Three stories have popped up in the last two days that highlight how far this country has to go when it comes to understanding racial differences and getting along with each other. In every case, the hateful antagonist is a white male, and in two of
February 17, 2013

Three stories have popped up in the last two days that highlight how far this country has to go when it comes to understanding racial differences and getting along with each other. In every case, the hateful antagonist is a white male, and in two of the cases, the target is either a child or a woman.

Slapping crying babies on airplanes is a bad idea, whether or not they're related to you

I guess Joe Ricky Hundley of Idaho hasn't been clued in to the fact that small children cry as airplanes descend to clear their ears and stabilize the pressure. When Jessica Bennett's 2-year old son started crying as the plane descended on a flight into Atlanta, this happened:

The boy's mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, of Minnesota told the FBI that she and her son were seated in row 28, seat B, on February 8 on Delta Flight 721 that originated in Minneapolis, according to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta this week.

The boy began crying because of the altitude change, and his mother tried to soothe him, court papers said.
Then Hundley, who was seated next to the mother and son, allegedly told her to "shut that ('N word') baby up," according to court documents.

Hundley then turned around and slapped the 2-year-old in the face with an open hand, which caused the child to scream even louder, the affidavit said.

Ya think? That sort of seems to go without saying, right? Hundley's the one crying now, since he faces an assault charge that carries a one-year prison term. Slapping other people's children is bad enough. Doing it while assuming the role of slave owner is far, far worse.

Don't let the black nurse care for the white baby

This one comes from a Flint, Michigan hospital. Again via CNN:

The lawsuit accuses managers at Hurley Medical Center in Flint of reassigning Tonya Battle, who has worked at the facility for 25 years, based on the color of her skin.

The man approached Battle, while she was caring for his child in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, asking to speak to her supervisor, according to the complaint filed in January by Battle's attorney.

She pointed the charge nurse in his direction.

The man, who is not named in the filing, allegedly showed her a tattoo that may have been "a swastika of some kind" and told her that he didn't want African-Americans involved in his baby's care.

The request, according to the lawsuit, made its way through management ranks, and was granted. Battle's manager called her at home to tell her she would be reassigned -- and why, the suit says.


The hospital's lawyer then objected to the decision, and the note was removed. The staff then told the father that they could no long honor his request, according to the complaint.

Even so, the lawsuits alleges, for more than a month no African American nurses were assigned to care of the child.

Emory University President defends 3/5ths person compromise

When one is arguing for the value of compromise, it might be a bad idea to cite the 3/5ths of a person provision in the constitution as a fine example of how compromise can work.

One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.

Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.

Far be it from me to argue with a university president, but the Federalist Papers have a completely different version of how that compromise came to be, and who argued for full personhood for slaves and who did not. Let's just say it went in the reverse direction. And, as Digby points out, there were some serious consequences, which we seem to still see today:

That "pragmatic compromise" was in service of a system that led to a bloody civil war and centuries of suffering for millions of African Americans. The "higher aspiration" wasn't met in that "compromise" it was forged in blood on battlefields filled with hundreds of thousands of casualties (and nearly two centuries later in the streets of Southern cities.) To use that as an example of how pragmatic compromise leads to the greater good over time is shockingly perverse.

Even more perverse, given the first two stories. Yes, the American Civil War never ended. It just shifted to new theatres.

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