The Gift of Privilege – the Joe Scarborough/ Mainstream Media edition

VOTE imageAnyone who knows me knows that I had FINALLY come to my senses.  I stopped watching @MorningJoe and saved myself the frustration of waiting for his uber-partisan switch to be flipped.  Election years have been the worst.  Scarborough seems to pride himself on being equally critically of “both parties”. If ever I have the time, I will gladly present a counter to that belief.  It is not yelling at both parties that is the indication of fairness, it is the level of analysis and focus on the severity of the issues that count.  That Scarborough,  and most of his colleagues, still suffer from False Equivalency Syndrome (FES) goes without saying, but so many others have said it so well, for so long, why not include that wisdom?

What should also be said is that FES seems to prevent members of the media from examining their own, personal and professional, hiases that may hinder their ability to identify the real issues that divide voters.   Superficial analyses of cultural concerns and attitudes, based on false equivalencies, do more than annoy readers; they potentially turn over power to individuals who should not have it, distort history, and often place vulnerable communities at even greater risk.  More on that, later.

Admittedly,  I have been watching #MorningJoe at least twice a week over the last several weeks.  Why?  I was curious about how Scarborough and his colleagues would handle the revelation of #Trump’s character and the public’s increasing rejection of #Trumpism.  FINE!  I also watched to gloat because it was pretty clear to many viewers, very early on, that the #TrumpTrain would derail for the obvious reasons.  I was stunned to tune in and hear Scarborough chastizing the media for zeroing in on #Trump’s dark, weak, and overly dramatic (thoroughly inaccurate) portrayal of America as a nation on the decline.  His convention speech suggested a nation beseiged by race wars and hand-to-hand combat in the streets, an economy in stark decline, financial institutions  on the verge of collapse, and himself as the great savior.  If you are old enough to remember the term “Helter Skelter”, you are old enough to understand why Trump’s convention speech took on an air of madness for some of us.

U.S. FlagScarborough’s reported relationship with Trump has always been uncomfortable, for me as a (then consistent)  viewer. It made me uncomfortable enough to cause me to become an ex-viewer .  To tune in, again, and see that he seemed to still have hope that a deeply flawed candidate such as Trump might yet connect with the American public  was even more disturbing.  To whom would Trump’s words connect and what would that mean for the rest of us?   That apparent hope gave me the greatest clarity,  yet.

The problem with the media, not just Scarborough, is that they do not possess the sort of understanding of diverse groups that would, and should, have made them more skeptical of this candidate from the beginning.  A Trump win is not one that bodes well for nonwhite individuals, nor for those who are LGBTQA, nor for those who have disabilities, who are recent immigrants, nor would it be welcome news for women who value the progress society has made toward reaching equality.  African-American voters, in particular,  have been dismissed as voting on the basis of soaring rhetoric and simple affiliation.  Give us more credit than that.  We have long memories, and despite our varying levels of economic and educational successes (overlooked by the pro-Trump crowd), there are some experiences that are so common to so many of us, that we know bigotry when we see it.  We know danger when it is headed our way, even if it smiles and laughs, and calls us “friend”.  We have a shared history that tells us  to pay attention to actions, not just words.

Scarborough, along with cohost Mika Brzezinski, touted a personal history with Trump as the reason they saw him as a good man, a man whose success was easily explained.  Had they  missed Trump’s legal issues regarding housing discrimination?  Are they absolutely clueless that this sort of behavior extends far beyond not being able to move to a nicer apartment?  The exceptionally talented Bomani Jones wrote the following of Donald Sterling, but he may as well have written it about Donald J. Trump and every other person guilty of housing discrimination:

Discrimination in the housing market has been crippling to the attempts blacks and Latinos have made to empower themselves economically. The worst examples are in the sales market — there’s a wealth of urban economic evidence showing how the inability to buy homes has affected the black-white wealth gap — but such behavior in the rental market is just as damaging. Consider that, frequently, moving to a fancy neighborhood like Beverly Hills provides the best chance a family has at placing its children in decent schools, something we all can agree is pretty important.

People tend to think of the more annoying manifestations of racism, like how hard it can be for non-white people to get cabs in New York. But in the grand scheme, stuff like that is trivial. What Sterling is accused of is as real as penitentiary steel.

We KNOW that when this sort of discrimination occurs, some of our children are missing out on an opportunity to improve their educational outcomes.  Their parents will later be admonished for not working hard enough to improve their circumstances by moving them to better schools.  We KNOW that some children are left fighting their way through tougher neighborhoods.  Their parents will later be accused of not working hard enough to protect them and for accepting community violence.   We KNOW that some of us will lack access to jobs that are better paying because of the inability to move into the communities where those jobs exist.  They  will later be accused of not actively trying to improve their lot, but waiting for a handout from the government.   We KNOW that who you know often matters as much as what you know and some of us aren’t granted the same opportunities to estalblish and broaden helpful social networks for our children and families.  The Sterlings and Trumps of the world will rarely ever be accused of doing harm or damaging society because of their own personal and moral failings.  That accusation will be left for their victims.
More importantly, we know what it means when someone who is guilty of the above  behavior has to sign a pledge to not do it again.   Does most of the media understand it?  While the media is establishing a false equivalency between “unlikable” Hillary Clinton and “unlikable” Donald Trump, how many of them will dig deeper into the truth behind that data and what “unlikable” means in terms of outcomes for individuals and communities, in the long term?
 Were Scarborough and Brzezinski unaware that the candidate called for the execution of teenagers accused of raping and assaulting Central Park jogger, Trisha Meili?
Trump CP5 ad.jpg
The NYTimes covers this issue and a smear campaign in which St. Regis Mohawks were targeted by the candidate just over a decade, later.  They were targeted with ads which stated that, “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.”  I guess it worked so well in the CP5 case, why change the tactic?
We now know that the Central Park Five were innocent.  To be fair, it seemed clear to many, even then, that they were innocent.  Rather than apologize for his harsh treatment of five exonerated young men, the youngest of whom were 14 years old when accused, Trump continued to defend his belief in their guilt:
Trump CP5 response
Alternet.org discusses more of the candidate’s anti-black bigotry
This isn’t just about #Trump getting it wrong. This isn’t about major pitfalls in a campaign run by a novice too green to pivot, too inexperienced to be politically correct.   This is about a candidate’s  longstanding pattern of presenting negative and false images of people of color, a history denied by pro-trump supporters and largely ignored by the media, even after his false comments about undocumented Mexican Immigrants.
Those comments were treated as being indicative of a “new Trump”, one  willing to say anything to win an election.  Thankfully,  FES does not influence the reporting of all issues at all times and there has been some (limited) coverage of racially charged campaign comments that are consistent with his pre-campaign history.  Rather than worrying about appearing “fair” in the eyes of Trump supporters, what about being fair to diverse communities and covering our concerns as lived  history, not simply concerns of party affiliation?  Why not confront Trump and his SPOX more often with serious questions about his behaviors and asking whether they have evidence of a real change, significant enough to erase his sordid past?
It should also be noted that his actions in the Central Park Five case are deeper than “getting it wrong”.  It reminds many of us in the African- and Latino-American communities of how infrequently the media challenges indiviuals of privilege on similar actions and comments.  Does Mr. Trump know how many people of color have been falsely accused and convicted of crimes, often based on evidence that wouldn’t be sufficiently used to expel a child from school?  Is he aware of how perception can impact conviction rates and carry more weight than evidence?  Does he care how his actions have contributed to the pain of many families of color who have suffered as they have watched beloved children and family, those they know are innocent,  be convicted  and sentenced to life in prison, or even receive the death penalty?  The Innocence Project provides more data.
Whether or not they are apologists, listening to @JoeNBC and Mika this past week, felt like listening to  every privileged apologist for racists & racism I have ever met.  They refuse to believe that despite THE RECORD, it is more likely the case that they either wore blinders in Trump’s presence, did not fully understand racism when they saw it,  or that they were protected from his behavior because they were not the targets of his beliefs. Any of the above is more likely than the likelihood that racism (or any of the other -isms) the candidate displays is the result of a change in situation.Any of the above is more likely than a recent change in nature (especially  in the nature of a man who brags that he hasn’t changed since he was 8 years old).  I was fortunate enough to watch when frequent guest,  Donny Deutsch, participated.  Deutsch was exactly right in asking how well anyone actually knows Trump as he listened to the denials that the man was a racist and that his beahvior was an act.  He wisely asked how many people sitting around the table could say the things Trump said if they didn’t believe them.  Sadly, Joe Scarborough  stopped him  from allowing that meaningful dialogue to take place.
 I have also felt equally betrayed by the members of the media who praised Trump for staying on message while reading from a teleprompter, as he challenged  African-Americans on what we had to lose by voting for him.  They did so without considering the weight of his racist message on African-Americans.  Rather than praise Trump’s ability to stay on message, where was the outrage that he treated all African-Americans as a monolithic group, all of whom must be impoverished, all of whom are sending children to “failing schools”, all of  whom are unemployed, etc
What do we have to lose?  Let me count the ways!  I doubt that a man whose campaign is a study in transitioning a major political party to a racial Nationalist party has the right to ask that question.  Just as many voters were taken in by the legend of a “man of the people” who just happens to be a successful billionaire businessman, far too many members of the media may have been taken in as well.  The media is failiing those of us most at risk under a potential President Trump.  Most of the media won’t have to experience the same risks, and will have the luxury of continuing to nurture its FES while failing to question #Trumpism and its implications.
Below are just a few examples of the questions the media might, broadly,  ask differently without FES:
1. Without @Potus saving the auto industry and passing the economic stimulus over Republican’s objections, what would the likely rate of unemployment and rate of economic growth be at this time?
Follow up: Which Republican plan would have led to a faster economic recovery?  WAS there a Republican plan for economic recovery?
2nd Follow up:  Are there comparative business practices on the #Trump side that would tell the public how he would have handled an economic crises differently?
2.  Rs complain that the economy hasn’t grown fast enough. Do they have examples of faster rates of growth under a Republican President or under Republican congressional control, given an economy as broken as the one Obama inherited?
3.  How can a Presidential candidate whose history with communities of color is so antagonistic be expected to serve those communities, now?
4.  #Trump has had a direct hand and denying access to opportunity for families of color through his rental policies.  Several former Apprentice stars are concerned about his racially tinged comments and behaviors as well as their concerns earned while working with him, including Randal Pinkett, Kwame Jackson, Tara Dowdell, Marshawn Evans Daniels, and James Sun and  Kevin Allen, .  He currently counts as part of his inner circle  individuals with connection to the white supremacists movement, including Steve Bannon.
What concrete evidence can Trump provide that makes apparent his committment to diversity, immigration, sex and gender diversity, disability status, and other groups?
5.  Will Trump commit to never hiring a nationalist or a person who is anti-LGBTQA in his administration, if elected?  If weeding out bias is good enough for his “Extreme Vetting” process, it should be good enough for his cabinet.
6.  What are the assurances he will give to all Muslim-Americans that he will make sure that they are protected under the constitution and are free from harm?     How will he ensure their safety after the rhetoric of the campaign season?
7.  Trump claims to have never mocked a person with a disability (collective eyeroll, friends).  Has he ever given thought to the disability community, laws affecting the daily existence of Americans with disaibilities?  What changes would he make to current ADA and other laws that would protect persons with disabilities?  What legislation would he work to have introducted to congress?
8. To whom does Trump believe he owes and apology?  #POTUS for the birther attacks and demands to see all of the President’s documentation, including college transcripts?  The above cultural groups?  The Central Park Five?  The St. Regis Mohawk?  The Khans , all Gold Star families and all individuals currently serving in the military or who have ever served?  If they are not all on his list, why not?
Advertisements