TUESDAY, MARCH 1, 2022
Other facts must disappear: We're willing to admit it! We were struck by a certain headline in today's New York Times.
Does the headline make any sense? In print editions, the headline quite literally says this:
House Passes Bill to Make Lynching a Federal Hate Crime
We were puzzled by that headline. In what universe doesn't a lynching already qualify as a federal hate crime? To our eye and to our ear, that headline didn't quite seem to make sense.
What exactly would this federal bill do? Once again, we're willing to say it! To out ear, Emily Cochrane's news report doesn't quite seem to make sense:
COCHRANE (3/1/22): The House on Monday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime, moving to formally outlaw a brutal act that has become a symbol of the failure by Congress and the country to reckon with the history of racial violence in America.
Passage of the anti-lynching bill, named in honor of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black teenager brutally tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, came after more than a century of failed attempts. Lawmakers estimated they had tried more than 200 times to pass a measure to explicitly criminalize a type of attack that has long terrorized Black Americans. This bill was approved 422 to 3, and was expected to pass the Senate, where it enjoys broad support.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 422-3. As a general matter, the only bills which pass by such margins are bills which make little real sense.
Again, in what universe wouldn't a lynching already be a federal hate crime? Cochrane never addressed that question. That said, quoting Rep. Bobby Rush, she did mention a recent event:
COCHRANE: Like other lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill, he invoked Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man shot and killed in Georgia while out for a jog, calling his death a “modern-day lynching” and further evidence that the measure was urgently needed. A week ago, a jury found three white Georgia men guilty of a federal hate crime in connection with Mr. Arbery’s murder.
The measure passed on Monday would categorize lynching as a federal hate crime, carrying a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.
We'll admit that we don't exactly get it. The men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery were convicted, just last week, of a federal hate crime. Somehow, though, this very murder was supposed to show that further legislation "was urgently needed."
For the record, what would constitute a lynching under terms of this legislation? This news report doesn't say.
Given the hate crime prosecution which resulted in conviction last week, why was new legislation urgently needed? There may be an answer to that question, but Cochrane didn't say what it was, not did she notice the apparent logical gap.
We were struck by a second news report in today's National section. The headline notes a political development which may be quite important:
How Immigration Politics Drives Some Hispanic Voters to the G.O.P. in Texas
For the second time in the past few days, the Times was running a news report about the way some Hispanic voters in south Texas are abandoning the Democratic Party-—are realigning as Republicans.
Last Friday, the Times ran this news report about the way "Democratic officials" in one Texas border town are now "becoming Republicans."
Today's report describes a similar realignment. This strikes us as an important topic—but we were struck by the way Jennifer Medina began today's report:
MEDINA (3/1/22): Mayra Flores, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, has done much of her campaigning in South Texas in Spanish. She has heard one phrase repeatedly from voters as she and other candidates try to become the first Republicans to represent the Rio Grande Valley in Congress.
And what about us?
“I hear every day that they’re tired—they feel that there is so much attention and help being given to the immigrants,” Ms. Flores said. “The attention’s on all these illegal immigrants, and not on them.”
Grievance politics, it turns out, translates.
Mayra Flores, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, says that everything's being done for "illegal immigrants" at the expense of people like her. Flores is campaigning for the House in Spanish—and running as a Republican!
As Medina continues, she quotes other Mexican-Americans in south Texas who see things in a similar way. “We were raised hard-core Democrats, but today Democrats want to give everything away," one such person says.
Depending on the extent of such attitudes, this strikes us as a very important topic. That said, we were struck by the way Medina instantl6y characterized those voters' views:
Such people aren't assessing an issue. They're succumbing to "grievance politics," Medina instantly says.
Just to be clear, these news reports run in two different directions. That said, they emerge from the way our liberal tribe has sought to define its identity in recent years. So did the statistical claim which appeared in a news report in Sunday's Washington Post.
That news report described the reaction of some black women to President Biden's nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Rightly or wrongly, that nomination wouldn't pass the House by a 422-3 vote if some such vote was held.
In an early survey by ABC/Ipsos, 76% of Americans disapproved of the way Biden limited his search for a nominee to black women, and to nobody else. That was only one survey, of course—but 76% is a fair amount of disapproval.
This past weekend, we were struck by this part of the Washington Post's news report, in which Professor Means is being quoted:
WILLIAMS AND WOOTEN (2/27/22): Means, whose scholarship has focused on Black women in the judiciary, notes that the path to the Supreme Court, narrow for any individual, is almost impassable for Black women. In modern times, most appointees to the court have come from the Ivy Leagues and have clerked for federal judges.
“If White men are overrepresented in the judiciary and they’re selecting who they want to work with in their offices, will they select people who look like them? Yes, unless they prioritize having diverse clerks,” she said.
Jackson clerked for Breyer, the justice she has been nominated to replace.
Supreme Court nominees also tend to come from the federal bench. Means said there are only 45 Black female federal judges out of more than 780 active federal judges. That’s in part because Black women are still fighting for equitable treatment in political parties and ideological groups, which tend to elevate the names for consideration.
"There are only 45 Black female federal judges out of more than 780 federal judges" in all?
Within our tribe, everyone knows how we're supposed to react to such numbers. Based upon some quick mental math, we had a different initial reaction.
We decided to cipher those numbers out. Tomorrow, we'll show you what we found.
Way back when, in the long ago, the late Joan Didion said it. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," she said—and in order to form our sense of our own identities within a fragmented world.
Again, her nugget presentation:
DIDION (1979): We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea...We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
We humans tell ourselves stories. We impose a narrative line upon a complex, confusing world.
Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves may be on the order of fairy tales. They may involve cartoonized angels and dreamscape demons, like the man with the candy who leads the children into the sea, where they drown.
In the course of inventing these stories, we may invent our own identities—and the odds are good that we'll end up on the angelic side. We may be especially drawn to this task here in our modern Babel.
In Ukraine, people today seem to have a very strong sense of national identity. We have no such sense of national identity here in our badly splintered nation—a nation of many tribes.
As a result, each tribe is forced to construct its own story—our tribe's story currently runs on race. Quite often, it leads us to say things which may not seem to make much sense, or which may seem officious. In these ways, the stories we tell ourselves may drive other people into the other tribes.
Given how much is at stake, the stories we tell ourselves will often be badly formed. We may invent claims which simply aren't true. We may stress absurdly irrelevant facts. We may become rude and officious.
We may refuse to come to terms which how much we don't really know!
Because we're struggling to shape our internal life, we may tend to bend the facts when we tell ourselves out tales. So it has been with a deeply unfortunate shooting death which occurred in 2012.
We invent cartoons in order to live—in order to form an identity. It's hard to believe that this cartoonization will actually turn out well.
Tomorrow, we'll try to get to what Charle Blow has said, this past week, about that shooting death. Also, we'll try to get to the novelization which appeared at Slate.
We'll try to get to the cartoon which emerged from Deborah Roberts at ABC. Some material in the Washington Post was pure journalistic porn.
For today, let's leave it at this:
As we tell ourselves this story, the Skittles are constantly front and center. As if by mandate, by rule of law, other key facts disappear.
Tomorrow: The Skittles will quickly appear