Long break between posts, sorry about that. Beginning of the semester and whatnot. As a bit of warning, I spilled a beer on my keyboard, and now my D key often doesn't work. I've spellchecked as thoroughly as I can, but it gets tiring, so that's my excuse for missing Ds in this post (and all future posts until I break down and buy a new keyboard).
Anyway, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Adrian Peterson (a/k/a Purple Jesus, though I think we'll be resigning that nickname fairly soon) has been indicted on charges stemming from beating one of his sons with a switch. First the Vikings suspended him for a game, then reinstated him, then suspended him infinitely after hotel chain Radisson pulled its sponsorship from the Vikes.
It's that last part that I've been ruminating on the past several days. Much as Ray Rice was not infinitely suspended until the video of his crime became public, AP was not in any danger of missing much more playing time until sponsors began to get uncomfortable. In a wider parallel, the NFL is seriously working on some issues now that Anheuser-Busch, the NFL's biggest marking partner, has indicated it ain't too happy with what's been going on. Most interestingly, A-B didn't threaten to pull funding or rescind their partnership, just pointed out a lot more needs to be done. As opposed to their tone-deaf replies to an angered public, the NFL responded publicly to A-B within the hour.
This is both a heartening and entirely dispiriting development. On the one hand, as many have pointed out, the NFL was never going to make any real changes until sponsors started leaving. So in that sense, this is a positive development, as it may actually lead the NFL to making some real changes. But on the other hand, why is it that gigantic public outcry (as well as what is obviously morally right) have no effect at all? It's quite disappointing that one milquetoast public statement from an international beverage conglomerate has exponentially more effect than the outrage of thousands (millions?) of citizens. Not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.
It reminded me especially of this interesting think piece by Albert Burneko, explaining why the owner of the Atlanta Hawks super racist email was indeed super racist. It's well worth a read, but the tl;dr version is that his plan was to court the theoretical higher spending of white bigots by actively discouraging the current real spending of Black people on his team and at his arena. As Burneko points out, it's pretty much the definition of racism to view the actual spending of Black people as literally worth less than the hypothetical spending of hypothetical white people.
Most depressing about the piece, though, is that the comments section is filled to the brim with people saying some variation of "well, white people do have more money in America. It's not racist to go after them to the exclusion of Black people, it's just smart business." But as Burneko himself pointed out in the article (again, well worth a read), something can be both good business and racist at the same time, with the fact that it may be good business (though he also does a great job of explicating why it is not good business in this case), that doesn't make it any less racist.
But clearly to many, the fact that you may make more money by catering to bigots is completely fine, because after all, it might make you more money. No matter how cynical I get about the nature of capitalism, this line of thinking never ceases to amaze and astound me. Something that is as unequivocally racist as "we need less Black people allowed to spend none on our business" is wiped away as just smart business. The magic of American business worship is that as soon as something is justified as good for business, it automatically can not be wrong.
As I often ask my students when we're discussing white collar crime, though -- why can't businesses produce and sell crack? After all, it's highly profitable, has a wide-spread and readily available market, pre-existing distribution network, etc. Eventually the students settle on it not being allowed because crack is bad both for the individual and the community. So I use that opportunity to point out we're obviously willing to draw some lines around business practices and proclaim them a step too far.
So why does racism not rise to the level of business practice we're willing to condemn? Simply put, because most white Americans don't see racism as a problem. So it's much easier to hide behind the mantle of "it's just good business!" because it's not really about the business, it's about not caring about racism. People are genuinely afraid of the dangers of crack, so even Good Business™is not an excuse for it. But something as piddling as racism? Well, we're not going to let that get in the way of making money!
The process is exactly the same as how the Vikings handled Peterson's case. After quickly reinstating him, their best player, their excuse was that they needed to let due process work itself out. Which, on its face, is a reasonable decision. Except for the fact that in that past 2 years, the have cut three people for being charged with, not prosecuted of, various crimes of a similar level offense as Peterson. The difference, of course, is that AP is one of the all-time greats and those guys were replaceable cogs. So much like "good business,"due process is simply being used a smoke screen for the actual attitude of "sure, he may beat the shit out of his kids, but have you seen him make a cut in the open field?!?"
Again, not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. But hey, at least we've gotten to a point in society in which viciously beating your partner and/or small child is becoming something that is not good business, so we may actually start doing something about it.