Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tucker Carlson, Michael Vick, and the Racial Divide

For Americans who believe that the country has reached a post-racial state where the only thing left needed to end racial discrimination is to stop talking about it, Tucker Carlson brings us back to reality. Carlson, who represents--at least, in DBSF's mind--a beacon of protestant white conservatism, was guest hosting for the Sean Hannity show when he announced that Michael Vick "should have been executed" for his role in dog fighting.

Presumably the comment simply reflects irrational exuberance, or Carlson, a talking head of talking heads, seeking (and achieving) publicity through sensational content. But, there's likely something deeper to the comment. Fox News, which runs Hannity's show, appeals to a more conservative, whiter audience. Carlson echoes a sentiment common among many whites--DBSF believes--that Vick serving 1.5 years in prison, losing 2 years of high income earnings in a career that lasts on average about 3.5 years, and suffering substantial financial repercussions was insufficient.

But, Carlson and many whites miss an important point--although undeniably heinous in his actions, Vick killed dogs. Animals, not humans. The justice system determined an appropriate (some might say extreme) sentence and Vick served it and reentered society, just as is hoped for. The Tucker Carlson's of this world ignore a story of redemption in Vick's return. Perhaps blacks possess a greater appreciation for Vick's redemption because they've experienced a criminal justice system that for centuries has disproportionately penalized them*.

The Tuckers of America and everyone else who absorb their news from talk radio/ TV (i.e., fox news, MCNBC, etc.) savor sensationalism. For example, it's much easier to preach to conservative whites that a black athlete, like Vick who fits many negative stereotypes that whites hold of blacks, deserves to be executed than it does to consider the serious challenges ex-offenders experience in gaining employment. Whites miss the point that Vick's reemergence as a dominant NFL player--one who took his talents for granted, fell from grace, received a second chance, and worked himself into a potential NFL MVP--should represent an exceptional story of American perseverance.

(For conservatives of the Ronald Reagan ilk, with its unabashed adherence to individualism, what is more American than picking yourself up by the boot straps and making right in a culture and organization that cast you off?)

Fortunately for white athletes, like Ben Roethlisberger (2x :P), Mark Chmura, some Notre Dame player, a college baseball player, etc., etc., Carlson only believes that animal abuse--and not rape--justifies the death penalty. (We'd have lost a lot of our good athletes.)

*Note: This link is to a quick fact sheet on the racial divide with respect to the death penalty. There are endless studies and books (with superb methodologies) indicating indisputable racism experienced by African Americans in the US criminal justice system.

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