Dr. David J. Leonard: White Denial and Black Middle-Class Reality – Part 2

White Denial and Black Middle-Class Reality – Part 2

Denial is a fixture of contemporary racial discourse. Reflecting segregation and the entrenched nature of white privilege, the efforts to deny through citing a mythical black middle-class, as if the black middle-class reveals some post-racial reality, defies the facts on the ground. It defies the realities of America’s housing situation.


A 2012 study entitled, Price Discrimination in the Housing Market, found that like the poor paying more for various goods and services, the black middle class pays more for a home:

No matter what the ultimate reason for the price premium, our results imply that systematic, robust racial differences in the price paid to buy a home – on the order of 3 percent on average in multiple major US markets – persist to the present day, long after many of the most overt forms of institutional discrimination have been eliminated. Considering the average purchase price paid by a black homebuyer in our sample is $177,000, this translates to an average premium of about $5,000 per transaction, a substantial amount given the average income of black households in these cities.

The costs of racism on the black middle-class are evident in the difficulty in securing home loans. For African American joining and remaining part of the middle-class is a precarious and difficult task because of racism. According to a report in the New York Times, black homeowners otherwise eligible for traditional fixed rate 30-year mortgages often had subprime loans. In NYC, it “found that black households making more than $68,000 a year were nearly five times as likely to hold high-interest subprime mortgages as whites of similar or even lower incomes. (The disparity was greater for Wells Fargo borrowers, as 2 percent of whites in that income group hold subprime loans and 16.1 percent of blacks).”

Additionally, Joe Weisenthal, with Did Racist Subprime Lending Cause The New York Foreclosure Crisis? notes that according Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shawn Donovan, “Roughly 33 percent of the subprime mortgages given out in New York City in 2007, Mr. Donovan said, went to borrowers with credit scores that should have qualified them for conventional prevailing-rate loans.” Differential access to different types of loans has huge financial cost. “These practices took a great toll on customers, Weisenthal notes. “For a homeowner taking out a $165,000 mortgage, a difference of three percentage points in the loan rate — a typical spread between conventional and subprime loans — adds more than $100,000 in interest payments.” As noted in the article, the prospect of paying an extra 700 dollars a month over 27 years highlights the financial cost and burden resulting from subprime loans.

Housing discrimination in all its forms demonstrates the precluded benefits of middle-class status to many African American families, but the ways in which racism is shrinking the size of the black middle-class. Evident in foreclosures, the resulting lost wealth, and the overall financial burden of racism, a Black middle class is bound to be fundamentally different from a white middle class.

The consequences of these historic and ongoing practices of discrimination are clear. “Segregation of neighborhoods and communities often means, for African Americans, less access to schools with excellent resources, key job networks, quality public services such as hospital care and quality housing,” writes Joe Feagin and Kathryn McKinney in The Many Costs of Racism. “The later factors, less access to quality housing, also limits the ability of African American families to build upon substantial housing equity, a major source for the wealth passed along by families for several generations.” These are the costs of racism for all African Americans.

Continue reading @ Dr. David J. Leonard: White Denial and Black Middle-Class Reality – Part 2.

The terrorist next door: James Holmes and the false media profile of mass murderers | theGrio

The terrorist next door: James Holmes and the false media profile of mass murderers

by David Leonard | July 24, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.(Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.(Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

In less than 36 hours, we’ve learned a lot about James Holmes, the alleged shooter in Aurora, Colorado. The desire to learn about his background, to understand him, speaks to the destructive ways that we talk about violence within our culture. It speaks to our collective discomfort whenever we see, confront, and face violence that is “not supposed to happen.”

Described as “nice,” “easy-going,” “smart” and “quiet,” the media discourse has gone to great lengths to humanize Holmes, describing him in sympathetic terms. Whether identified as churchgoing, or as someone who worked with underprivileged kids, the media has gone to great lengths to depict him as a good person gone awry.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting Anthony Mai (a family friend), described Holmes in the following way: “I saw him as a normal guy, an everyday guy, doing everyday things.” He was a “very shy, well-mannered young man who was heavily involved in their local Presbyterian church.” Similarly, an AP Report included the assessment of Jackie Mitchell, who lived in the same neighborhood as Holmes and reportedly had a beer with him the week of the shootings. “We just talked about football. He had a backpack and geeky glasses and seemed like a real intelligent guy,” Mitchell said. “And I figured he was one of the college students.” Noting that he had “swagger,” Mitchell’s “insight,” albeit based on a single encounter, purportedly authenticates a narrative of Holmes as a “normal” All-American kid. He drinks beer and talks football like many other 24-year olds. Other reports depict Holmes as “reserved” and “respectful;” as a “loner” and as a “kid,” despite being 24-years old.

According to neighbors in San Diego, who shared apple cider with his family just last year, Holmes was not unlike many of his peers. While he rarely socialized with other kids and never had a girlfriend, he was a “nice guy.” Tom Mai agreed with his daughter, noting, “James was nice and quiet. He was studious, he cut the grass, and cleaned the car. He was very bright.” Likewise, in “From Quiet Kid to Accused Mass Killer,” Nick Martin illustrates the trajectory and scope of the emerging Holmes narrative:

Growing up in San Diego, James Eagan Holmes was seen by his neighbors as an “everyday guy,” a smart kid who was otherwise unremarkable. But by Friday, the young man was being described by Colorado’s governor as a “very deranged mind” and was the sole suspect in a horrific massacre that left 12 people dead and 59 wounded at a movie theater in the Denver suburbs.

Continue reading @ The terrorist next door: James Holmes and the false media profile of mass murderers | theGrio.

NewBlackMan: The “Reasonable Fear” of a Black Male: The Trayvon Martin Tragedy

The “Reasonable Fear” of a Black Male:

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

In 2008, 20/20 conducted an experiment to examine how people would respond to criminal activity. Inside a New Jersey park, three white youths gleefully vandalized a car. Without concern for the people walking throughout the park, they destroy the car with a bat and spray paint. In the course of the experiment, only a few individuals call the police or even challenge the kids, with some even joking around with them. When 20/20 swapped out the three white youth for three black youth, the public response was drastically changed, with many more calls to the police. Highlighting the ways race and criminality interact through stereotypes and daily behavior, the most telling aspect of the experiment resulted from an unplanned development. As the white youths wreaked havoc on the car, three black youth waited in another car. These boys, relatives of one of the black actors who were taking part in the experiment, were asleep. In the first instance, the caller suggests that the boys looked like they were going to rob someone. In a case of ‘sleeping while black’ there were two 911 calls (compared to one 911 call about the white youth).

Given persistent stereotypes, news media and popular culture, and a culture of dehumanization, it is no wonder that the 20/20 experiment found that irrespective of behavior black youth convey fear and animosity driven by their presumed criminality, an experience dramatically different from that of white youth. Writing about research on imagery and criminalization, Joe Feagin, in The White Racial Frame, highlights the profound issues at work here. “These researchers conclude that the visual and verbal dehumanization of black Americans as apelike assist in the process by which some groups become targets of societal ‘cruelty, social degradation, and state-sanctioned violence” (p. 105). From a history of slavery and lynching, up through the persistent realities of racial profiling, mass incarceration, and daily instances of violence, the connection between dehumanization and criminalization has been central to white supremacy.

I thought about this experiment when I first heard about the murder of Trayvon Martin. The connection became especially powerful after continually hearing references to “reasonable fear,” the fact that George Zimmerman called 911 because he saw a suspicious person in his gated community, and the purported “perceived threat”; all of this led me back to this study and the countless amount of research that illustrates the power and saturation of the “criminalblackman.” As evident here, it is hard, if not disingenuous, not connect this case and the ideas of fear, suspicion, and threat (and whiteness as innocence), to dominant ideologies of race.

On March 12, 2012, Stanford Police Chief, Bill Lee announced that Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense fit with the evidence of their investigation. During a press conference, he made this clear over and over again: “We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self defense at this point with the evidence.” He additionally defended the decision not to issue an arrest warrant because of a lack of probable cause: “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.” Given recent reports about the investigation, one has to wonder if this even possible.

Similarly, the news media has emphasized that Zimmerman had a bloody nose, that the back of his t-shirt was wet, and that reports indicate an argument all as potential explanation for what happen. We can see an emerging narrative that explains (rationalizes/justifies) the situation as if an argument or even a “fight” justifies the use of a gun on an unarmed teenager.

At the same time, likely responding to this growing anger about this injustice, the media coverage has increasingly emphasized the legal context. In Florida, because of the “stand your ground law,” which Jeb Bush signed into law in 2005, individuals who believe they are under attack can use deadly force. If a person feels in danger and if a person has “reasonable fear” they are legally allowed to use deadly force. According Joëlle Anne Moreno, “under the new law, if you are not engaged in an illegal activity, you can stand your ground by ‘meeting force with force, including deadly force’ if you ‘reasonably believe it is necessary’ to prevent death, great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.” In other words, if you reasonably believe you or others are in danger you are entitled and empowered to use force irrespective of the actual threat. It is about belief and perception.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: The “Reasonable Fear” of a Black Male: The Trayvon Martin Tragedy.

The Layup Line » Zero Tolerance or Zero Conscience: Is High School Football Being Over-Policed?

Zero Tolerance or Zero Conscience: Is High School Football Being Over-Policed?

by djwsu on December 8, 2011

With 6 minutes remaining in the MIAA 4A Super Bowl (Boston), Matthew Owens faked an inside hand off, breaking free to the outside as he raced toward the endzone. Obviously overcome by emotion, understandable given that he was about to score the potential game- winning touchdown, which would send his school to the state championship, Owens began to “celebrate.” As he crossed the 20-yard line, he briefly raised his arm in celebration, prompting the referee to throw a flag, nullifying the touchdown. In the end, his Cathedral High School squad would fall short of their goal, losing 16-14 to Blue Hills. What Owens had imagined to be the perfect birthday present (he turned 18 on game day) and described, as the “play of his life,” has no happy ending. There would be no Hoosiers or Miracle ending, not surprising given the ways in which race, class and sports operate in contemporary America.

While clearly not a violation of the spirit of the rule (and even its written language), my interest here is not to debate the call or even the rule (you can go here for a longer discussion). What is revealing about the ensuing debate regarding the penalty assessed to Owens is how many people have used this moment to demonize Owens, and rouse the circulation of dominant stereotypes about blackness and the inner-city.

For example, in an article describing Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s reactions to the penalty, commenters used this incident as evidence of the pathology and dysfunctional values of inner-city communities

Occumom: “It has now become a “diversity culture” issue. Mumbles will excuse the typical bad behavior

OccupyBoston: “Bottom line here is that the thug knew the rules, the ref spoke to the players before the game. And the thug broke the rules for whatever reason, immaturity, bad breeding, bad parenting, bad something. In life there are ramifications for bad conduct. Just because he’s black doesn’t mean he should get a free pass.”

IWuvAlienCahThieves: First he supports Liz Warren’s Occupiers, now he supports a thug behaving badly, in flagrant violation of rules that were explained to him very clearly before the game.

Is our Mayor becoming an anarchist in his advanced age? Or does he selectively enforce and judge people based on race or political affiliation? Yes that’s it. He is corrupt.

Alleging that Owens is a “thug” and his behavior results from “bad breeding” and “bad parenting,” and decrying that “because he’s black doesn’t mean he should get a free pass” makes the racial dimensions of these responses quite clear. Owens, and blackness in general, is rendered as both undesirable and suspect because of the cultural morals and values that “thugs” or inner-city youth supposedly bring into the arenas, fields and stadiums that saturate America’s cultural landscape. Given the danger and immorality practice by “thugs” these respondents celebrate the referee as providing the necessary punishment and discipline for those who otherwise are incapable of civilized behavior.

via The Layup Line » Zero Tolerance or Zero Conscience: Is High School Football Being Over-Policed?.