Monday, March 10, 2014

Republican Minnesota Legislator Pat Garofalo Nationally Humiliated for Racism

Pat Garofalo, face palmed[
A trash-talking / trash-tweeting member of the MN GOP had to back track after first doubling down on a racist tweet.

If you listen even only occasionally to the messaging in the right wing bubble, the alternate reality to the real world that they choose to live in, there is a lot of racism and a lot of assumptions - or 'sincerely held beliefs' - that black me are more often criminals than other groups (with the possible addition of Hispanics), including those in sports.

An example - said in the larger context of a larger rant against team culture - was Rush Limbaugh when he said:
Look it, let me put it to you this way. The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.
or many of the accusations made about Richard Sherman being a thug, generally construed to be a code word or dog whistle replacing the word nigger, (in addition to actual use of the word 'nigger') in broadcast media, as tracked here.

There is a widely held belief on the right that athletes are over-privileged black men - many with white wives or girlfriends - who because they have achieved both financial and sports celebrity success, should not have that success, celebrity, or power. The way they justify that resentment is to assert that they are really criminals, and therefore in spite of any merit through performance, they are bad people who should not have that success. This is just another dog whistle short hand way of saying these black athletes are 'uppity' instead of being properly subservient, unknown, lacking in influence - and poorer.

So, I did what many other media are doing, I looked at the numbers. Most blogs and print media are only looking at a comparison between basketball players and rates of crime as measured by arrests.

The same has been done before in the context of baseball players and football players.

I went the extra step, and looked at all three in contrast to the national averages. No surprise, it turns out that those athletes are NOT a bunch of over-privileged criminals after all. (I leave it to another discussion to debate if we over-pay professional athletes.) It was interesting to me that the Regressive site's analysis of NBA crime paid special attention to the rate of crime in Minnesota, not just the national numbers. It was also interesting to me that the analysis of NFL players and arrests compared to a larger population analysis put the Vikings at the time of the comparison as the team with the worst arrest record. But just to take a larger look at the allegation that well-paid athletes more generally consider themselves above the law etc., I threw in a comparison as well to baseball.

So, here is the NBA analysis from Deadspin / Regressing:
To recap: Minnesota state representative Pat Garofalo tweeted, "Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime." He later clarified himself, saying, "I was talking about the NBA's high arrest rate and that their punishment for positive drugs tests are weaker than other leagues. No intent beyond that." So we thought we would see how high they really are.

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 308,745,538 people in the country. For concurrency's sake, we pulled the arrest accounting for 2010. There were 13,122,110 total arrests that year. Disregarding anyone who was arrested twice, this is 4.25 percent of the population. Minnesota fares a bit better. As of 2011, Minnesota had a population of 5,303,925 reported, which accounted for 178,469 arrests, for a 3.36 percent arrest rate.

This is, however, a comparison against the entire population. Maybe NBA players are actually more violent than males in their age group, which we'll define here because that's how the census presents it. By those data, there were 29,808,343 males 20-34 in the U.S. in 2010. In that same year, 3,928,463 males in that age range were arrested, for 13.18 percent. We will not get too far into black arrest rates (27.86 percent; again, higher for young males) more than doubling that of their representation in the population (12.6 percent), but believe this is relevant to whatever point Pat Garofalo was trying to dislodge from his ass.
and here is a slightly older analysis from CBS Minnesota, back in fall of 2011 -- which I include here because it addresses both baseball AND football stats, AND a reference to basketball stats AND because this is a very old right wing myth that was as wrong back in 2011 as it is in 2014.
“These are males trained to be aggressive, they have higher levels of testosterone,” said John Tauer, head coach of the University of St. Thomas basketball team. He is also a professor of social psychology.

“Part of it is thinking, I won’t get caught, there won’t be consequences for this,” he said.
I would argue that the numbers do not support this to be true in professional sports, so this appears to be factually wrong. I did not look at college sports, so do not address if this is factual in that context here.

Deadspin also did this graph, more of an apples to apples comparison, in looking strictly at adult males, not the overall population which illustrates visually what I mean:

I suspect we could find some further analysis of weapons arrests to break down by age group, but also should - in such an analysis, to be fair - also look at the rate of threats to athletes generally, celebrities generally, in comparison to the general male-and-female population, and male-only general population. (It seems reasonable for purposes of this discussion to postulate that sports figures get volumes of nasty threats if they lose, especially if they make an error, and/or if they win, possibly from fans of their opponents. Therefore, the context for involvement weapons is different.)

CBS continued:
Since 2000, the San Diego Union Tribune has found 573 NFL players arrested for things bigger than speeding. That’s an arrest rate of 1 in every 45 players.

“That certainly seems high, but if you contrast with overall public, you see the picture’s a little more murky,” Tauer said.

Indeed, according to the FBI, the national arrest rate in 2009, for all arrests, is 1 in 23.

So even though you see all of the mug shots of NFL players arrested, the general public gets arrested at a higher rate than pro football players.

“Anytime a NFL player gets arrested, you’re going to hear about that story, you aren’t going to hear about it the other times someone gets arrested,” Tauer said.

When you compare DUI arrests, it’s almost identical. In the NFL, one in 144 is arrested on suspicion of DUI. The national rate is 1 in 135.

According to an infographic on sports crime rates, in 2010, Major League Baseball players were arrested 16 times for major crimes like drug offenses and violent crimes. 34 pro football players were arrested for those offenses, which puts football and baseball at a similar rate of arrest (there are twice as many NFL players than MLB players). The NBA is the smallest league, and with 23 arrests, that puts their arrest rate at the top, at least for 2010.
Comedic pundit Stephen Colbert coined the word 'truthiness" to describe what feels true, without regard to if something is or is not true. That certainly seems to be a persistent mis-perception, and one that has strong chronic overtones of racial bias from the right.

Kudos to Garofalo for his eventual retraction, but Garofalo and the MN GOP and the rest of the right beyond our borders needs to engage in some serious intropspection about their beliefs and assumptions, and most of all needs to become fact driven not racist ideology driven. It would make a nice change, but so long as it takes a national spanking before Garofalo would make such a retreat from his tweet, the underlying problem of racism continues to be the real problem.

Garofalo fits my working definition of a bigot - someone who believes (often "sincerely", as if that made it ok) things about a group of people which are both derogatory, and not true or factual. Unfortunately, on the right, which likes to see themselves as victims when they are not, this is probably a net plus for him politically. I bet this won't be Garofalo's last 'oops' with social media; he seems to have a somewhat flat learning curve, and little incentive to improve.

1 comment:

  1. I pretty much agree with everything...Richard Sherman is not the poster boy for misunderstood NFL players. If he was not black, he'd still be a jerk. He has, afaia, excelled in an area where there is fierce competition and anything less than excellence is not good enough to make the cut. A mediocre major league athlete is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better than anyone who isn't that level (with exceptions). I would suggest that Sherman's education skipped classes in civility, social awareness and emotional maturity. Those traits are still teachable and Mr. Sherman may yet become a good guy.

    FWIW, there are a number of white players in the NFL (and a shitload of them in MLB) that I think are scumbags.