The Michael Vick dog fighting story is well known:
A federal grand jury in Richmond indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three other men yesterday on charges related to their alleged operation of a dogfighting ring based at a property Vick owns in southeastern Virginia.But the issue has been rekindled by a hyperbolic (and I assumed half-joking) statement by Tucker Carlson that Vick should have been executed, and by a statement by Princeton University Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry which appeared to blame Vick's treatment on the history of slavery, segregation and racism:
Vick, one of the NFL's most exciting players, was charged with competitive dogfighting and conducting the venture across state lines. The 19-page indictment alleged Vick was highly involved in the operation, alleging that he attended fights and paid off bets when his dogs lost. It said he also was involved in the executions of dogs that did not perform well.
Prof. Harris-Perry's argument created quite a firestorm, because it is so obvious that Vick was not treated unfairly because of his race or any latent racism. In fact, Vick has been given a second-chance at a pro football career and animal-rights redemption, which Vick appears to be using to good purpose.
So Prof. Harris-Perry has issued an explanation in which she doubled-down on the assertion that the history of racism is relevant to the Vicks conviction, accompanied by the PETA poster image at right (emphasis mine):
"Last year I was teaching an introductory politics course at Princeton University when a campus animal rights group brought to campus a fascinating and provocative exhibit that linked animal cruelty to human degradation, imprisonment and slavery. The images in the exhibit were part of a larger international PETA effort. They were disturbing, but also very powerful.Personally, I think Prof. Harris-Perry simply dug herself a deeper hole.
"Many African American students on campus were deeply offended, hurt and angry about the exhibit's comparison of animal suffering to the realities of the slave trade and lynching. The Organization of Black Students organized a protest and boycott. The campus animal rights group organized a teach-in. I had leaders from both student organizations in my class that semester. The tension, emotion, and analytic challenges raised by the exhibit became an important aspect of the class. A group of students even made a film about the issue for the final class project. As I sought to help guide my students through these interactions I opened up a new line of research on the politics of race and animal rights....
"When the abuse and oppression of an entire group of people is justified as acceptable because they are defined as animals, then it stands to reason the society is suggesting that abuse and oppression are acceptable ways to treat animals. Michael Vick committed horrendous acts of cruelty. I have had dogs as pets for my entire life. I am sickened by his actions. At the same time I recognize that he is one individual in a larger society that is profoundly complicit in the abuse and mistreatment of animals. Ideologies of white supremacy have particular culpability in that attitude toward animals because it was part of the governing ideology of slavery and segregation."
What we now consider animal cruelty takes place in many non-white cultures as well. And the irony is that in the Vick case it was non-whites conducting the dog fights. Animal cruelty is in no way unique or peculiar to "ideologies of white supremacy."
Michael Vick was prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned because he held dog-fighting contests on his property. Period.
Why Prof. Harris-Perry felt the need to turn the Vick conviction into a primer on the history of racism is beyond rational explanation. I'm not sure it was the "race card," it may just be that Prof. Harris-Perry has a white-supremacy historical hammer, so every problem looks like a racism-nail. (Wow, I think I really mangled the maxim, but you get the point.)
Let me put it differently. Not everything bad that happens in this country has its roots in slavery and racism. Sometimes a crime is just a crime.
And by the way, I too find the PETA poster offensive, just like many of Prof. Harris-Perry's students.
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube
Visit the Legal Insurrection Shop on CafePress!