Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tim Wise: Trayvon Martin, White Denial and the Unacceptable Burden of Blackness in America

By now, you probably know the shameful details, but they are worth repeating, in any event.

On the evening of February 26, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” in an Orlando suburb, shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

Because Martin was black.

And no, don’t even think of rolling your eyes at the suggestion. That is what happened, just as surely as so many might well be loathe to admit it.

Oh sure, he denies such a motivation, as does his family, but the details of the incident, now emerging from that evening leave very little question about it.

This was not, as we too often hear in the wake of such incidents, “a tragedy.”

This was not, as some would have it, “a terrible accident.”

It was murder, plain and simple. And it would be called such by everyone in a nation that had any commitment to honest language, which, sadly, would pretty much rule out the one in which Martin’s life began and ended, and in which Zimmerman continues to operate as a free man, unarrested by the police.

Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman believed his neighborhood needed and deserved to be protected from young black men, who could not possibly belong there, in his estimation. Never mind that Martin was in the community with his father, visiting friends. Never mind that Martin was armed only with Skittles and iced tea, while Zimmerman carried a loaded weapon.

Zimmerman, who has a history of aggressive behavior (including assaulting an officer a few years ago), appears to have something of a Dirty Harry syndrome about him. He is someone described by his own neighbors as overzealous, motivated by an obsessive desire to guard the perimeter of his community and pose as a crime-fighting hero to those around him. It doesn’t take much imagination to size up Zimmerman psychologically. He’s like so many other utterly unaccomplished males who fantasize about being a badass law officer, meting out justice to the ne’er-do-wells. He’s the kind of person who, if he weren’t playing at policeman, would be one of those guys fabricating stories of his war heroism, buying fake military uniforms and medals on eBay and telling strangers in bars how he single-handedly held off insurgents in Kandahar or some such shit. He’s one of those guys. If you’ve met one, you’ve met them all: a wannabe somebody with a gun permit and a healthy dose of amped up, testosterone-fueled anxiety about outsiders; and so too, in his case, it appears (not only from this incident but also from dozens of previous 9-1-1 calls he’d made), a consistent fear about black men, whom he seemed to consider, almost by definition, as not belonging in his neighborhood.

If Trayvon Martin had been, say, Todd Martin, a 17-year old white male, in the same neighborhood on the same evening, it wouldn’t have mattered that he was wearing a hoodie, looking at homes as he passed them by, or fiddling with his waistband. These, it should be noted, were the apparent indicators of criminality that Zimmerman felt compelled to share with the police during his 9-1-1 call, before opting to chase Martin himself, in brazen defiance of their explicit instruction to stay put. Had he been white, Martin’s humanity would have been clearly discernible to Zimmerman. But he was black, and male, and that alone inspired Zimmerman to conclude that there was “something wrong with this guy,” and that he appeared to be “on drugs,” a judgment Zimmerman felt qualified to render based on his extensive background in behavioral psychology, bested only by his prodigious law enforcement training, and by extensive and prodigious, in this case, I mean none whatsoever.

Indeed, if you do not know that Martin’s race (and more to the point, Zimmerman’s racism) is central to the former’s death at the hands of the latter, it may well be that you are incapable of ever comprehending even the most obvious manifestations of this nation’s longstanding racial drama. Worse still, it may suggest that you are so bereft of empathy as to render you morally and emotionally dangerous to decent people.

And by empathy here, I don’t mean merely the ability to feel for the family of this murdered child. I’m guessing most all can manage that much. Rather, I refer to the kind of empathy too rarely attainable, by whites in particular, in the case of black folks who insist, based on their entire life experience and the insight gained from that experience, that their rights to life and liberty are too often subject to the capricious whims of those with less melanin than they, and for reasons owing explicitly to the color of their skin.

Empathy — real empathy, not the situational and utterly phony kind that most any of us can muster when social convention calls for it — requires that one be able to place oneself in the shoes of another, and to consider the world as they must consider it. It requires that we be able to suspend our own culturally-ingrained disbelief long enough to explore the possibility that perhaps the world doesn’t work as we would have it, but rather as others have long insisted it did.

Empathy, which is always among the first casualties of racist thinking, mandates our acceptance of the possibility that maybe it isn’t those long targeted by oppression who are exaggerating the problem or making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill, but rather we who have underestimated the gravity of racial domination and subordination in this country, and reduced what are, in fact, Everest-sized peaks to ankle-high summits, and for our own purposes, rather than in the service of truth.

And please, let us have no more ignoble and dissembling rationalizations for Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s killing of him. If you are one, like those firmly ensconced in the pathetic Sanford, Florida police department, trying against all logic and human feeling to square this pernicious circle, just stop it. That there had been a half-dozen or so break-ins in Zimmerman’s community, ostensibly orchestrated by black males matters not a whit. Likewise, that there was a string of robberies in my New Orleans neighborhood during my senior year of college, which were the handiwork of white men, would not have justified my being stopped by police every time I returned home from a late afternoon class, to say nothing of being accosted by some community asshole with a Charles Bronson complex. But of course, such an analogy is silly isn’t it? We all know that whites are never subjected to this kind of generalized suspicion, even when we do, indeed, fit the description of one or another bad guy on the loose. We are not all looked at sideways when yet another white male serial killer is at large, or yet another abortion clinic bomber. We don’t face police roadblocks in lily-white communities so as to catch drunk drivers, even though the data is quite clear that whites represent a disproportionate number and percentage of those driving under the influence.

As for Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense, that anyone could believe such a demonstrably transparent lie as this, is stunning. Or rather it isn’t. It makes perfect sense in a nation where blackness and danger have long been considered synonymous, such that any black male over the age of perhaps 10 can “reasonably” be assumed a predator whose designs on decent people and their property are so concretized as to warrant virtually any measure invoked to monitor, control and incapacitate them. However much has changed in the U.S. since the 1960s, or for that matter the 1860s, make note of it that at least this much has not: black folks are still, in the eyes of far too many whites, a problem to be addressed, a riddle to be solved. And deprived of the old mechanisms of social control to which we were once so wedded — formal segregation, regular lynchings, forced sterilization, even enslavement — we have opted for the development of new forms: racial profiling, gated communities into which we shall police entry, zoning laws that limit who can live among us, and mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses, among others.

Under what rational interpretation of self-defense could Zimmerman’s actions qualify? Zimmerman chased Martin down. Zimmerman tackled Martin after Martin demanded to know why Zimmerman was following him. Martin screamed for help. And Zimmerman shot him. Even if Martin fought back, how could such a thing — a quite reasonable response, it should be noted, to being attacked by a total stranger — justify pulling a gun, pulling the trigger and shooting the person who was acting in self-defense against you? To those who accept Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, let us ask a simple question: would you be so willing to buy that argument if a black person were to chase down a white person in a mostly black neighborhood, and then upon catching him, end his life when the white person resisted being pummeled? You know full well the answer. We all do.

If I chase you and jump you, and you resist my assault, and in response to your resistance I kill you, I am the bad guy. Period. End of story. No exceptions, no prevarications, no ifs ands or buts. It’s me. Trayvon Martin is the innocent one here. He is the one who was acting in self-defense, when he resisted the assault of a total stranger, whose purposes for chasing him and accosting him made him rightfully afraid. After all, “neighborhood watch captains,” whether duly elected as such or just in their own heads (as seems to have been the case with Zimmerman), don’t wear official law enforcement uniforms, which might help identify them to the persons they may find themselves pursuing. And ya’ know why? Because despite their fervent and pre-adolescent desires to play cops and robbers like they used to do when they were eight years old, they are not cops. They are not even security guards. They are self-appointed enforcers with no authority whatsoever, save that which they have chosen to fabricate so as to make themselves feel more important.

Oh, and when you abuse that ill-gotten authority and take the life of a young black man in the process, you don’t get to be taken seriously when you swear that your actions couldn’t have been racist because, after all, you’re Latino (this being the latest fanciful insistence of Zimmerman’s family). Dear merciful Lord, what is that supposed to prove? Racism is not about the identity of the person acting it out so much as those upon whom it is acted, and for what purpose. There were black slave owners in the South, after all, and what of it? American slavery was a racist institution because it subordinated people based on racial identity, and was predicated on the notion of black inhumanity and white supremacy. That there were some black people who bought into both sets of lies does not acquit the institution of the charge of racism, nor those among the African American community who participated in it. So too, that there are persons of color who are just as anti-black in their thinking as many whites, pathetic and heartbreaking though it may be, means nothing and truthfully, should surprise no one.

It should be especially unsurprising that Zimmerman would have internalized racially-biased assumptions about black males, given the society in which he (and we) reside. And although this hardly lets him off the hook — one must be responsible for one’s own actions in any event, no matter the social contributors to those actions — it is worth noting a few things about the milieu in which this wannabe police officer was operating. In other words, Zimmerman’s culpability, while total and complete, is not solitary.

After all, we are a society in which research has shown quite conclusively that local newscasts overrepresent blacks as criminals, relative to their actual share of total crime, and overrepresent whites as victims, relative to our share of victimization.

A society in which other studies have shown that these racially-skewed newscasts have a direct relationship to widespread negative perceptions of black people. Indeed, a substantial percentage of anti-black racial hostility can be directly traced to media imagery, even after all other factors are considered.

A society in which the disproportionate incarceration of black males — especially for non-violent drug offenses, which they are no more likely (and often even less likely) than whites to commit — feeds the perception that they are so treated because they are dangerous and must be kept at bay.

A society in which criminality is so associated with blackness that whites literally and almost instantly connect the two things in survey after survey, and study after study, even though we are roughly 5 times as likely to be criminally victimized by another white person as by a black person.

A society in which anti-black racism has been so long ingrained that not only most whites, but also most Latinos and Asian Americans, demonstrate substantial subconscious bias against African Americans in study after study of implicit racial hostility (and even about a third of blacks themselves demonstrate anti-black racism).

George Zimmerman was very simply taught to fear black men by his society, and he learned his lessons well. And while he must be punished for his transgressions — and hopefully will be, now that the Justice Department is investigating and a Grand Jury is being convened — let there be no mistake, he cannot and should not take the fall alone for that which stems so directly from a larger social and cultural narrative to which he (and all of us) have been subjected.

Black males are, for far too many in America, a racial Rorschach test, onto which we instantaneously graft our own perceptions and assumptions, virtually none of them good. Look, a black man on your street! Quick, what do you see? A criminal. Look, a black man on the corner! Quick, what do you see? A drug dealer. Look, a black man in a suit, in a corporate office! Quick, what do you see? An affirmative action case who probably got the job over a more qualified white man. And if you don’t believe that this is what we do — what you do — then ask yourself why 95 percent of whites, when asked to envision a drug user, admit to picturing a black person, even though blacks are only 13 percent of users, compared to about 70 percent who are white? Ask yourself why whites who are hooked up to brain scan monitors and then shown subliminal images of black men — too quickly for the conscious mind to even process what it saw — show a dramatic surge of activity in that part of the brain that reacts to fear and anxiety? Ask yourself why whites continue to believe that we are the most discriminated against group in America — and that folks of color are “taking our jobs” — even as we remain roughly half as likely to be out of work and a third as likely to be poor as those persons of color. Even when only comparing persons with college degrees, black unemployment is about double the white rate, Latino unemployment about 50 percent higher, and Asian American unemployment about a third higher than their white counterparts.

George Zimmerman must be held accountable for his actions, and hopefully he will be. Innocent until proven guilty of course, there is a process for determining matters of formal legal responsibility, and may that process now move forward to a just conclusion. But beyond the matter of legal guilt or innocence, beyond that which can be addressed in a court of law — one way or the other — there is a bigger issue here, and it is one that cannot be resolved by a jury, be it Grand or otherwise, nor by judges or prosecutors. It is the none-too-minor matter of the monster we as a nation have created, not only apparently in the heart of George Zimmerman, but in the minds of millions: individuals far too quick to rationalize any injustice so long as the victim has a black face; persons for whom no act of racially-biased misconduct qualifies as racist; persons who have allowed their own fears, anxieties and occasionally even hatreds to numb them, to inure them to the pain and suffering of the so-called other.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from someone suggesting that perhaps we should begin to sport buttons like those that became so ubiquitous in the case of Troy Davis last year. You know the buttons, right? The ones that said: “I am Troy Davis.” The ones that aimed at solidarity with an unjustly executed man, but which, on the lapels and t-shirts of white people seemed, to me at least, more banal and offensive than anything else, since we were not, in fact (and would not likely ever be) in the position of Troy Davis. And while in this case too, I understand the sentiment and appreciate the real compassion underlying the suggestion — or the no-doubt-soon-to-be-witnessed insertion of Trayvon Martin’s name in many a Facebook profile handle — I feel that perhaps we who are white should remind ourselves, before we jump on either bandwagon, that unfortunately, we are much less like Trayvon Martin and much more like George Zimmerman.

And that is the problem.

The Struggle Continues…

The Struggle Continues…So now, there are “Living While Black” Rules? by Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb-3/21/2012


Call it the slaying that could kill off most, if any, post-racial imaginings in this country.

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Sanford, Florida last month by George Zimmerman, a white Latino whose frequent 911 calls and profane comments show that he had a fixation against young black males, that the mere act of them walking in his neighborhood was enough for him to brand them as suspects.

And since that time, Trayvon's family hasn't received any justice, but a dose of ineptness fueled by white privilege.

Each day, it's becoming clearer that Zimmerman's claims of self-defense are a crock. The latest evidence of that is a cell phone call that Trayvon made to his girlfriend, in which she said he told her that he "was being hounded by a strange man on a cell phone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him."

That throws some serious doubt on Zimmerman's tale about Trayvon jumping him from behind.

Still, he hasn't been arrested – and Sanford police, in fact, seem to have bent over backwards to protect Zimmerman. They didn't check out his lie that he had never had a police record, and they concealed the 911 tapes for days.

On top of that, Police Chief Bill Lee even tacitly blamed Trayvon for his own death. According to the Miami Herald, he said, "I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would too."

Like what, Chief? Put on white makeup? Bow and scrape to assuage whatever unfounded, racist suspicions that Zimmerman might have had?

Yet, from what I'm hearing from some black parents who don’t want their sons to die, Trayvon's slaying is causing them to adhere to rules that almost amount to that.

That means rules like them not riding more than three or four to a car, so that they don't attract the attention of police officers, or, for that matter, community watch people.

It means things like keeping their hands in plain view all the time, so that no one has a reason to think they're hiding a gun anywhere.

That angers me.

It angers me because in this age of President Obama, black parents are now compelled to coach their sons on how to behave in front of white people who insist on seeing them as criminals first, on how to restrict their movements and their actions so they don’t give the Zimmermans of this world an excuse to kill them.

It angers me that in 2012, an expectant mother like Quianna Rashada, who the Herald interviewed and who lives with her husband in the gated community where Trayvon was killed, cries at the thought of her child possibly having to live in that kind of world.

And it especially angers me that it's taking massive protests and an investigation by the Justice Department to get any justice in this matter.

Then again, on another level, I guess this shouldn't be all that surprising.

Since President Obama was elected, racists have gone into overdrive trying to protect their privilege by clinging to lies and stereotypes about black people.

It can be seen in the ignorance of people who insist that Obama is a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in the United States. They feel privileged enough to bypass hard facts that don't fit with whatever stereotype they feel comfortable with.

And what it all points to is that no matter how much we want to live in a so-called post-racial society, there will always be an element out there who will never see black people, especially black males, as being accomplished or worthy. Rather, they will always see people like Obama through the prism of illegitimacy and boys like Trayvon through the prism of suspicion.

Ultimately, Zimmerman must be brought to justice. Because as much as many Americans love to scream about protecting freedom, this country will never be a free place for all its citizens if black parents have to counsel their sons on how to move about or how many friends they can ride with so that they don't wind up being stalked and killed by a white person who sees them as criminals first.

And who can later claim self-defense and get away with it.


There seems to be some national dialogue as to whether or not George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self defense. There also seems to be some posturing that the Sanford Police Department is simply following their procedures.

A person claiming self-defense must prove at trial that the self-defense was justified. Generally a person may use reasonable force when it appears reasonably necessary to prevent an impending injury. A person using force in self-defense should use only so much force as is required to repel the attack. Nondeadly force can be used to repel either a nondeadly attack or a deadly attack. Deadly Force may be used to fend off an attacker who is using deadly force but may not be used to repel an attacker who is not using deadly force.

Facts being what the are, there is no reason why Zimmerman has not been arrested.

This was a murder and the Sanford Police Department and the Seminole County/Brevard County State Attorney are apparently incapable of making a decision. OH YES and BTW…the Elected State Attorney for Seminole and Brevard County is Norm Wolfinger. SINCE HE RUNS FOR RE-ELECTION THIS YEAR, YOU DON'T THINK HIS LACK OF A DECISION THUS FAR HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS…DO YOU? And isn't it amazing that elected local and state officials in that area…including some up for re-election this year are very conspicuous by their silence? Usually elected offical Prima Donnas clamor for the governor to bring in another state attorney to handle the investigation in front of cameras. Nothing…Nada …Zippo. Do you think their silence also has something to do with politics?

It gets stinker and stinker each day.

Thinking While Black: Barack Obama, Race and the Politics of Conservative Smears (Tim Wise)

Forget Barack Obama’s praise for legal scholar Derrick Bell.

Never mind his decades-long association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Neither of these connections will matter once you get a load of what I’ve uncovered: a linkage between the president and someone at least as radical if not more so than either of those. A man whom President Obama has openly praised, and not just twenty-two years ago at some fairly innocuous law school protest, but regularly, in his books, in his speeches, repeatedly, over the course of his political career. Someone whom he has still never repudiated, as he did with Wright, no matter the many statements this individual is on record as making, and which line up rather nicely with many of Wright’s views.

What does this radical for whom Obama has shown so much gushing and uncritical praise, say about economic issues? Only that capitalism is a system “permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few,” and that, “Something is wrong with capitalism…Maybe America must move towards democratic socialism.”

What does this militant, for whom the president shows so much love, say about white folks and race in America? Only that “Racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle — the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic,” and that whites largely refuse to acknowledge “the debt that they owe a people who were kept in slavery,” for hundreds of years.

What is the position of this dangerous subversive to whom Barack Obama is clearly tethered, when it comes to the role of the United States in the world? Only that, “We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.”

There is more, much more in fact: pointed condemnations of white racism and arrogance, trenchant critiques of American nationalism and patriotism, and withering bromides against the wealthy, all from a man whom Barack Obama praises often, and apparently regards as something of a national role model.

Indeed, he said as much a few months ago, when he dedicated a monument to this man on the Mall in Washington — the recently unveiled statue for Martin Luther King Jr.

One can only wonder how Andrew Breitbart would have spun this, or how Sean Hannity might still. But then again, we do know how the right would handle such material. We know that they won’t touch it at all. Despite King’s radicalism — a radicalism about which most Americans remain unaware thanks to our four-decades long sanitizing of his work and message — the right will and must remain silent on this score, lest they bump up against the obvious: namely, that King is iconic (as well he should be), and as close to a secular Saint as one can get.

But while the right will no doubt avoid smearing King, they have no trouble condemning others whose views, about U.S. foreign policy, racism and economic justice largely mirror his own. It is as if they believe anyone who dares note the ongoing reality of racism (as Bell did until his death), or the role the United States has played in propping up dictatorships and collaborating with human rights abuses abroad (as Wright did in the various sermons that brought down nationalistic jeremiads upon his head back in 2008), is ipso facto a racist and a traitor. To mention racism makes one racist. To speak of injustice in your own nation makes you un-American.

It is a position ultimately requiring the right to believe that most all black people in the country are racist against white people and fundamentally treasonous, since most African Americans do indeed believe racism to be a real and persistent problem and since most continue to insist that there are various injustices afoot in the nation’s economic and justice systems. If believing these things makes one racist, then most all people of color would have to be written off as such. Likewise, the entire civil rights movement would have to be considered racist, for daring to criticize the United States and its white population for its foot-dragging lethargy with regard to ending segregation.

Let’s remember, just as whites today largely deny that racism is an obstacle for people of color — and thus, consider it anti-white bigotry to tell them otherwise — so too, when the movement of which Dr. King was such a central part was forcing America to look at itself and the evil it perpetrated daily, most whites didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Polls in the early ’60s, before the passage of various civil rights laws, found that most whites (between 63 and 85 percent depending on the wording of the question) thought blacks were treated equally in their communities with regard to housing, jobs and education. So if condemning racism makes one racist, just because white folks disagree with the assessment of social reality being put forward by black people, we would have to conclude that the movement led by King was racist too, just as we are presumably to conclude about the positions of people like Derrick Bell, Jeremiah Wright and most all African Americans today.

If the right wants to argue the points made by persons like Bell, Wright, most all folks of color or those of us in the white community who echo their concerns, so be it. They are free to do so. Decent people can disagree about the extent and force of racial discrimination in the modern era. But to suggest that it is by definition racist against white people to believe in the persistence of racism against persons of color is intellectually obscene. It is an argument intended to shut down debate, to cow people of color into remaining silent about their own lived experiences, to make whites into victims of black and brown reality — in other words, it is an attempt to invert the structure of oppression, by suggesting that whites are more victimized by the feelings of people of color than people of color are victimized by the actions of white people and the institutions within which we exercise so much disproportionate control. It is an attempt to make it, in effect, an inexcusable moral crime to merely engage in thinking while black.

That conservatives condemn Bell, Wright, and others for speaking forcefully about racism in America, while ignoring the equally strident positions of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement itself, proves beyond question that the right lacks anything remotely approaching a consistent ethical core. If their positions were principled, rather than the stuff of crass and opportunistic politics, they would stand up and condemn Martin Luther King, Jr., and those who praise him. That’s what conservatives used to do, after all, when King was still alive: every one of them, without a single solitary exception. All the conservative press, their foot-soliders at the grass-roots level, their national standard bearer in the form of Barry Goldwater, all of them opposed the movement. If they were still operating from a position of principle (albeit a ghastly one to behold), they would have opposed the statue for King on the Mall. They would condemn Representative John Lewis for having been a part of the movement and for his own personal associations with King. They would bash Obama for daring to praise King.

At least back in the day the right was consistent. They reviled the civil rights struggle. They stood with the segregationists, openly. Today, the right plays games with race: using coded language to smear a black president, playing upon racial anxieties about immigration, welfare spending, ethnic studies programs, affirmative action, and textbooks that dare to tell the truth about racism in American history. They prevaricate as if racial dishonesty were tantamount to a religious sacrament.

And still, they can produce no one as towering in their greatness or as capable of moving Americans as a Dr. King.

That must hurt. To know that while we on the left have heroes like that, they must make do with John Wayne, Jerry Falwell, James O’Keefe and the recently departed Andrew Breitbart.

As the saying goes, haters gonna hate. But at least they could do us all a favor and apply their hate consistently.

Joking Judge a Disgrace to the Bench

 by Michael Cottman (


So it's come to this: Even federal judges are now joining the racists in their public contempt for President Barack Obama.

Montana Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull

The latest Obama hater to be exposed is the chief federal judge of Montana, who admitted Thursday to sending a despicable, racially incendiary email under the subject line "A Mom's Memory" that likened Obama to a dog.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sent this email joke to his "old buddies" about Obama: "A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?' His mother replied, 'Don’t even go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don’t bark!'"

Cebull, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and has been the chief judge since 2008, added another sarcastic nugget to his email that he apparently thought was witty.

"Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching," Cebull wrote to his sidekicks.
"I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine."

Cebull first denied the email was racist. He did, however, admit that his email was "anti-Obama."

So where is the outrage? The rationalization for Cebull's racism was absurd, and frankly, federal judges who spew racist rhetoric – even by email – should not be allowed to serve on the bench.

But here's the truth: Cebull is an arrogant, influential conservative who believes that he can say whatever he wants about Obama and get away with it. And he's probably right: Federal judges are appointed for life and can only be removed if they are impeached by Congress. So our Capitol Hill legislators could show some courage and debate whether Cebull crossed the line.

In an interview with the Great Falls Tribune, Cebull flip-flopped and admitted the email was racist, but maintained that he doesn't consider himself a racist and that the note was meant to remain private. Of course it was. Cebull got busted.

"The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan," the judge told the newspaper.  "I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama."

But for Cebull, being "anti-Obama" seems to be synonymous with hate, racism and disrespecting the office of the president of the United States – at least while there's a black man in the White House.

Every now and then, the curtain gets pulled back, and we get a glimpse into the mindset of a high-level white civil servant. And sadly, the racism that's being uncovered is much more prevalent, more mean-spirited and strategically directed at Obama.

This time the light was shined on Cebull, who offered a half-baked apology for his bigoted e-mail, saying he could "understand why people would be offended."

Offended? That’s no apology; that’s a shameless copout by a judge who should not be presiding over cases that may involve people of color, given his disdain for Obama.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-MO) chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, stopped short of calling for Cebull to step down.

"Chief Judge Richard Cebull's email was deplorable, shameful and inexcusable," Cleaver said in a statement Thursday. "There is no way to shroud hatred under the cloak of differences in ideals. The email was blatantly racist and filled with the hateful rhetoric this country has strived so desperately to leave behind. An apology alone is not acceptable….comments like this are beyond disrespectful and ignorant."

Consider the statement that's prominently posted on Cebull's federal court web site: "The mission of the United States District Court for the District of Montana is to support, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States by providing an impartial forum for the just resolution of disputes."

There's no way imaginable that Cebull can offer an "impartial forum" for anyone of color who is a defendant in his courtroom. Imagine the number of other white federal judges who were appointed by Republican presidents, who perhaps also have disdain for Obama and who oversee courtroom trials through a racial prism.

Cebull said he sent the bigoted email joke to six of his "old buddies." Who are these buddies? Are they judges, too? Are they prosecutors? Are they trial attorneys? If they have anything to do with cases in Cebull's courtroom, then his "old buddies" are also ethically compromised.

"We act so as to protect individual rights and freedoms, preserve judicial independence and promote public trust in the Judiciary of the United States of America," according to the statement on the federal court web site. Cebull certainly isn't promoting public trust. As a matter of fact, he's doing everything within his power to undermine the public trust in Montana and across the country.

He's an embarrassment to the entire judicial system.

Cebull may not be an official card-carrying member of Montana's 13 white-supremacist hate groups, but he's proudly carrying their racist message.