Apology to Ann Coulter (and unfair attacks on Kathleen Parker)

No, I haven’t gone crazy. I still think that Ann Coulter’s column (which you can read here) is dumb.

But on my Daily Kos diary I did take this quote out of context (and issued a correction when alert readers told me that I could have taken it out of context):

Perhaps, someday, blacks will win the right to be treated like volitional human beings. But not yet

Initially, I read this sentence as Coulter saying that blacks didn’t deserve to be treated as volitional human beings (“volitional” as in being able to think rationally for themselves). But when I reread the article I see that she probably meant that “the media and political/social leaders should be treating blacks as volitional human beings but aren’t as yet”.

Yes, it is still a dumb quote; I still see no reason at all that Trayvon Martin should have been profiled. He was minding his own business and people have the right to do that. But it isn’t an inherently racist quote.

My apologies to Ann Coulter.

Kathleen Parker
I winced when I read this:

Screen shot 2013-07-18 at 10.20.15 AM

From here.

I invite you to read the entire Parker article, which contains this:

This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn’t mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn’t need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.

No, this isn’t “justifying” profiling, but what this admits is that human beings appear to be hardwired to take mental shortcuts (heuristics) which rely on (often faulty) inductive reasoning: “gee, black men have caused these these recent break ins and we see black guys arrested on television, so this black guy is more likely to be a criminal than, say, a similarly dressed white or Asian guy”.

And yes, people often call such heuristics “common sense”. But, too many times, “common sense” is often a matter of “knowing what isn’t so”, and I think that Ms. Parker was commenting on that.

I should also say this: I could believe (at first) that Ann Coulter meant what she said in a mean spirited, racist manner because I have little respect for her. But I have to concede that I was almost certainly wrong in how I took that sentence.

On the other hand, I immediately thought “Parker couldn’t have meant that; she is too smart to have said what the headline claims” because I see her as smart and principled. So I went ahead and read her column with an open mind.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to those that I perceive to be intelligent and principled; you might call that a type of Bayesian reasoning. 😉


July 18, 2013 - Posted by | racism, ranting, social/political | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] By the way, this kind of thinking isn’t lost to the annals of history. Blatant racism, the kind that is vicious and personal, crops up amazingly often. On Wednesday – this past Wednesday — Ann Coulter posted to her blog, (and this is a direct quote,) “Perhaps, someday, blacks will win the right to be treated like volitional human beings. But not yet.” [Ed. Note: Recent posts suggest that I originally read this statement incorrectly on her website. Personally, I still find the way it is presented ambiguous. But judge for yourself.] […]

    Pingback by CMCL Reflections — July 21st, 2013 | T.H. Cooke | February 16, 2015 | Reply

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