"I saw the whole of Baltimore
"From May until December;
"Of all the things that happened there
"That's all that I remember."
Shame on you, Diana West, for your emphatic blindness and for your morally bereft use of false equivalence. Stop wrapping yourself in righteous indignation and, as Kristof says, "mentor a black child." Then you might actually have something to write about.
Lynn Wenzel lives in Grass Valley and is a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinion is her own and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board.
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