Monday, January 16, 2017

From Russia With Books

After an iconic image of Michael Caine in The Ipcress File.
"I never intended my leading character, James Bond, to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department who would get into bizarre and fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them, or get out of them one way or another. ... On the whole I think he's a rather unattractive man . . ." Ian Fleming in Conversation with Raymond Chandler, 1958. Transcript in Five Dials Magazine, Issue 7.

So far in my series looking at the top mystery novels, I've been moving my way through the top five on the Crime Writers Association (CWA) and Mystery Writers of America (MWA) lists and looking at related novels.


1. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
2. Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep [in Chandler versus Hammett]
3. John le Carré: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold [below]
4. Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night
5. Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd


1. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes
2. Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon [or should I say Hammett versus Chandler]
3. Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery & Imagination
4. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
5. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent [and legal mysteries in general].

In this post, I will look at CWA #3, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and other Cold War mysteries.

The Turkish book cover for From Russia, With Love

By the time of the 1950s, Eric Ambler and Graham Greene helped set the tone of the mature spy novel, but it was up to Ian Fleming to mix in the Cold War and mine the genre for pulpy fun. His fifth James Bond book, From Russia, With Love, sits at #35 on the CWA list and #78 on the MWA list.

At the time of its writing Ian Fleming expected it to be his last Bond novel and 007 appears to die in the end. "I am getting fed up with Bond and it has been very difficult to make him go through his tawdry tricks" [Wikipedia, citing Matthew Parker's Goldeneye]. But every Reichenbach Falls has a trampoline at the bottom and the next year Fleming started on Dr. No.

How well does the book hold up? For me, not very well. It is pleasant to see Bond not as a superhero, but as a vulnerable man who is fooled by the plot against him. And Bond doesn't even appear until one-third of the way through the book.

Author: Ian Fleming
Novel: From Russia, With Love
Published: 1957
Rank: #35 on the CWA list; #78 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 71687
Age of author at time of publication: 48
Previous novels published by this author: 4
Opening  line:  The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.
Significance: On a list of the top ten favorite books of John F. Kennedy. Generally agreed to be the best of the Bond series. Gadget-free entry to a series with a thousand gadgets.

Len Deighton in The IPCRESS File took on the spy world and made it in to a wince-inducing bureaucracy. He added in a tinge of black comedy and real world fears (nuclear testing) and sensationalism (brainwashing and kidnapped scientists). Published in 1962, it presaged le Carré's wildly successful, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Both authors went on to productive spy-writing careers.

Author: Len Deighton
Novel: The IPCRESS File
Publication: 1962
Rank: #9 on the CWA list; #43 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 79889
Age of author at time of publication: 33.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: They came through on the hot-line about half past two in the afternoon.
Significance: One year before The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The IPCRESS File set a tone for a new type of spy novel: one of bureaucracies and heroes who stumble along.
Most recent novel: Charity, 1996.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was a phenomenon as much as a novel. A great novel: talent. A phenomenon: timing. The Spy... certainly wasn't the first literary spy novel (The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad). Instead it made its mark by tapping into the dissonance of international politics where peace was war.

By the time 1963 rolled around, a goodly number of people were questioning the Cold War. Linus Pauling won the 1962 Nobel Prize for his efforts to ban atmospheric nuclear testing. In 1963, the USSR and the US signed a treaty to do just that. The Missile Crisis of October, 1962 raised fears of a civilization-ending nuclear exchange. In 1963, Kubrick filmed Dr. Strangelove with a screening date set for November 22, 1963 (delayed due to a Steven King novel).

In this atmosphere, le Carré released, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, a work that declared both the Russians and the Western world were morally compromised. The novel worked as suspense, as a world critique, and as literature. It achieved the "total effect" which Poe talked about, we might as well have been invited to the house of Usher. A gloomy chill surrounded the Cold War. Middle-aged men who clung to remnants of patriotism made the decisions and humanity was the collateral damage. Le Carré's thriller spent 34 weeks in the number one position on the New York Times fiction bestseller list.

My favorite sort of suspense comes about when, due to well-established constraints, protagonists are forced to escape with an excruciating slowness. Rick and Ilsa and Laszlo waiting for the plane to take off; Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains passing through a nest of Nazis where even a word of suspicion will bring their doom. At both the beginning and end of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, characters must make a slow transit across the East Berlin / West Berlin No Man's Zone, while fingers rested on the triggers of the rifles aimed at their backs. I'm envious. I hope someday to construct something so breathtakingly thrilling.

Le Carré has continued his spy-writing into his mid-eighties.

Author: John le Carré  (pen name of David John Moore Cornwell)
Novel: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Publication: 1963
Rank: #3 on the CWA list; #6 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 63790
Age of author at time of publication: 31.
Previous novels published by this author: two.
Opening line: The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, "Why don't you go back and sleep?"
Significance: A monumental shift in the tone of the spy novel. The game was morally ambiguous and spies were broken people. Essential reading.
Most recent novel: A Delicate Truth, 2013.

Gorky Park. Am I Martin Cruz Smith's doppelgänger? The evidence: I am Martin Hill Ortiz, same first name, Hill corresponds with Smith as a common family name, as does Ortiz with Cruz as Latino names. He writes ambitious well-crafted thrillers. I have ambition and some sort of craftsmanship and shouldn't his doppelgänger be a ne'er-do-well? 

In the 1970s Martin Cruz Smith wrote Westerns (I have one), gypsy novels, espionage thrillers starring the Pope's own spy, and more. He had written 17 novels in the ten years before Gorky Park got published. And wow. It's a great book. It vividly recreates a human Moscow. It provides with characters who are flawed but strong, weather-worn, beaten down by life but full of life. The central conceit of someone trying to undermine the Russian sable trade makes for a great McGuffin.

In high school while playing the Russian in a reading of You Can't Take It With You, I was surprised to discover that I could do a great Boris Badanov impersonation. Bad Cold War novels make all of their Russian protagonists sound like high school actors: they are all growling bears. The above novels do much better at creating real personalities. In The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the East Germans are the West Germans reflected in a distorting mirror. In Gorky Park, there is some of the staccato speech, but it is surrounded by a sense of self-awareness and the pained humor that comes from being under the heavy thumb of a bureaucracy.

Author: Martin Cruz Smith
Novel: Gorky Park
Published: 1981
Rank: #82 on the CWA list; #35 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 135629
Age of author at time of publication: 38
Previous novels published by this author: 17
Opening line: All nights should be so dark, all winters so warm, all headlights so dazzling.
Significance: As Time magazine declared: "The U.S. at last has a domestic le Carré."


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

Monday, January 9, 2017

Looking for Apologies in Trump's Tweets

(This is my last planned post about Trump's tweets.)

With Donald Trump using so many of his 30,000 plus tweets to insult people, I decided to look into how often he apologized. I searched his Twitter archive for the instances when he used a variant of apology, e.g., apology, apologies, apologize, etc.

Donald Trump's favorite insults.

Insult [# tweets]

  • Crooked [283]
  • Loser [243]
  • Stupid [182]
  • Dumb [147]
  • Bad (TV or radio) ratings [92]
  • Dummy [77]
  • Moron [52]

So what does Trump have to say regarding apologies? Variations of the word appear in 108 tweets.

Three tweets were about his philosophy of apologizing.

  • Never apologize for fake controversies.
  • Fully believe in apologies but you have to be wrong.
  • If someone knows they made a mistake and they apologize, forgive them and move on, but never trust them again.

Apologies of others.

About half of the "apology" tweets mention those who should, who should not and who did apologize.

23 posts state X should apologize. Apologize in general or apologize to someone specifically.
  e.g., CNN for their bias toward Hillary Clinton.
8 posts state X did apologize.
  e.g., Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks.
13 posts advising others to not apologize.
  e.g. General Petraeus - stop apologizing.
4 complaints that Obama apologizing.
  e.g. How many times has Obama apologized for our country on foreign soil?!
Trump and Apologies.

Although Trump does not apologize, about half of the tweets are about people who should or who did apologize to him, declarations that he would not apologize or passing along apologies from his staff. 

28 posts state X should apologize to Trump.
  e.g. [CNN's] Chuck Todd should apologize for attacking Trump and Jack Welch when they said Obama cooked job report.
12 posts state X did apologize to Trump.
  e.g. Vicente Fox, President of Mexico.
5 posts stating Trump will not apologize.
  e.g. Still waiting for the apology on the birth certificate thing. You must be kidding joker!
2 My staff screwed up. (These were not phrased as Trump apologizing for his staff. They were his staff apologizing.)
  e.g. Young intern who accidentally retweeted.


Trump used the word "sorry" in 68 tweets. Did any of these represent apologies from him?

This is harder to sort out. Trump most often wields the word sorry with sarcasm. I highlighted sorry because it is easy to miss it among the general venom. These three tweets are directed at his obsessions (in order): Rosie O'Donnell, Danny Zukor, and Mark Cuban.

  • Dec 8, 2014 9:53:59 PM Sorry, @Rosie is a mentally sick woman, a bully, a dummy and, above all, a loser. Other than that she is just wonderful!
  • Jun 12, 2013 9:46:43 PM Just tried watching Modern Family - written by a moron, really boring. Writer has the mind of a very dumb and backward child. Sorry Danny!
  • Mar 19, 2013 2:08:25 PM Sorry folks, but Donald Trump is far richer and much better looking than dopey @mcuban!

In some instances, he is sorry that others have gotten it wrong, in these two examples, about his intelligence and athleticism:

  • May 8, 2013 9:37:06 PM Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault
  • Apr 3, 2013 8:51:59 AM I played football and baseball, sorry, but said to be the best bball player in N.Y. State-ask coach Ted Dobias-said best he ever coached.

Trump did make 13 apologies using the word "sorry" on thirteen occasions. Two were related to Twitter and eleven were related to not appearing somewhere.

  • Dec 11, 2012 1:10:51 PM Some dope tweeted my message to my friend Bill Belichick incorrectly--they called him Bob. Sorry Bill! @Patriots
  • May 17, 2014 2:02:45 AM Sorry, for all of the millions of people who long to hear my brilliant words of wisdom on Fox & Friends on Monday A.M., no go - in Dubai.


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Coming of Age of the Legal Mystery

 Having put together an epic Hammett versus Chandler smackdown, I thought I might do the same for Grisham versus Turow. Then I realized that, while I have read nearly all of Hammett and Chandler, I've only sampled a few of the works from the modern masters of the legal thriller – and Grisham continues to crank out novels at a pace faster than the human eye can read.

So, here instead, is a brief look at the coming of age of the legal mystery and thriller with a special focus on two of the top legal mysteries: Anatomy of a Murder and Presumed Innocent.

"Who you stealing from, Chandler or Hammett or Gardner?" the detective to his mystery writer friend in Dorothy B. Hughes, In A Lonely Place (1947).

Along with Encyclopedia Brown and Doc Savage, I read Erle Stanley Gardner as a kid. The Perry Mason novels series ran to over 80 novels and they were each as chewy as bubble gum.

The first novel I fell in love with was a legal mystery: Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird (1960). I first read it to get a star pasted above my reading rocket ship in its trip to the moon and then immediately read it again, space flight be damned.

Mockingbird made me feel like I was peeking at the secrets of the adult world: the boogieman wasn't the bad guy and the good knight sometimes lost the jousts. Instinct told me these accounts spoke the truth: life was not what it seemed; life could be unfair.

In this same time period, the legal mystery was growing up. Published three years before Mockingbird, attorney Robert Traver's 1957 novel Anatomy of a Murder stood pivotal in the change between the fantasy courtroom mysteries wherein the killer confessed during cross-examination and the real-life dramas of the intricacies of the legal gaming between prosecutor and lawyer wherein innocence and guilt were the prizes and the client was of secondary importance.

Traver was acutely aware of this. His main character, attorney Paul Biegler, bemoans his secretary burying her nose in a mystery novel. "Mystery thriller indeed, I thought. Here she was working on a case that had more real mystery about it than a dozen contrived thrillers. . ." Whodunnit was known. The suspense lay in whether the lawyer would win the perpetrator his innocence.

The author described the mission of his book in his introduction to the 25th anniversary edition. "For a long time I had seen too many movies and read too many books and plays about trials that were almost comically phony and overdone, mostly in their extravagant efforts to overdramatize an already inherently dramatic human situation."

Readers responded. Anatomy of a Murder spent 29 weeks in the number one position on the New York Fiction Bestseller list.

Saul Bass's ingenious poster/opening sequence design for Anatomy of a Murder (film).
Jimmy Stewart starred in the 1959 Otto Preminger film version and for my part it was hard to read the book without thinking of Jimmy Stewart voicing the main character (I saw the movie first). The film is excellent, in fact, one of the key pleasures of the book is getting to spend more hours with the characters.

Has any actor ever had a greater first and second act to his career? Perhaps Stewart's success was due in part to following the coming of age of America. First he was the naive Boy Scout leader turned Senator, then the underdog Savings and Loan banker fighting the encroachment of Pottersville. In the 1950s and turning fifty, he could no longer play the gosh-shucks kid and he became the hero of films that took apart the conventions of various genres: Anatomy of a Murder (the courtroom drama), Vertigo (the detective fiction), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (the western).

Otto Preminger (left), Batman (right) Batman also came of age. :(

Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent has many of the trappings of a real-world courtroom mystery, but perhaps it is closer in spirit to that of a stinging satire, along the lines of Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital. Political intrigue is more important than justice, evidence is misplaced, experts aren't expert, and no one is presumed innocent – and no one is innocent.

Rusty Sabich is a prosecutor accused of murder and all of the tricks used by prosecutors (including those he used) are now played against him.

Anatomy of a Murder also had a cynical view of prosecutors. In his novel, Traver quoted John Mason Brown: "The prosecutor's by obligation is a special mind, mongoose quick, bullying, devious, unrelenting, forever baited to ensnare and by instinct dotes on confusing and flourishes on weakness."

Bonnie Bedelia (left) and Harrison Ford (right) and that might be Raul Julia lurking back there.
Again, it is hard for me to separate Rusty Sabich in the novel from the image provided me by Harrison Ford in the 1990 Alan Pakula adaptation of the book. I believe the novel works better on several levels, in part because of the cumulative intricacies of the broken judicial system, in part because of Turow's moving descriptions of Sabich's despair. "Every life, like every snowflake, seemed to me then unique in the shape of its miseries, and in the rarity and mildness of its pleasures." The book's ending is more satisfying. The final summation of the crime as Rusty imagines it comes from the pain of his character and the formality of having spent so many years propounding law and order. In the film, the twist ending is revealed with the killer confessing, which is a better cinematic choice.

Author: Robert Traver (pen name of John D. Voelker)
Novel: Anatomy of a Murder
Publication: 1957
Rank: #11 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 164030
Age of author at time of publication: 54.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: After serving for fourteen years as district attorney of the northern Michigan county where I was born, one chilly fall election day I found myself abruptly paroled from my job by the unappealable verdict of the electorate.
Significance: Changed the drama of the legal mystery from the fantastic whodunnit into that of a real life struggle for justice.

Author: Scott Turow
Novel: Presumed Innocent
Publication: 1987
Rank: #48 on the CWA list, #5 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 141704
Age of author at time of publication: 38.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: This is how I always start: "I am the prosecutor."
Significance: Helped initiate the recent wave of legal thrillers.

Final note: Erle Stanley Gardner, Robert Traver, Scott Turow and John Grisham have each practiced law. This is a hard field to break into without a specialized background.


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review of Ann Parker's What Gold Buys

Like the previous novels in this mystery series, Ann Parker sets What Gold Buys high up in Leadville, Colorado where, in 1880, all of the townsfolk were prospectors of a sort. Some made their wealth from the silver mines while others shook coins loose in gambling parlors and saloons, or in hotels and brothels. Even the poor and those who lived in the hovels of alleyways scratched for bits of wealth. The protagonist and sleuth of this series, Inez Stannert is on the brink of a divorce in a time when a woman divorcing is a losing hand. A saloon keeper, she stays strong because she has to and pulls through because she knows how to play the long odds.

Like the tones and tans and grit of this story, the romance and suspense feel natural. The murders are a horror happened upon. Young Antonia lives in a shack in an alleyway with her mother, a fortuneteller. She practices her quick draw for the day when her mother's mysterious benefactor will return. When her mother is murdered she, along with a ghoulish cast, become suspects.

The suspense builds as we are taken into an undertaker's parlor reminiscent of the Bates Motel. Inez and Antonia function as equals to unravel the mystery which climaxes at a séance.

A fun read, especially for those who like to be transported to another place and time.

What Gold Buys: Author's site.

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Those Whom Donald Trump Called Racist

Someday there may be an source in which all of Donald Trump's speeches and media appearances can be researched. Until then, we have his Twitter archive.

Since joining Twitter on May 4, 2009, up through the end of 2016, Donald Trump has posted over 34,000 times [source] or 12.1 tweets per day. Some of these are photo-only, however, over 31,000 of these tweets are available for text searching at TrumpTwitterArchive. This is a sufficient amount of material to find out what he has to say about many topics.

Since I have been exploring issues of race, I looked to see what Trump has said about it. Fifty of Trump's tweets include the words "racist" or "racists."

  • 24 were directed towards individuals Trump whom called racist.
  • 13 were directed at groups/entities which Trump whom called racist.
  • 2 mentioned people being called racist, but did not seem to agree with the accusation.
  • 6 referred to people calling Trump racist which overlapped with:
  • 3 referenced apologies from persons who called Trump racist.
  • 3 said a person was not racist.

Whom did Trump call racist?

  • 19 tweets directed at 4 black men.
  • 4 tweets directed at 3 Jewish men.
  • 1 tweet directed at a white woman.

A gallery of those Trump declared racist.

From right to left: Bryant Gumbel, Touré Neblett, Barack Obama, Tavis Smiley
Bryant Gumbel. (6x [six tweets calling him racist])

TV Personality. His television career beginning in 1971, he is currently host of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, in its 22nd season on HBO. He has won 4 Emmys. Graduated Bates College with a degree in Russian history.

Trump made 12 tweets altogether regarding Bryant Gumbel. Six called him racist.

Along with calling Gumbel a racist, Trump called him: dumb, really dumb (x2), and I mean dumb, dumbest, dope, arrogant dope, really jealous, condescending no talent jerk, no talent, long and deep record of failure.

Touré Neblett. (10x)

Writer, journalist, TV Commentator. In the 90s, he contributed to national magazines such as the Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and Time. He began his television career in the 2000s and from 2012 to 2015 was co-featured in MSNBCs commetary show, The Cycle.

Trump made 17 tweets altogether regarding Touré. Ten included the term racist.

Along with calling Touré a racist, Trump called him: dumb, very dumb, dumb racist moron, dummy, simpleton, stupid, bad speller, angry, doesn't have a clue about money.

Barack Obama (2x).

Former U.S. Senator, Illinois. Two terms U.S. President. Nobel Prize Winner. Graduated Harvard Law School, 1991.

Trump has made over 2400 tweets regarding Barack Obama.

One tweet questioned whether Obama was a racist. Four hours later, a second tweet stated he was a racist.

Trump often referred to Obama's policies and decisions as stupid. On two occasions he called Obama stupid and once a dope. On six more occasions, he asked whether Obama was stupid, most aggressively in this form:  "How totally stupid is this guy?"

Tavis Smiley (1x).

Talk Show Host, Commentator.

Beginning in the 1990s Smiley has been a radio commentator. He graduated Indiana University in 2003 with a degree in Public Affairs.

Only one tweet referred to Tavis Smiley, calling him a hater and racist.

The Other Four.

Trump has also called these four other individuals racists: Jon Stewart, Anthony Weiner, Danny Zuker, and Elizabeth Warren.

Jon Stewart (2x).

Talk Show Host, Comedian. Headed The Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. During his tenure, The Daily Show won 22 Primetime Emmys. Graduated from College of William & Mary in 1984.

Trump made two tweets questioning whether Stewart was racist, both of which linked to a YouTube video where Trump hosted evidence.

Trump has made 33 tweets regarding Jon Stewart. Most often he refers to Stewart as overrated, but also has called him: dummy, dopey, a joke, not smart, a pussy, phoney [sic], asshole, loud and obnoxious and a very little man.

Anthony Weiner (1x).

Six term Congressman, representing New York's 9th Congressional District. Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from The College of William & Mary. During his tenure, Weiner became involved in a "sexting" scandal and resigned.

Trump delivered a dig at Weiner's Twitter alias, "Carlos Danger," declaring him a racist. A ready target for ridicule, Trump directed 80 tweets at Weiner, calling him, among other things, a pervert in 25 tweets.

Danny Zuker (1x).

Television writer and producer since the late 80s. Best known for "Modern Family." He has won five Primetime Emmys.

Trump has had a long-standing feud with Zuker. In 77 tweets, along with calling Zuker's remarks racist, he has called Zuker a loser (12x), stupid (4x), and dummy (3x).

Elizabeth Warren (1x).

U.S. Senator. She received a law degree from Rutgers University in 1976.

Along with referring to Warren as a racist, he directed 25 tweets her way, calling her goofy in 23 cases and Pocahontas on 8 occasions.

Left to right: Jon Stewart, Anthony Weiner, Danny Zuker, Elizabeth Warren

Calling Trump Racist.

Trump made several tweets about others calling him racist, including three cases where he stated apologies were made by those he said called him racist.

From Trump's Twitter account, these are those who called him racist.

  • David Letterman.
  • Donny Deutsch.
  • Al Sharpton.
  • Joe Scarborough.
  • Mitt Romney.
  • Maryland Democrat flyer.

Those whom he said apologized:

  • Donny Deutsch.
  • Al Sharpton.
  • David Letterman.

This is an excerpt of David Letterman's apology. [Full text below]

Letterman: This is my apology, yes. So I'm saying it's possible that I was wrong that he's [Trump is] not a racist because we don't want to think that of anyone. But he's just a dope, how about that? [Kisses hand and places hand over heart.] From the heart.

Oct 10, 2012 9:28:35 AM .@DavidLetterman @Late_Show fully apologized last night for calling me a racist. Thank you David--we are again friends.

"I'd called him out and said he's too smart to be a racist. Well, I was wrong." David Letterman interview at the New Yorker festival, October 6, 2016.

Not a Racist.

On three occasions, Trump has gone out of his way to declare one person "not a racist:" Donald Trump.

Donald Trump. Heir to the Fred Trump real estate fortune. President-elect. Bachelor's in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. No Emmys.

Jun 11, 2016 7:18:19 AM Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog. Now he calls me racist-but I am least racist person there is.

Full text of David Letterman apology, October 9, 2012. [YouTube]

Letterman: I have been struggling with something and I talked to close friends on my staff. That's right I have friends. Um, you know, Donald Trump. Remember when Donald Trump used to be on the show? And it was fabulous. Donald Trump would come out and we would make fun of him and he'd laugh. And we could say things about his hair and about being a slumlord and about how he evicted old ladies and we'd laugh. Donald would have quips and I would have quips and he'd always be in this dopey-looking tie and I'd say, "What is that Donald a tie or your tongue?"

Well, um, one thing leads to another and Donald starts, as he is wont to do, starts shooting his mouth off, and he was saying things about President Obama and I said on the air about I think Donald if you are saying these things I think that means you might be a racist. If you keep on saying these things, are you in fact a racist? Is Donald Trump a racist? I flat out called him a racist. Well, he didn't think that was funny.

And so he said, "I'm never coming back on this show unless you apologize to me and tell people you are sorry you called me a racist. And so I've been thinking about this and thinking about this and ruminating about this and ruminating about this and so, you know, I always want to believe the best in people. I don't want to believe that in 2012 a guy in his position could be a racist. We don't need that. That goes away. We don't need that. There's no room for that anywhere. So, I am, um, thinking, well maybe it's that he's not just a racist. Maybe it's just... well, I don't mean in addition to being a racist. Oh, believe me, he's a racist but he's so much more. Ha, ha. That's not.

Listen, good thing, good thing I'm not in Congress because right away I'd be on Rachel making a deal with Chicago. [Uncertain meaning, but Rachel Maddow was the guest that night.]

So maybe it's that he's not a racist, maybe he's just a guy who pulls out who says stupid things to get people's attention. I can live with that. We have that in common.

Paul Shaffer: Okay. Yeah. So we'll go with that [uncertain: as the aspersion] So the bottom line is that he doesn't do the show anymore.

Letterman: But I'm saying, I'm saying I would like him to be on the show. Because it's an element that we miss, especially now with the [2012] campaign nearing its fruition to have the dopey [pokey?] Donald Trump here, you know, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah [makes hand gestures suggesting Trump's hair is flapping].

Paul Shaffer: So this is your way of saying to him.

Letterman: This is my apology, yes. So I'm saying it's possible that I was wrong that he's not a racist because we don't want to think that of anyone. But he's just a dope, how about that? [Kisses hand and places hand over heart.] From the heart. That would be great if he comes back on.


 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Final part.

How Can I Tell If My Behavior Was Racist?

  • No! It wasn't me! It was the One-Armed Man! (pause, switches voice to that of a gangster) All right, I confess! I did it, ya hear? And I'm glad! Glad, I tell ya! [Jim Carrey cycling through characters as The Mask. The Mask, 1994]

One of the great confounders of justice is that an innocent person claims innocence and a guilty person claims innocence. In cases of murder, those accused most likely know the truth. In the case of an accused racist, does the perpetrator know?

Do We Recognize When We Are Racist?

I've put together several posts  [1], [2], [3], [4] to bring the reader to this juncture. Essentially, the proposition is this:

#1. Most people have a negative opinion of racism.
#2. Most people who are racist don't see themselves as being racist.
#3. Therefore, if people recognized their racist behavior, they would strive to change their behavior.

Along the way, I've made several essential points.

First, race and racism is not only about black and white and Asian. By its definition, race includes nationality and ethnicity among other divisions.

Second, rather than focus on whether a person is a racist (noun), I believe it is best to focus on whether an action or behavior is racist (adjective). This allows consideration of an individual's actions without necessarily having to focus on motive. A sufficient number of racist actions allows you to determine whether a person is racist.

Third, there are identifiable behaviors that are racist. Some of these might seem non-racist to the perpetrator.

From the 1970s television show, HOT L Baltimore:

A cranky old white man is playing checkers with a young black man.

  • The old man: You cheated.
  • The young man: What?
  • The old man: You cheated because you're black.
  • The young man (angrily): Say what?
  • The old guy: I said you're black. I'm red. You moved the wrong checker!

Was What I Did Racist? 

These Behaviors Are Racist.

#1. Judging a person based on their race rather than as an individual.

Or: Judging people using their race as a negative factor.
Or: Stereotyping a group of people saying they have a flaw in common.

How this expresses itself.

This gets back to the example in the previous post where the store owner declared he would not allow young black men into his shop. There are a lot of stereotypes out there for matching everyone to something bad. When it happens to you, you know it's wrong. When we do it to others, it is equally wrong.

How to fight back against this personality flaw. When encountering a group to whom you may feel prejudice, perform a quick mental check-up to determine the reasons for your emotions and decisions. Recognize the inherent problem in any statement that lumps people together. Treat people as individuals. Don't judge a person until you walk a mile in his shoes.

#1a. Racism by proxy.

Most times, racism is expressed more subtly than: "I'm disgusted by black people." Instead, traits are substituted for people. Between ethnic groups, there are many cultural differences. Quite often, over time, what was seen as bad in another culture becomes widely accepted. Jazz music was once demonized almost as much as hip-hop was twenty years ago.

How this gets expressed.

"I'm disgusted by the thugs who turned the urban landscape into hell." "It's their culture." Inane editorials about clothes, the word "urban" replacing black, condescending concern about black on black violence.

How to fight back against this type of racism. Recognize that your culture is not perfect. Try to distinguish between "not my preference" and that which is truly wrong. Tolerance.

#1b. When insulting someone you insert a racial characteristic or stereotype. 

In response to a questionnaire for a weekly arts newspaper, Carl Paladino, co-chair, New York State Trump for President, provided these responses.

  • 1. What would you most like to happen in 2017? Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. [snip]
  • 2. What would you like to see go away in 2017? Michelle Obama. I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.
"I'm certainly not a racist." [Concluding line of Paladino's defense regarding the above remarks.]

#2. Seeing the same things as flaws when they are done by another race.

This is an extension of a basic human fault. When someone else does the same thing I do, they are wrong. I know my motives that drive me to a particular action. In others, I see only the action.

How this expresses itself:

"All those blacks on welfare. Sure I take ridiculous tax breaks, but they're legal."
"I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No." Actor Craig Nelson.

Years back, an article written by a white person decried a black poet talking about a white conspiracy to destroy black lives. I'm not going to argue whether the black poet's claim has validity. The writer could easily have picked on a thousand delusions in his own culture's view of history and there are conspiracy theories all over. (And some conspiracies are true!)

How to fight back against this type of racism. Keep your side of the aisle clean: if you think someone has a racist view of history, make sure your view of history isn't racist. The statement "Why don't they take responsibility" inherently points away from where responsibility begins.

#3. Whether I like it or not, I have a fear of certain people.

This is difficult to get around. Some people have been hurt or damaged by a member of another race. This can be a white person mugged by a black person. Similarly, those YouTube videos of a black person being mistreated (or worse) by a white police officer bring out a visceral reaction in many who can imagine themselves in the same situation.

I've been mugged three times. Or, rather, it is a little more complicated than that. One was a traditional mugging, one was an attempted mugging (I told them to back off, I didn't have my wallet, and they backed off), and one was a cold-cock, one member of a passing group surprised me with a punch and ran.

For years, when I passed a group of strangers in the night, my adrenaline raced. Even in those instances where I could see fear was ludicrous I still had the urge to run.

How to fight back against this type of racism. Try your best to separate fear from judgment. Treat each situation as an individual. Keep in mind the individual caused the offense and other members of the same race are not to blame. To the extent that there is institutional racism, fight that.

#4. I'm not racist. I have black friends. But. . .

In a previous post, I pointed out that this narrative is a not a dismissal of racism, but is a feature of a certain type of racism.

How to fight back against this type of racism. The bad people are not "over there." Assume that other people of a certain group are similar to the ones you know: we each have lives, hopes and dreams.

#5. I've read this statistic that says. . .

Or: This awful crime was committed by Willie Horton.

The internet now recognizes who you are and will try to feed you articles that agree with sites where you have previously visited and the searches you have made. Websites will cater to your opinions and your prejudices and reinforce them

How to fight back against this type of racism. Recognize when anecdotes and statistics are feeding into your prejudices. If a website passes along phony data or exaggerated anecdotes, avoid that site. Treat each person as individuals. Do not pass along negativity. If you think you know an anecdote, read up on the full story. Sometimes it is as bad as it looked at first glance, most of the time it was exaggerated for effect.

The Lack of Need for Judgment.

Woody Allen has been accused of some awful things. And you know what? I don't need to judge him. If he was on trial and I was on a jury, yes, I would need to. If he was offering to babysit my son, yes. To be clear: I'm not saying he is guilty or innocent, or that he even that he should live under a cloud of maybe, I'm saying judging him would be wasting my time: he is related to me only as someone who makes films I have seen. Judging celebrities does not need to take up a sizeable part of my brain.

But, aren't there those who are definitely guilty? Lots of them. I can judge them and file it away.

We live in a culture of a pecking order. Someone looks down on me, I need to look down on someone. When the mighty fall, we celebrate. Don't play into it.

An exception to the above is for those who do affect our lives, for example, politicians and authorities. Changing the world for the better is the place to direct our energies.

I began this series with an ambition: to identify types of racism and prescribe ways in which to counteract them in ourselves. Within ourselves is a necessary part to affecting change.

These posts became longer that I thought they would and still I feel as though I've only broached the subject. Nevertheless, I've learned a few things along the way. Thanks to all of you who have taken time to read these posts.

Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Reverse Discrimination

In this series of posts, [1], [2], [3], I have been describing racism and its various forms. In the previous post I spoke about reverse racism. I thought it would be best to add an exercise and graphic to illustrate the point.

A Depiction of Racist Versus Reverse Racist Sentiments: Racelandia.

For this exercise, let's construct a place called Racelandia:

  • There are 10,000 people in Racelandia.
  • In Racelandia, whites make up 90% of the population and blacks, 10%.
  • Reverse racism is racism directed from the minority to the majority: black against white.
  • Forward racism is directed from the majority to the minority: white against black.
  • We'll call a unit of racism, 1 rc.
  • An individual person produces an average of 2 rcs per year*. Some produce none, others much more.
  • The average person from each group has an equal degree of racism, i.e., the average white person is as racist against blacks to the same degree the average black person is racist against whites.
From the above, we can calculate.

  • 18,000 rcs directed against blacks.
  • 2,000 rcs directed against whites.
  • 18 rcs directed against the average black person. (18,000 rcs / 1,000 persons)
  • 0.18 rcs directed against the average white person. (2,000 rcs / 9,000 persons)

Conclusions from above exercise. Reverse racism exists. It is much smaller in force and effect than "forward" racism.

*Don't get hung up on these numbers. It's a thought exercise which illustrates a point, not any sort of precise quantification.

The numbers in the above exercise, illustrated.

Individual Versus Institutional Racism.

The above exercise illustrates individual racist sentiment and individual action. One of the major forms of racism is based not on individuals, but on institutions. In this case, racist effect is not measured by population, but by power. In 1860, South Carolina was 41% white, 57% black slave, and 1.4% free blacks. The black population had little to no power or rights and the laws reflected the institutional racism of slavery. For example, in South Carolina as in every Southern state, it was illegal to teach a black person (free or slave) to read or write.

Many other and less extreme cases exist. It is still possible to have "minorities" as the majority population, but with little influence. One prime example of this has been the history of women's rights. Although in a slight majority in terms of numbers, in terms of governance, women have been in the minority and many laws have reflected that.

In the final installment in this series I will look at how we can recognize racism inside ourselves. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Part Three.

Continuing With The Various Forms Of Racism.

"As for the immigrants, they are the ones to whom it can be accounted a merit to be Americans. For they have had to take trouble for their citizenship, whereas it has cost the majority nothing at all to be born in the land of civic freedom." Albert Einstein [1].

In the first post I discussed basic definitions surrounding racism. In the second post in this series, I looked at some of the most common forms of racism. Beyond blatant racism, it is racist to:

  • Prejudge someone based on race.
  • Use the behavior of an individual (or individuals) to judge others in a race.
  • Exaggerate our fears of the threats of others.
  • To claim that having a friend of a certain race is a defense while being prejudiced against others of that race.
  • Select anecdotes to prove a racist point.

I will continue to look at the various forms in which racism expresses itself.

Various Forms of Racism, Part Two.

  • Statistics and racism.
  •   Selective statistics.
  •   False statistics.
  •   Exaggerating the meaning of statistics.
  • Sins of omission.
  • Reverse discrimination.

Why do we fear those whom we fear? I know someone who is afraid of bears. This person has never encountered a bear outside of a zoo and has never lived in an area where bears are prevalent. Other than those who wrestle bears for a living, the rest of us are thousands of times more likely to be killed by a human than a bear. So, why aren't we afraid of humans? Oh, that's right, we are afraid of humans, and that's what I'm writing about.

Statistics and Racism.

Statistics don't lie: people lie. People can lie with words and they can lie with statistics. At their best, statistical processes act like a sieve to wash out the sand and save the gold nuggets.

However, statistics are often wielded like they are pre-packaged and indisputable truths. A few basic tests will allow you to flag statistics that are probably lies. These same tests can be sorted into means by which statistics are misused by racists.

Other websites point out how false conclusions can be packed into statistics. For example, they look at how the average is misleading and how linking two findings together doesn't mean they are related. I'll talk a little bit about these at the end of this section, under the section of good statistical hygiene. However, I find that racists tend to misuse statistics in a much more basic way: they select out statistics that prove their point and ignore the context or statistics that disagree; they exaggerate what the statistics say; and, they just out-and-out invent statistics.

Selective Statistics, or: Statistical Anecdotes.

I ended my previous post by describing racism by anecdote. Similar to this is using selective statistics. This is one of the most common forms of lying with statistics. It is easy to select a single bit of information that misleads or which even contradicts the overall picture.

I have written a fair amount on the decrease in violent crime that has taken place in the United States since its peak in the early 1990s. Overall, the violent crime rate has dropped by approximately 50% with murders down by a similar number.

A popular game among fear-mongers is demonstrating the violent crime rate is going up by grabbing a small bite of the data.

Here are the figures for murder rates in Alabama by year, per 100,000 population:

  • 2014, 5.7
  • 2015, 7.2

Now, this represents an alarming 26.3% increase. However, if we look at these years in context, we have:

  • 2012, 7.1
  • 2013, 7.2
  • 2014, 5.7
  • 2015, 7.2

It is bad that the numbers rose from 2014, however, the bigger picture says that 2014 was unusually low and that the murder rate has stayed steady. Individual numbers that jump around are called blips. Rule one: Do not pay attention to blips. Rule two: whenever the focus of a claim becomes strangely narrow, the person is probably trying to distract you from the bigger picture.

While the murder rate in Alabama could possibly be the stuff of racist comments (Alabama is 33% minority) or demonstrate anti-Southern sentiments, let's look at an example more directly applied to racism.

Trump not only chose anecdotes to support his statement that illegal aliens brought crime, he provided statistics. "Thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants."

As detailed in this article, Trump gave no time frame and provided examples which included a case of a legal alien who injured but did not kill someone in 1990. Illegal aliens make up about 3.5% of the national population. With approximately 16,000 homicides per year, if this population murdered at an equal rate, this would be about 500 murders per year. Given enough years, the number can total into the thousands.

The states bordering Mexico (California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico) have all had dramatic decreases in violent crime in murder in the past 25 years, outperforming other areas of the country, some of which have shown increases. California has had the second largest improvement of any state. [detailed here]

It is very common these days to say "urban crime is rising" by pointing to an individual city where crime has gone up. In this case, there is two dimensions to the lie: a slice of time and a slice of geography.

False Statistics.

Those promoting an agenda often simply resort to invented statistics. For Donald Trump, inner city and African-American appear interchangeably (even though blacks in metropolitan areas mostly live in the suburbs).

Similarly, from the second debate, Trump referenced "inner city" on nine occasions. In seven of these he referred to the residents as African-Americans or Latinos.

"But I want to do things that haven't been done, including fixing and making our inner cities better for the African-American citizens that are so great, and for the Latinos, Hispanics, and I look forward to doing it." Donald Trump, October 9, 2016.

Murders, 1960-2014, U.S., FBI Uniform Crime Report [source]

Beyond the lie that inner city crime has reached record levels (it has dropped to its lowest numbers in fifty years), Trump has presented invented numbers to state that black crime is rampant. He passed along this graphic that claims that 81% of whites are murdered by blacks, a retweet from WhiteGenocide. This is a wholly invented statistic, a lie and extreme racism. Blacks are the perpetrators in 15% of homicides where the victim is white in the 62% of cases where the perpetrator is found. (About 9% overall.)

A Trump Tweet.
Hysteria around violent crime rates in big cities is a common theme in recent news stories with phony statistics added to support the argument.

This story which ran on the last day of 2015 from Breitbart has both phony statistics and statistics out of context. It points out a 54% homicide increase in Washington, D.C. in 2015 over 2014. This is using a statistical anecdote to contradict a long term trend. The homicide rate in the period 2012 to 2014 homicide rate was the lowest since the 1960s and through December 30th, have dropped approximately 16% for 2016 (162 in 2014, 136 this year). [Numbers here]

The same article goes on to mention a 20% increase in homicides in New York City. The actual number was 5.7%. (It is down 3.8% through 12/25 this year, with totals 333, 352 and 330 (so far) 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively). [numbers here]

Nevertheless, there will always be a city to pick on where crime has gone up.

How do you defend against the false statistic sort of racism? Not easily. These statistics are often "hit and run," they appear in the middle of a piece, sometimes without supporting background info, sometimes with a phony source (Trump's tweet about homicide rates: there is no Crime Statistics Bureau - San Francisco).

If a person or website puts out these sorts of statistics several times, it is not a coincidence. They have an agenda. Avoid going there.

Statistics without hygiene.

For a statistic to be honest it should compare scrubbed apples to scrubbed apples. The amount of yearly deficit (the annual amount by which governmental spending exceeds income) must be adjusted for inflation. Dollars in 1975 are 22% of dollars in 2016. In terms of financial health, the numbers should be adjusted by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In 1985 there were 89 murders in the city of Phoenix. In 2015 there were 113. This represents a 27.0% increase. The population in 1985 was 890,746. In 2015, it was 1,563,025, a 75.5% increase. Consequently, the murder rate fell by 27.7%. [Uniform Crime Report, FBI, derived from their historical table for Phoenix]

Not adjusting for this is a lie. Expect a minimum amount of hygiene with the statistics. Otherwise, someone is selling you a lie.

Exaggerating the meaning of statistics.

As mentioned in a previous post, the exaggeration of fear leads to prejudice. Even when a statistic does elucidate a fact accurately, it is necessary to place that fact in relation to others.

This story at US News & World Report discusses some of the actual differences in race crimes. Do African-Americans have a higher crime rate than whites in America? Yes. And from an honest starting point accounting for such factors as poverty, crime rates can be discussed.

And, when it's all said and done, they still don't support racism; they don't support danger from some random individual of another race (fear of others). In America, 41.7% of murders are performed by family and those you know, 45.4% of unknown relation, and 12.8% by strangers. Not a mysterious stranger on which we project our fears. (3.3 times more likely to be murdered by someone you know than by a stranger [Source].

Sins of Omission.

That car that was stolen in Washington, DC which I spoke about in the previous post. After it was found I got a call to pick it up at an Anacostia tow-yard. When I got there, there was another individual waiting to pick up his car, a young black man. We were not far different in age, he was dressed a little better than me. Before claiming his car he was asked for his driver's license for ID. He (foolishly) didn't bring it and was told he'd have to return. That was reasonable. I wasn't asked for an ID.

I tell this story because for me, it was an instance in which discrimination was both subtle and vivid.

Reverse Discrimination.

What is reverse discrimination? I started this process by going to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online.

Reverse discrimination: discrimination against whites or males (as in employment or education).

(In England, the term reverse discrimination refers to discriminating in favor of a minority rather than against a set of individuals.)

After having twice being rejected for admission at the University of California Davis Medical School, Allan Bakke sued the school citing the fact that school had set aside 16 openings (out of 100) to minorities and that this practice discriminated against him for being white. In 1978, the Supreme Court sided with him, saying that although schools could use race as a consideration in admission, they could not create specific numbers (quotas or set-asides). (California was one-third minority by population in 1980. Being a state-run medical virtually all admissions would be in-state. Sixteen out of one-hundred admissions set aside still underrepresented the state demographics.)

At that time, I was a pre-med undergraduate student. An alumnus, a former pre-med student, came visiting our campus on an official recruiting visit promoting the medical school where he'd been spent his first year. He declared that by considering his school you didn't have to worry about reverse discrimination: only one student out of two hundred was a minority. I raised my hand and asked how did they manage to keep it down to a single student without forward discrimination? I was told the school was rural and minorities prefer urban environments. (Insulting on several levels and ludicrous: there is no medical school applicant who is going to turn down acceptance solely because a school is rural.)

These were my introductions to the concept of reverse discrimination and affirmative action. From early on, it seemed to me to be a numbers game. Bakke applied for admissions where there were 100 spots. Sixteen were set aside for minorities. That meant he definitely didn't score in the top 84. Let's make an ungenerous assumption (ungenerous against the minority applicants): only half of the sixteen would have been accepted by the standards of the top 84. That leaves Bakke among or below the bottom eight (possibly being below the bottom eight because there is little reason to believe that he had exactly the 101st best application in both times he applied). In other words, he didn't have that impressive an application.

There are deeper issues here. Why is minority used as a near synonym of disadvantaged? Yes, there are other forms of being disadvantaged which are not adequately addressed. Yes, there are good numbers of minorities who come from a background of financial well-being. Yes, there are a good number of white people who come from poverty. None of these change the fact: being a minority is a disadvantage.

Forward discrimination exists and is a potent force. More on this below, but an example here. There have been many studies that have shown discrimination against minorities. Typical of these is a résumé sent out with an "African-American sounding" name (e.g. Jamal and Lakisha) or a "white sounding" name (e.g. Greg and Emily). The qualifications are identical, the names are switched. The same application got 50% more requests for interviews for the "white-sounding" names.

In summary, I believe reverse discrimination exists. However, overall, it is a small arrow pointing in the opposite direction of the huge arrow that is discrimination.

Reverse Discrimination as Racism Against the Majority.

Reverse discrimination is also used to describe racism directed from a minority against the majority. Of course, such racism exists. Minorities are not saints who are immune from fear or hatred. Is there less racism from minorities? One argument is that being a minority "sensitizes" an individual to prejudice. Einstein, whom I have quoted at the beginning of these posts, mentioned this. He described how, being Jewish, having just escaped from Nazi Germany, he felt the plight of the African-American. A second argument is that if one is a minority in an environment where most of the population is majority, then there is less fear of the other. Many "others" are among the people you know. A third argument is that the media for a long time has provided many idealized examples of whites. They are Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Chris Evans, stars who sometimes work with a black sidekick. Yes, more recently there are positive role models for blacks in media. [Completely by coincidence and because I have a nine-year-old son and didn't personally choose the station, on the television while writing this are several really painful black stereotypes being played for laughs].

In contrast to reverse discrimination, "forward" discrimination has the force of a majority. Forward discrimination also shapes public attitude and public policy in the way that a majority can. The numbers behind this are explored in this post..

In summary, this section has looked at how statistics can be used selectively to promote racist statements, looked at racism by omission, and the matters of reverse discrimination in terms of affirmative action and in racism directed toward the majority.

The notion of reverse discrimination as a numbers game is further explored in the coming post.

In the final section I hope to put this together to answer the questions: Is what I did racist? Is there a way to reduce prejudging on my part?

[1] Albert Einstein as cited in Einstein on Race and Racism. Fred Jerome and Roger Taylor, Rutgers University Press.

Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Monday, December 26, 2016

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Part Two.

The Various Forms of Racism.

"Well, there is no magic solution [to the problem of racism]. I would only hope that where there is a will there is a way. I think probably that Americans will have to realize how stupid this attitude is and how harmful it is, also, to the standing of the United States." Albert Einstein [1].

In the first post in this series, I went over the definitions of race, racism and racist. I pointed out that race has several meanings, including nationality, shared culture and ethnicity.

I proposed that as a first step we should direct our attention away from the question of whether someone is a racist and look at whether someone commits racist acts. Ultimately, the latter is the evidence of the former and with a collection of racist acts, a determination can be made.

So what are racist acts? Well, they come in several varieties, flagrant, subtle and in-between. Interestingly, the subtle acts, of which there are many, can have a greater cumulative damage.

I'd like to propose a taxonomy of applied racism. First a list of what's coming and then the discourse.

Einstein (second from left) served with Paul Robeson (right) on a committee to stop lynchings.

Various Forms of Racism, Part One, an outline.

  1. Blatant racism.
  2. Prejudging Leading to Discrimination.
  3. Racism as Fear.
  4. Fear of the Other.

Several housekeeping questions, including:

Isn't everybody somewhat racist? Isn't it hardwired into our genes?
Aren't you ignoring the fact that there are some out there that want to harm me? Are you saying that I shouldn't be afraid of them?

       5. Anecdotal racism.

#1. Blatant Racism.

Occurrences that few would deny as racism. Can be violent and criminal, can be the cruelty of words or decisions.

Sometimes it seems like this is the only kind that Hollywood knows. In fiction this is presented as slobbering bigots versus angelic victims, as though you had to slobbering versus angelic for this to have meaning. In the news this is presented as, "Oh, how awful." I have frustration with the discussion about this, because too often this gets all of the focus.

Okay, I need to lower my hackles. This occurs, historically and currently. It is the most obscene form of racism.

I don't feel the need to discuss it as it is well-discussed already. Let's go on to other types of racism which are less flagrant but more prevalent.

Medgar Evers, in life.

#2. Prejudice Leading to Discrimination.

In the mid-1980s, Tony Kornheiser, then a columnist for the Washington Post Magazine, wrote an essay about a conversation he'd had with the owner of a jewelry shop in an upscale section of Connecticut Avenue. The shop owner said he refused to "buzz in" young black males, denying them entrance to his establishment. Kornheiser agreed with the owner's judgment.

In this brief scenario, Kornheiser presented a succinct example of prejudice and racism and gave it his blessing. Prejudice because the owner saw people whom he prejudged. Racism, because he provided only three qualifiers to those he would not allow in: young, male and black. Young black male equaled threatening. If other young males were equally threatening, he could easily have stated that.

Making a judgment based on race without other qualifying factors is racism (and sometimes those qualifying factors are added as decoration).

The Sunday following this column I attended church at St. Augustine's on 15th Street, a church whose congregation was, at that time, at least 95% black. The sermon was emotional and blistering. "Are they telling me that my son cannot shop for jewelry because of this man's fears?"

I am not saying Kornheiser is a racist. People are tens of thousands of complex things. I am saying that in this instance he supported racism.

#3. Racism as Fear.

Mrs. O'Connell, one of my eleventh grade teachers, taught me that, in the same way that there are primary colors which mix together to produce secondary colors (blue plus red equals purple), there are primary emotions that mix together to make secondary emotions. Fear and anger are among the primary emotions. Hate arises from fear. Although simplistic, this is the basic formula: "They threaten me (fear). They have no right to threaten me (anger). They should be afraid of me (hate)."

Prejudice and bigotry against groups begins with fear. Xeno means foreigner. Phobia means fear. The word xenophobia is fear - but not just fear. It is "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign." [Merriam-Webster]

Another long-winded story. I became eligible to vote about two weeks before the 1976 election. I went to the local Democratic and Republican campaign headquarters to get posters of their candidates (national and local) for a presentation at my church. When I gathered these, I left out the fact that the purpose of these posters was a Halloween "horror gallery." Jimmy Carter's poster became Jimmy "Jaws" Carter, he smiled so hard he ate his own head. I added a zig-zagging scar to Gerald Ford's head and bolts to his neck and he became "Fordenstein," the first monster to die an accidental death. Then I dressed up as the halfback of Notre Dame and, with flashlight in hand, led visitors on a tour of the gallery of monsters.

One of the viewers got very nervous and upset. The priest suggested maybe I tone it down. I thought, "Oh, come on, but this is so phony, so ridiculous." Upon reflection, I saw that the priest was right, and this incident was my first realization that some people are easily frightened.

Let me go from here to a more familiar situation. In the 1980s, back when city crime was nearing its peak, I lived in what my landlord called "an aggressively urban neighborhood" in Washington, DC. Drugs were regularly sold in the open along the block. While at a party in a different, more upscale part of town, I listened to someone (white, suburban) comment on the time he got lost and drove into the wrong part of DC and how lucky he was to survive [2]. I realized it was my neighborhood that he spoke about (and the street was single block long between two major thoroughfares, so he could hardly have been lost for more than a few seconds.) This person would probably scoff at the person who was frightened by the presidential monster posters, but his fears were also extremely exaggerated.

The block where I lived had way too high of a crime rate. Still, if you lived there a whole year, you would probably not be a victim of anything [3]. (I lived there a year without being a victim. I'm not sure I would place a similar bet on five years.)  The odds of something happening to someone driving by for a brief time on a single night, was virtually nothing. And yet this, probably otherwise intelligent, person saw it as fear. Was the fear racist? I cannot say with certainty, although he did bring up another story about one time when he had to take the bus up 14th Street in Washington and he was the only white person on board. [4]

Donald Trump, Junior, tweeted a message to express his objections to allowing in Syrian refugees into the United States. "If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That's our Syrian refugee problem."

So, out of about 100 Skittles in the bowl, three would kill you. Not just three would harm someone, somewhere. This was old school fear mongering: they are going to kill you. The fear of presidential monster posters was more rational.

Several media outlets tried to put the absurdity of these numbers in perspective, from the probability that a Syrian refugee will plan a terrorist attack 3/1000ths of a percent to the number of Skittles the bowl would need to be correct for a terrorist attack (10 billion) which killed you.

This is no joke. This message kills. This wildly and cowardly irrational fear will set public policy and people will die (the men, women and children refugees). They have something real to fear.

I believe we all have a set-point to our fears. Some of us are afraid of comically drawn presidential posters and some are afraid of Skittles. Recognizing this and doing our best to adjust to reality, is one of the best defenses against racism.

#4. Fear of the Other.

"I'm not a racist. I have friends who are [fill in the blank]." The distinction of having friends who belong to a particular group that experiences racism is not a defense that someone is not racist: it is a feature of a certain kind of racism.

For some, blacks are not bad. "I have a good friend at work who's black. He's a regular guy. The problem are those blacks who live in certain neighborhoods (presumably working somewhere else) and engage in crime, ..."

This attitude is often directed between cultural divides. A rural person may have minorities for friends, but still say, "look at the cities, big city corruption, crime, things are horrible" and associate those fears with urban blacks. On the flip side of the coin, a black person in the city may have whites for friends but say, look at the rural areas: small town justice, a history of the KKK–they fear us and hate us. And you can select news items to prove both these propositions. And that crazy guy in the office named Joe? He's Crazy Joe, just get used to him. Knowing people is a cure for racism. We can't know everyone, so we need to assume the ones we don't know are similar to the ones we know.

I grew up without knowingly encountering gay people and at a time when they almost never appeared in national media (which was ruled by three broadcast television networks.) I had a fear of gay people. They were the people over there. This changed (slowly) as I met gay people who were (...drum roll...) people. As I met more I found that I could not distinguish between good people and bad people based on sexual orientation. The gays I got to know were not always saints, but then neither were the heterosexuals.

To some extent, we are Kevin McAllister in Home Alone afraid of the boogie man, creepy Mr. Marley next door.

Intermission (Dealing with several related matters):

Some people might ask: Aren't we all to some degree racist? Isn't a fear of others hard-wired into our genes?

I'm not a big fan of the "blame it on evolution," argument as an excuse. Let's say it is natural that we have a fear of the dark. Before light was readily available, caveman did have to be concerned that a lion could sneak up on him at night. The hunter-gatherer had to plan the day to get back to safety before nightfall. But, you know what? We built the tools to be safer in the dark and overcome fears. To continue to have an irrational fear of the dark or other people is: irrational. It harms us, it harms others.

Another form of this question, might be phrased as: by writing this are you claiming you are not racist (or never were)?

I am writing this in part to explore the instances of racism in myself, why they occur and how I can do better.

Another question. Aren't you ignoring the fact that there are some out there that want to harm me? Are you saying that I shouldn't be afraid of them?

First of all, this is the internet and I don't know who you are. So, do I know whether there are people out there who want to harm you? Yes, I do know and yes, some do want to hurt you. I can say that with confidence because in this world there is a lot of irrational hatred out there, enough to go around for everyone. For many people that threat is very small in the realm of one in millions. Two of the main goals of these posts are to place the threat in perspective and to look at our end of the equation. Even in the face of threat, racism and exaggeration, is counterproductive.

#5. Racism by Anecdote.

This post is running long, so I'm going to divide up the topics and finish this section as part one.

One of the most common forms of racism is racism by anecdote. Why this exists, well, I've never been able to wrap my head around the reason. Let me explain what I mean.

I owned a car which was stolen twice. The first time it was stolen it was found by the police, out of gas and abandoned on the main thoroughfare in a predominantly black neighborhood (Anacostia, Washington, DC). Considering the neighborhood and the car's quick desertion, I would guess that the most likely scenario is that it was stolen by a black person or persons who took it on a joy ride.

The second time the car was stolen, the thief had a minor accident, and abandoned the car before the police could be called in. The thief was seen while fleeing: he was white.

Other than having a nebulous anger directed at the unknown thieves in the first incident, why should I be angry at any black person who didn't steal my car? Why should I be angry at whites in general for the second time my car was stolen?  These were single incidents, and, in telling, anecdotes.

In making the announcement for his bid for the United States presidency, Donald Trump stated, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." There is some additional context which is included below [5].

Three weeks later, Trump latched on to the murder of Kathryn Steinle to support his proposal to build a wall.

Twitter message (one of several):
.@marcorubio what do you say to the family of Kathryn Steinle in CA who was viciously killed b/c we can't secure our border? Stand up for US.

Trump cites Steinle's death to prove he was right. [source]

Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez on July 3rd, 2015 in San Francisco. He was illegally in the United States and had been deported five times, only to return. He has claimed the shooting was an accident. The bullet which hit her ricocheted off the pavement and traveled about 90 feet before striking her in the aorta. His trial is set to begin in 2017.

With 15,809 homicides in the United States (2015), it would be possible, even simple, for Trump to latch on to a murder by any group against any group. Anecdotes are there for the choosing. If you choose an anecdote that demonstrates a prejudice, that is a form of racism.

But what about statistics? Statistics exist that break down crime according to race. That will be a topic for the next post.

Coming Up: Various Forms of Racism, Part Two.
  • Statistics and racism.
  •   False statistics.
  •   Selective statistics.
  •   Exaggerating the meaning of statistics.
  • Sins of omission.
  • Reverse discrimination.

[1] Albert Einstein, interviewed by Peter A. Buckey as presented in Einstein on Race and Racism.
[2] I included the basics of this story in my novel, "Never Kill A Friend."
[3] If you were part of the D-Day Invasion, you'd stand a one-in-sixty chance of dying that day. This place was no Omaha Beach.
[4]  In fairness, at the time, I couldn't figure out what the man with the bus anecdote meant by his of being the only white person aboard the bus. Was he saying, I'm cool, it's not as though being surrounded by black people meant danger? Or did he mean, again, how on earth did I survive?
 [5] From Trump's presidential announcement, June 16, 2015.
"When do we beat Mexico at the border? They're laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they're killing us economically.
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems.
Thank you. It's true, and these are the best and the finest.
When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Also, follow-up comments:
"I can never apologize for the truth. I don't mind apologizing for things. But I can't apologize for the truth. I said tremendous crime is coming across. Everybody knows that's true. And it's happening all the time. So, why, when I mention, all of a sudden I'm a racist. I'm not a racist. I don't have a racist bone in my body."

–Trump, interview on Fox News' "Media Buzz," July 5, 2015

"What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc."

As presented in The Washington Post, July 8, 2015.
Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

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