Sunday, July 22, 2007

Michael Vick, Dog Fighting and Racism

I've been getting some hits on a throwaway snark I wrote a while back when the allegations of Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting first surfaced. I want to try something a little more serious here. I've interspersed some photos I took from last year's San Diego Special Olympics to help make my point. That Special Olympics event was hosted by an overwhelmingly white, Christian college which also provided most of the volunteers. With that introduction to these incongruous photos, off we go to the meat of the post.

There are those who are concerned that Michael Vick's indictment will lead to racial bias against other black athletes. I would like to suggest that the logical reasoning that leads to this concern is exactly that of the one that leads to racism: reasoning by generalizing from individual examples.

Where's the racism?

The blogosphere is filled with posts blasting Michael Vick. I could not find any that took Mr. Vick's actions and applied them to, say, Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Cincinnatti Reds or Deuce McAllister of the New Orleans Saints. There is no evidence that such generalizations are occurring with any kind of frequency. Yes, I'm sure you can find racist sites that are gloating about Michael Vick, but they are rare, individual examples and not the norm.

Find any yet?

If one can argue that because such sites exist then America still has a significant racial problem, then one can also argue that since Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting then black Americans have serious moral problems. If you can infer generalizations about a broad population from one example, then you can do it from another. Another example would be to look at a single shark attack and infer that sharks are feasting on swimmers every day.

White, Christian students were the primary workforce.

Suggesting that Michael Vick's issues will lead to problems for people like Deuce McAllister is insulting to the rest of America. It suggests that we cannot differentiate between people and this is clearly not the case. If you visit the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Saints Forum, you'll find a wild and almost totally unmoderated discussion group. Search it for any suggestion that Deuce McAllister is anything other than a stand-up fellow both before and after the Michael Vick indictment. I doubt you'll find any. Check out this thread, for example.

How was this kid allowed to win an award?

On that forum, there are many accusations that racism is a motivating factor in Michael Vick's indictment. There's just no strong evidence to suggest that this is the case. If an unmoderated, anonymous discussion board from the Deep South isn't infested with racist sentiments about this, then it's pretty doubtful many others are doing it, either.


Kelly the little black dog said...

While I don't disagree with your general conclusion - its certainly racist to assume that a person of color is only charged with a crime because of their race. We saw enough of this with OJ?

But lack of evidence of racism doesn't disprove its existence, and the Times-Picayune's isn't the best example to prove your point.

K T Cat said...

Well, lack of evidence doesn't disprove the existence of pixies and sprites, either. :-)

If you look through the Saints message board, you'll see two dominant racial themes with regards to Michael Vick. The first are the ones who claim he's being targeted because he's black. The second are the ones that are disappointed in him after having experienced the positive role models of Warren Moon, Jeff Blake, Deuce McAllister and others. Any hypothesis of racism would have to explain these facts.

It's not the lack of evidence, it's the statistics of the data points. I'm suggesting that the people who claim that racism is a huge problem are using statistical outliers as their means.

Anonymous said...

In response to Jamie Fox: This defense of Vick being a black star is sickening. There is a handbook alright, about what not to do in America if you don't want the hate and on the list is Child Abuse, Elderly Abuse and Animal Abuse. Those are taboo and it's not only black stars who need to read that handbook. If you abuse those without a voice, without defense, then you hurt us all. We loved Vick's Cinderella story, up from the projects and a hard life not unlike the rest of us. It gave us hope. If he had been a good guy, a man we could relate to, he would have been we wouldn't hate him. We hate him because he's mean and he hurt one of the things we care about...we love the underdogs...even if they really are dogs. I hope we can go on and forget about him after this. His name is one I don't want to hear again. I don't want to see the world take a step backward on the race issue because this guy was not the good guy we hoped he was. I still have faith in humanity.

Anonymous said...

Listen to Max kellerman's assessment of this case and I can't say race is totally involved but its a part of it. As far as peta goes maybe no race involved but the backlash of america totally shows theres race involved. Where else have you seen this...OJ, Michael (pick one) and you rarely or never see this with whites. Did this happen with Robert Blakely? Nope what about when Osborne bit the chickens head off? Not really. Peyton talking about hunting? Nope. Now i know what i'm saying is already just hitting the wall of your confirmation bias and no matter what i say your not going to consider it. but you know what, I've considered the points against michael vick and I agree with some of them. he should be punished, the crime was brutal but is what Robert Byrd said necessary. Is what everyone is saying on sites and everything necessary. And explain why the nation considered him guilty before he pleaded. That's happened before too. So, I don't think playing the race card all-in is necessary but the fact is it needs to be played...just wish america fessed up to it.