Besides being a cop killer and all around jerk-face, Mumia Abu-Jamal still believes he is a victim of racist oppression. Despite the fact that a) he is guilty and b) two of the jury members and one of the key witnesses who convicted him are black, Mumia and his Legion of the Duped have managed to use his supposed victim status to turn him into an icon. On this point, however, I have to agree with them. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a victim of racism, except the only racists in his sad life have not been his oppressors. They are his supporters.
The question each of us should ask in this case is: why Mumia? If it is truly about his innocence, then surely the progressive left that has propped Mumia up as an icon could have found a more worthy recipient of their time and energy. Surely, right now, there is someone sitting on death row who didn't have the murder weapon right next to him with the bullet from the murdered cop in his belly?
So why Mumia? Mumia Abu-Jamal is an intelligent man, an eloquent poet and a powerful speaker. In short, he is everything progressive liberals expect black men not to be.
George W. Bush said it best (for the record that is the first time "George W. Bush" and "said it best" have ever been used in the same sentence) when he described the liberal racism that props up Mumia as "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been made into an icon, not because of racial oppression, but because he defies racist expectations.
While this soft bigotry may help Mumia, for other minorities, I cannot see it as anything less than destructive. Soft-bigotry may not display the overt harm of Jim-Crow era racism, but they are both cut from the same cloth. You cannot believe an entire race of people needs your help with out also believing they are inferior to you.
In the public arena, soft-bigotry goes by many different euphemisms, most common among them are "diversity" and "affirmative action." These hall marks of soft-bigotry have become so ingrained in society you can see their hand at action in every corporate board room and every university lecture hall. But do they actually help?
Empirically, we are starting to see the evidence of how soft-bigotry hurts the very people it is supposed to help. In an academic setting , researchers Stephen Cole and Elinor Barber have found that race-based preferences at Ivy-league schools resulted in less minorities wishing to pursue academic careers. Researcher Richard Sander also found that race-based admission standards in law schools results in less black and Hispanic lawyers, not more.
Affirmative Action, especially as it is practiced by Universities in the form of race-based preferences, cannot survive even the most surface level analysis without showing its racist roots. If race-based preferences are about providing opportunities to poor, lower class groups, why not use parental education achievement or parental income instead of race when handing out preference? As it is now, the daughter of a black CEO has a better chance of going to an Ivy League school the son of a white farmer.
If affirmative action is about helping historically oppressed groups, why are Asians not also given preferential treatment? Over the last 100 years, perhaps no other groups has had to suffer as much as Asians. The same Jim-Crow laws that applied to blacks, applied to Asians. During WWII, Asians all across the country were rounded up and placed into internment camps simply because of their race. The large in-flux of Asian immigrants to the US during the 60's and 70's also means many Asians have had to overcome language barriers that African Americans have never faced.
Despite their historic oppression, Asians do not receive preferential treatment from colleges because, as a group, they have already exceeded what ever racist low-expectations school administrators have for the other minority groups. In other words, it is not enough to be from a historically oppressed minority group, you have to be from a historically oppressed minority group with low expectations.
Because of the Orwellian world we live in-where night is day and good is bad- saying that all races are equal and should be treated equally, without preference for one or the other, makes you a racist. Saying Blacks and Hispanics are equal to me in every way and therefore do not need my help, makes me a bigot.
In reality, there is only one difference between me and the Pro-Affirmitive-Action-Free-Mumia crowd. When I say men should "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" I actually mean it.