Letters to the Editor

Readers rage over Horowitz racism; a little TV won't kill your kids; will celibacy make you happier?


Letters to the Editor
August 23, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)


Guns don't kill black people, other blacks do

BY DAVID HOROWITZ
(08/16/99)

I thought David Horowitz's column on Aug. 16 might be a chance to
critically explore the reasoning of the NAACP's decision to sue the gun
industry. But the NAACP suit is just a device for Horowitz's rambling
diatribe about how racism is a collective hallucination of black people used
to deflect responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

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Too bad. There was an intelligent argument to be made against the way civil
rights organizations spend money and clout in quixotic legal tussles while
problems within the black community continue to fester. Another possible
issue is how demonizing the tobacco, gun and entertainment industries may
decrease the feeling of personal responsibility in all sectors of our society.
Yet another is how America has switched from hero worship to victim worship
in the last 30 years, and how that leads to a culture of learned
helplessness.

But had Horowitz chosen to take on any of those angles, someone might
have demanded cogent thinking and a well-structured argument. It's an
unfortunate fact that discussion of racial issues is left to the ranters on
all sides.

-- Alicia R. Montgomery

A constitutionally protected right to bear arms should not be a free
ticket to capitalize on a vulnerable market with a violent product. It is
not inappropriate for any of us to to attempt to force those who make
weapons to act responsibly.

Anyone who would question a group's desire to call those who profit from
their misery to account for their actions either misses the point
entirely or has ulterior motives.

-- Ned Landin

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It's about time we stopped sweeping the truth under the rug. If we
finally admit to these problems in the black community, we might some
day arrive at some meaningful solutions.

-- Alan Davis

First of all, it remains to be seen whether the gun industry's hands-off
attitude regarding the distribution of its lethal product has indeed been
irresponsible. If the threat of a lawsuit for forces the industry to police
itself to prevent its guns, especially handguns, from somehow escaping the
legitimate market and finding their way into illegal distribution channels,
then we'll all be better off.

But Horowitz attempts to have both ways in his piece as he discusses the
plight of blacks. In one instance, he says black leaders aren't doing enough
to address issues their affecting communities, such as drugs and violence.
Then, he points out that "heavier penalties (for crack cocaine dealers) were
originally demanded by black leaders who claimed that crack was associated
with street violence in the black community and the white criminal justice
system did not care enough about its destructive consequences to make the
penalties harsh." So which is it? Are black leaders in psychological denial
about the crime problem or aren't they? Or are they raising legitimate
questions about how the policing in their communities is being carried out?

Horowitz makes the mistake, like so many other white conservative
commentators, of assuming blacks are waiting for that mythical black leader
to bring word down from the mountaintop on what needs to be done and how to
get there. Years before white kids began slaughtering other white kids with
semi-automatic gunfire in suburban communities, black kids were being killed
one at a time by other black kids on city playgrounds at across the country
for equally stupid reasons. But black parents didn't sit on their hands
waiting for a black savior to tell them what to do. They organized. There have been numerous "Stop the Violence"-type campaigns in cities across the country.

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Horowitz essentially dismisses as irrelevant the history of blacks in
this country. Why is it history matters to every other group except
blacks? Jews can vow to never forget the Holocaust, and rightfully so. But let a black person mention slavery or the effect of the subsequent 100 years of Jim Crow laws and practices,
and watch the eyes roll. Horowitz and others speak as though the slate was wiped clean the very
moment slavery was abolished, legalized segregation was wiped out and the
1964 Civil Rights Act was enacted. They tend to suggest that once blacks
overcame more than a century of legalized white oppression, blacks were
accepted as first-class citizens with loving arms by the white majority.
Well, such thinking is intellectually dishonest, and Horowitz knows it.

To be sure, traditional black leadership has at times appeared to be out of
step with the times and slow to react to newer challenges. But Horowitz's
commentary reads more like an indictment of blacks than as an
indictment of the contemporary civil rights movement. And he replaces the
idea of today's black struggles being linked exclusively to white oppression
with an equally dubious claim that white society can do, and perhaps has
done, no wrong when it comes to blacks.

-- Bob Campbell

Rochester Hills, Mich.

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Horowitz calmly cast out a canard commonly found on all the neo-Nazi Web sites: Although blacks make up only 12 percent of the population they are responsible for 46 percent of the violent crime. Horowitz is repeating a lie, and he should do better research.

The FBI publishes the Uniform Crime Reports annually. It is the only comprehensive crime report in America, and is widely quoted and widely misunderstood. The UCR does not report that blacks are responsible for 46 percent of violent crime because the report deals with arrests, not convictions. Horowitz is corrupting our constitutional presumption of innocence.

The UCR for 1997, the most recent year for which data is available, states that blacks were arrested for 41.1 percent of all violent crime included in the report, but it makes no presumptions about the ratio of blacks in the general populations of the areas reporting.

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There are 17,000 arresting agencies in the United States, serving a population (in 1997) of about 254 million. However, the UCR report for "Total Arrests -- Distribution by Race" includes only 9,271 agencies serving a total population of 183 million. The FBI does not tell us which agencies are included in the report. If the agencies included in the report were tilted toward police departments in large urban centers, such as Chicago, Los Angeles or St. Louis, the ratio of blacks in the general population would be much greater than 12 percent, and the violent crime committed by blacks would not look so wildly out of proportion to their numbers.

Surely Horowitz can operate a calculator. If he divided the total population included in the report (183,239,000) by the number of agencies included in the report (9,271), he would find the average population served by these agencies is 19,765 people. Since the average population served by each of the 17,000 agencies in the country is less than 15,000 people Horowitz would discover that the report is indeed tilted toward larger urban centers.

Since blacks make up a much greater proportion of the population in large urban centers, blacks being arrested for 41.1 percent of violent crime may not be out of proportion to their numbers. Indeed, it may well be that whites are arrested at a greater rate than their proportion in these urban populations.

-- R. F. Gilmore

San Diego

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DAVID HOROWITZ RESPONDS:

I didn't take my statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. I used the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see Felony Sentences in State Courts, 1996). These numbers represent convictions, not just arrests. Moreover they represent state statistics. State courts handle 96 percent of all felony convictions in the United States. The remaining 4 percent handled in federal courts involve mainly nonviolent offenses, such as drug trafficking or fraud. The Bureau of Justice Statistics show that blacks commit 46 percent of violent crime.


TV can be a good parent


BY ARIEL GORE

(08/16/99)

and

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Take my TV!
BY JACQUES LESLIE
(08/17/99)

Am I really expected to believe that there are no other choices between 1)
constant interaction with one's child and 2) parking 18-month-olds in front
of the television? Am I really expected to believe that having pediatricians pay attention to
their young patients' television-watching habits, as they might their
consumption of junk foods -- even if the doctors have a heart-to-heart with the
parents when either activity seems excessive -- is going to lead to witch-hunts
against TV-watching parents? Ninety-eight percent of American households have at least one
television. How, exactly, could TV watchers become marginalized and
demonized enough to become victims of the judicial system?

I'm just as horrified about "welfare reform"
and economic exploitation as Gore, but I don't see what any of this really
has to do with infants watching television. What's the matter with parking
your kids in the living room with blocks (and later crayons, then library books, then chemistry sets), when both you and the child are tired of dealing with
each other? You can buy blocks and crayons by the case for what your cable
bill costs each month. Both very poor and very rich children have been known
to entertain themselves for hours building tent cities with a couple of
blankets and the kitchen table. I used to do that myself -- frequently while
my single, factory-worker mother was in the living room watching some boring old TV show.

If you want to argue that there's no reason some of your kids' time shouldn't
be spent in front of the television, then do so. But don't try to claim that
there are no other choices for poor and working class women, and that it's
middle-class presumption to suggest otherwise. Poor and working class women
make choices from the available options about what their children do for fun, just like middle-class women do -- though, usually, from more options. Anyone can debate any of
the choices, but let's not claim that these women are too passive to make them.

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-- Doris Dungey

Television sucks! I don't have one -- but if I did, and if I had children, I wouldn't let my children get near a TV. I don't have any children because, as Ariel also states, we don't have "government salaries for stay-at-home moms." Well, to me that means
I'd better keep working until I can afford to have children -- because when I
do, you'd better believe that I'm going to stay home and raise them myself,
not have some electronic box do it for me.

-- Sara Kingsley

Although it is true that young tots should not be exposed to long
periods in front of the television, let's not forget that there are many
choices and as always falls to the individual parents to monitor. You
can't ignore that children who grow up watching educational television
at the preschool period, such as "Sesame Street" or "Blues Clues," do better
when they begin school.

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-- Ann Lyons

Hubbardston, Mass.

I wonder if Jacques Leslie has ever had to care for children full-time for any extended period of time? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that hours on end of horrible TV and no human interaction would be bad for a child. However, a half-hour or hour of decent programming certainly doesn't equate to giving up satisfaction in an unmediated world. Letting a toddler watch a half-hour of TV isn't mutually exclusive with hours of book-reading and outdoor-playing in the same day.

-- Mary Kay Hannah

Giving it up
BY LILY BURANA

(08/14/99)

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and


Heavy petting

BY LISA TOMER
(08/14/99)

I had to laugh when I read "Giving it up," about the virtues of celibacy
for women. Williams talks about how she developed an identity
outside of male-female relationships during her periods of celibacy, and
she's absolutely right.

This happened to me, but not by choice. Like many linear-thinking and
awkward-acting guys, I have lived most of my life in a state of sexual
near-starvation. There is an upside: Not getting laid forces you to find hobbies and develop
your individuality. But it's a bitter irony to read about this --
celibacy sure wasn't my choice! Men don't have all the cards in their hand -- it's women who decide who gets laid and who isn't worthy.

-- Rob Freeman

As a born-again Christian I found it tremendously
exciting to find simpatico beliefs in the non-Christian media. I have
enjoyed the celibate life by choice for more than eight years. My reasons do not
include any kind of competition with others for the "higher spiritual
plane." They are quite simply that once you fall in love with the
Lord, you don't want to be unfaithful to Him. There are no guarantees for any Christian --
or anyone else -- of a lasting relationship these days unless the rules are
observed His way. Celibacy is part of holiness. This way, relationships are
much more balanced and simplified, and more permanent aspects of a lasting
union can be explored purely and without hormonal deception.

-- Nancy Dronko


Names that live in infamy

BY DAVID BRIN
(08/13/99)

We learn enormous amounts from reading about those on the margins
of society. Norman Mailer taught us more about what our society was
about through his journalism and reporting than any novelist of his
age. As has Tom Wolfe; Albert Camus was another. All wrote about those on the margins, as well as those who had been marginalized.

If anyone deserves the infamy award it might be Charles Manson
and his "family" -- yet Ed Sander's brilliant portrait of this madman and of
those who would become his followers (in "The Family") has seldom been equaled in its
insight into those on the farthest reaches of society, those
who are indeed mad. Sanders forces us to confront the consequences of
allowing a few to be completely cut off from the rest of society.
Through Sanders we understand Manson, and those who would do his
bidding.

We read about the infamous because it, hopefully, gives us insight --
and insight can give us some knowledge about how to head off
similar problems in the future.

Also: To have included Kevin Mitnick's name and crime along with those of
Theodore Kaczynski,the Oklahoma City terrorists and killer Mark David Chapman shows
absolutely no perspective, no ability to discern nuance. Perhaps Brin
should just stick to writing about worlds far into the future rather
than commenting on the real one.

-- Lewis Z. Koch

Who owns the Columbine tragedy?
BY DAVE CULLEN

(08/16/99)

It escapes me why newspapers and television stations from afar sent
correspondents to Columbine to cover the shootings. What does some
reporter from New York or Miami or San Antonio know about the place
and the people there? What local angle is to be found? All you get
is a bunch of out-of-towners clumsily negotiating the turf, exponentially
adding to the mob of people and, ultimately, producing the same darned story as everybody else?

If these people would separate themselves from their egos and really
think about what they're doing, they wouldn't send their crews. What if it
were their kids' school? Would they want dozens of helicopters in the sky,
a throng of yahoos from 3,000 miles away asking them stupid questions and
cameras capturing every little tear that falls?

As a former police beat reporter at a large South Florida daily, I
hated ganging up on people during their private moments of grief. I
remember the time I was steeling myself to knock on the door of a family
whose child had drowned in their back yard pool. A car zoomed into the
driveway, a man got out and ran to the front door. It would have been a
perfect opportunity to swoop in, but I held back. Good thing. I found out
it was the child's father. I got in my car and left. I missed "the story"
but felt good that I hadn't interrupted the man and his wife's first
private moments of grief together.

Should reporters and editors be more sensitive to victims' needs? Yes.
Will they? I doubt it. These stories are just too juicy and easy to cover.

-- Donna Pazdera

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

I found Dave Cullen's story to be a
wonderful example of media hypocrisy. Cullen is quick to point out that
the anonymous "media" has so far owned this story, and now that the
school wants to take it back, "the media" is not willing. Who is
this shadow group that Cullen alludes to? He tells us that Rick Kaufman, the
district communications director, speaks for the school, but when it
comes time to name "the media," Cullen backs down and cites "a TV
executive" or "a senior national print correspondent."
Come on; tell us who these gluttonous media folk are -- these anonymous people who refuse to give back what they have taken.

-- Mike Hedblom


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