Giuliani/Dyson Debate: Racism is Sin. Legitimate Social Analysis and Questions are Not
I write to weigh in on what I am calling the debate between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Georgetown Sociology Professor and media commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. It occurred on the Sunday television talk show, Meet the Press.
I have associated the video which has gone viral with this article so that my readers can go to the source and not make the mistake of accepting the filtered analysis which all too often masquerades as news.
Let me begin with a disclaimer.
I write as a private citizen. Yes, I am a Catholic Christian who sincerely seeks to inform my participation in every aspect of my cultural participation by my Christian faith. On that, I begin with the assertion that racism, of any kind, is not only unjust and repugnant, it is sin.
The glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this definition of Racism:
“Unjust discrimination on the basis of a person’s race; a violation of human dignity, and a sin against justice.”
It refers to the following paragraph in the text which further elucidates the unequivocal repudiation of racism.
“The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”
This paragraph is only one of many paragraphs within this authoritative text which summarize the teaching of my Church. In all them, there are further references to the Sacred Scriptures and the unbroken teaching of the Catholic Church.
Racism is always unjust and it is always sin.
By the way, that includes ALL racism, no matter which way it flows.
This authoritative teaching is rooted in the truth concerning the equal dignity of every human person. That dignity exists precisely because we are all created in the Image of God.
This heated exchange on Meet the Press was precipitated by a discussion of the anticipated action of the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri.
However, as has now become the norm in such media discussions, it soon broadened to include race relations, crime statistics, and the relationship between police officers and the local communities which they serve.
The former Mayor of New York thus brought in some sociological statistics concerning crime. From that point on, the exchange between the former Mayor and the Sociology professor got somewhat, shall we say, animated.
The host of the program, Chuck Todd, spoke of what he called a “disproportionate” number of white police officers in otherwise largely black communities and insinuated that this could lead to what he called “future Fergusons“.
The former Mayor expressed his displeasure at the insinuation that this statistic implicitly pointed to some form of systemic racism.
He stated, “I find it very disappointing that you are not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. I would like to see the attention paid to that that you are paying to this and the solutions to that.”
This clearly upset the Sociology Professor from Georgetown University.
The exchange which followed is hard to decipher in many of the media clips due to its heated nature.
But Professor Dyson, clearly exasperated, accused former Mayor Giuliani of succumbing to what he called “the defense mechanism of white supremacy“.
Here is the rest of the exchange:
Dyson: Can I say this? First of all, most black people who commit crimes against other black people go to jail. Number two, they are not sworn by the police department as an agent of the state to uphold the law. So in both cases, that’s a false equivalency that the mayor has drawn, which has exacerbated tensions that are deeply imbedded in American culture. Black people who kill black people go to jail. White people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail. If a jury can indict a ham sandwich, why is it taking so long?
Giuliani: It’s hardly insignificant.
Dyson: I didn’t say it was insignificant. I said it was out of proportion in your false equivalency, sir.
Giuliani: It is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community.
Dyson: Not at all. The police presence cannot make a distinction between those who are criminals and those who call the police to stop the criminals.
Giuliani: What about the poor black child that is killed by another black child? Why aren’t you protesting?
Dyson: Those people go to jail. I do protest it, I’m a minister. They go to jail. Why don’t you talk about the way in which white policemen undercut the abilities of Americans to live?
Giuliani: So why don’t you cut it down so many white police officers don’t have to be in black areas?
Dyson: They don’t have to be. It’s a matter of the affect of the state occupying those forces, sir.
Giuliani: How about 70 to 75 percent of the crime in my city takes place in black cities.
Dyson: How about your attitude reinforces the problematic perspective that prevails in the culture, sir.
Giuliani: How about you reduce crime?
Dyson: You know what? When I become mayor, I’ll do that.
Giuliani: The white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70 to 75 percent of the time.
Dyson: Look at this — This is the defense mechanism of white supremacy at work in your mind, sir.
As we all wait to hear the decision of the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri, we need to pray for peace to prevail in the response of the good people of Ferguson and the entire Nation, no matter what the outcome.
I do not believe that the comments of the former Mayor of New York revealed racism or what the Professor of Sociology called “white supremacy“. Rather, he raised matters concerning sociological statistics which need to be considered as we all seek to further the common good.
As a Sociologist, indeed a Professor of Sociology, Professor Dyson should have been able to engage the matter without recourse to name-calling. He should have avoided casting aspersions on former Mayor Giuliani.
Rather than use a media opportunity for good, this professor of Sociology misused it to fan the flames of the very racism which he purports to expose and oppose.
Racism is Sin. Legitimate social analysis and questions are not. In fact, we need more of both – and a whole lot more prayer and civil discourse – as we walk through the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
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