The Problem With Vick
Some crimes don't go unpunished.
OK. After having an interesting series of mini-debates with a dear friend - who, in the interest of disclosure, is a white dog owner who also happens to a) embrace race and gender conflict theory and b) have the good sense to agree with me most of time - I feel the need to clarify the comments that I wrote concerning Michael Vick in my previous post.
I'm truly not defending Mike Vick's criminal actions. I don't believe that he should somehow escape penalty simply because of the color of his skin or the fact that his most vocal detractors are white. Nor do I believe that dogfighting isn't a serious matter. Just because I find the doggy-love in this country excessive doesn't mean I wouldn't want to see some sadistic animal torturer brought to justice. But, as I wrote, I simply am not comfortable with the way this sad little episode is being publicly played out. At any rate, here are some additional thoughts that I have on the matter.
Despite the facts of the case, this is being viewed as a media/government witch hunt by most black people. Undoubtedly, part of the reason that blacks and whites are interpreting this so dissimilarly is because black people see Vick being prosecuted by a predominately white, historically inequitable criminal justice machine, skewered by a predominately white, rush-to-judgment media and kicked around by a predominately white, credulous and seemingly hypocritical public. When this happens, the actual crime becomes a secondary consideration for us. For further proof of this phenomenon, examine the case of one Orenthal James Simpson (if you're one of the last few who hasn't lost all stomach for it - or if you happen to be Nancy Grace).
Regarding the hypocrisy of the American public, black people see a LOT of it bubbling under the surface of this issue. For one thing, we Americans seem to be selective about what will and won't register emotionally with us. The same dog-lovers who allow themselves to be worked into a lather of righteous indignation over the brutal killings of scores of dogs don't seem to bat an eyelash over the brutal murders of millions of dark-skinned people in Darfur, for example. Or, if international ethnic cleansing is too unpalatable for consumption, how about those athletes/entertainers who are given a pass when they abuse and/or rape women? Or how about (and granted at this point it's officially become personal) R. Kelly? Roughly five years ago Robert Kelly filmed himself urinating on a 14-year-old girl. Since that time he's made five or six albums, one of which, released shortly after the incident, was entitled, The Chocolate Factory. This is pretty salacious shit. Yet, as of this post, he has yet to go to trial. And just as I can't help wondering if Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would be getting the same treatment Vick is, I can't help wondering if Kelly would be treated with such kid gloves if he'd chosen to film himself urinating on a blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl. Dogs, it appears, are more worthy of protection in the minds of the American public than little black girls.
Less importantly, like it or not, PETA and similar groups have become the public face of the Stick It To Mike Vick movement. Yes, the very same PETA members who are screaming for Michael Vick's blood and who would undoubtedly hurdle over a homeless man on their way to the vegan deli without losing a step. I would also argue, that many animal-rights activists are driven, to one degree or another, by an unsettling blend of self-righteousness, misanthropy, elitism, and yes, racism. I've read and heard many of the arguments explaining why I should stop eating meat and encourage others to do the same. I just can't reconcile those arguments with the people who make them - people who equate the meat industry with the slave trade and the Holocaust. Recently, I completed Pamela Rice's 101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian. Although I feel she could have just as easily whittled it down to four or five reasons, I must admit that I mostly agreed with her. So much so that I visited her vivavegie website and found this bullshit, in which she stupidly likens vegetarians with other historically marginalized groups, puts insults to vegetarians on par with racial slurs and openly wonders "where's our Al Sharpton?" Do black folks want the fate of Mike Vick decided by these people (who, it quickly becomes clear, are more interested in letting you know exactly how much of an asshole you are for enjoying your chicken kiev than they are in broadening their membership base)?
So with the Vick case, we've once again found ourselves at that messy intersection on the American social landscape where race and class collide. Predictably, we've also come to the point where we're left divided cleanly along racial lines with regard to how we see things. And since I don't hold out any hope that white folks won't recognize anything but moral absolutes, I guess I can't expect black folks to stop defending a criminal.