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dotsonVirginia Dotson is an 84-year-old black American woman who was violently thrown to the ground by the police outside a Walmart near Columbus, Ohio on August 1st 2009. She was thrown down so hard she was bleeding from her head.

Dotson did have a steak knife, but she also had a cane and did not seem to be an immediate threat: people passed right by her.  Onlookers were more upset by how the police acted than by Dotson herself – so much so that four more police cars had to be called in to keep things under control.

One of the onlookers recorded it on his mobile phone and posted it on YouTube (video to follow).

Dotson’s daughter had left her in the car while she ran into Walmart to buy some things. She was taking a chance because Dotson has Alzheimer’s: her memory is failing so she does not always understand what is going on. Her daughter thought she would be safe, though, because she did not know how to take off her seat belt.

Dotson saw a steak knife in the car and cut herself free, cutting herself in the process. Dotson left the car to look for her daughter. She was bleeding with knife in hand! Some children approached her and it seems she threatened them.

By the time the police arrived people seemed calm, though Dotson still had a knife in her hand.

Officer Tammy Scott, a white woman, came towards her and asked her to drop the knife. Dotson would not. So Scott took her by the arm and violently threw her to the ground and then got the knife out of her hand. But she threw Dotson down so hard that onlookers were shocked and began to gather. They were afraid the police were going to hurt her even more.

It seemed like they cracked her head since she was bleeding from there. But she was not knocked out, though she did need stitches later. Her wrist may have been broken too.

This took place a few weeks after the police went overboard against another older black person with a cane: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

But unlike the Gates thing, this case got very little press. According to Google News a week after the event there were only four news stories on it. While it did make a top newspaper in Britain (Daily Mail) and a top blog in America (Gawker), it was not picked up by AP, CNN, the New York Times or any large news outfit in America.

Why is that? Is this acceptable behaviour by the police? Are black people so threatening to white people that they see nothing wrong in this? Or is it because Dotson is black and so the whole affair does not matter to the white people who make the big decisions about what gets reported nationwide as news? You know, the same people who like to report on missing white women.

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Susan+CandiottiCNN had a story this morning about the Valley Swim Club, the one in Pennsylvania that kicked out those black and Hispanic children because of concerns about the “complexion” of the club.

It was written by Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt, both white. I know some white readers will not like that I said that, but I think it matters in this case. I wish it did not.

Candiotti and Levitt wrote a story about an allegedly racist swim club but left out the most damning bit of racism in the whole story: that when the swim club president first gave an excuse for kicking out the black and Hispanic children he said nothing about concerns for safety but rather concerns for “complexion” and “atmosphere”:

There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.

That is completely left out of the story. Instead it repeats the club’s new line about safety. As if the club never said anything different.

Candiotti and Levitt also repeat the club’s claim that it is “very diverse”. Again without challenging it. They did not ask the members just how diverse it was. Like how many black members they have seen at the club. They did not even report how many blacks they saw or did not see while they were at the club themselves.

(I have a sinking feeling that for the swim club “diverse” means one black and “very diverse” means two.)

Lower Moreland, the township the club is in, is only 0.5% black. That is one black person in 200. It takes two minutes to find that out. But it never seems to cross CNN’s mind to check into that. Why?

They take the club at its word, give it the benefit of the doubt. I notice that white people will tend to do that when one of them is accused of racism. You know why? Because the appearance of racism makes all whites look bad but the fact of racism does not directly hurt them one bit. And because many of them believe racism is a thing of the past.

The American press mostly does not go looking for stories about racism, even though it is everywhere. Like how did Lower Moreland get to be just 0.5% black when 9% of the American middle class is black? But even when a story falls right in front of them they do not go in for the kill.

Another case from this morning: the New York Times reported that blacks in New York City are four times more likely to be out of work than whites. A year ago it was “only” two times. To its credit the article wonders why, but then it does the anything-but-racism thing that white people do. If blacks are getting thrown out of work way more than whites and even more than Hispanics and Asians, why is racism not a possible reason?

Note: This post grew out of  comment I made on a post at Stuff White People Do: “Hate to admit that  they’ve done something racist”.

– Abagond, 2009.

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