Thirty Years Ago Today

A personal reflection on the hazards of nationalist approaches to economic policy discourse

On June 23, 1982, Vincent Chin (no relation) died from injuries suffered after he was beaten outside the bar where his bachelor party was taking place, in Highland Park, Michigan, by Chrysler plant superintendent Ronald Ebens, with the help of his stepson, Michael Nitz. Ebens’ quote: “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work!” referring to the impact of Japanese imports on Michigan employment (Chin was a U.S. citizen of Chinese extraction). After a plea bargain, neither served any jail time, and were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs. The judge said, “These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail… You don’t make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal.”[0]


I must confess to have been somewhat naïve when, in college, I heard these events transpire. I had grown up in the multicultural Pacific Northwest. I had thought that my fellow citizens shared the view that we were all Americans, regardless of ethnic origin. That is why, when I hear the call “We want our country back”, I share that hope, but I suspect my interpretation differs from those who make those calls most frequently.


How does this relate to economics? Once again import competition is high. Several months ago, Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra, running against Senator Stabenow, paid for a TV ad that featured an asian, speaking in pidgin English [1]:

“Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us,” says a young Asian woman riding her bike through rice paddies at the beginning of the 30-second ad. “You’re economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie ‘Spend It Now.’”

Here is a link to the video. Another TV ad with a China-related theme was earlier run by the (oddly pro-tobacco) Citizens against Government Waste.


Certain individuals are now proposing that we pursue much more aggressive policy measures aimed against China. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to label China a currency manipulator [2] [3] Sherrod Brown has also argued for more aggressive action. [4] These policy measures might or might not be justified (considering the Chinese current account balance shrinks rapidly toward zero [5]), but I worry about intensifying attempts to place primary blame on foreign economic entities for U.S. economic woes, as a means of whipping up populist support, a la Hoekstra. (I expect, relatedly, more “concerns” about whether individuals are truly American “in their heart”. [5])


I would be (slightly) less concerned about the nativist component of these moves if there was a commensurate Germany-bashing campaign. After all, Germany is running a substantial trade surplus, and by way of supporting an essentially contractionary eurozone wide fiscal policy, is weakening the euro. It might be that there are too many steps for some observers to make. Or it might be something else; I leave others to speculate.


In any case, my hope is that in the runup to the elections policymakers will refrain from imflammatory remarks that would complicate the coordination of international economic policies and unnecessarily incite domestic passions.

32 thoughts on “Thirty Years Ago Today

  1. Bob_in_MA

    Part of the problem is that the Obama administration has continued the silly hypocrisy of pretending not to see currency manipulation. Also, seeming to give credence to the simplistic logic that we need China to buy our debt, culminating in Geihtner’s embarrassing visits to Beijing.
    The world has allowed China (and Germany, etc) to carry on policies that had much to do with our crisis and that in Europe. Now they are likely to pay a price themselves.
    Lets end the charade and take the issue away from the yahoos of the right. Then set up a healthier economic framework for the future.

  2. jonathan

    There is zero chance the government will actually label China. If we have President Mitt, then he will drop the notion, will avoid mentioning it and will say some wishy-washy crap about how we’re pursuing a long-term solution rather than the kind of short-term solution pursued by Obama. That is the new Mitt-speak.
    The Boston Public Library had a terrific show a few years ago about the extraordinary persecution of Chinese immigrants and their nearly unique history of being banned from the US for many, many decades. White Americans, even Jewish Americans like me, rarely know this history. Our knowledge of Asian American history goes from Chinese workers on the railroads to Japanese internment in WWII.
    (BTW, in moot court, I insisted on making the argument that the internment case would never be decided that way again, that the Court had no such thing as “strict scrutiny” and thus that the categories for reviewing the Constitutionality of laws were an intellectual fraud. They kicked me out of the room. Then the Court, a few years later, said essentially the same thing.)
    Nationalist rhetoric is a staple. We saw Mitt-speak again this week: talking to Latinos, he negated all his fiery anti-immigrant language by saying he’ll pursue long-term solutions instead of the short-term solutions Obama proposes and does. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is embedded in US history, as it is in most countries. It is less of a problem here; you can quite easily become an American but you can never, ever become Japanese or French or Romanian because you aren’t ethnically one of them.

  3. 2slugbaits

    Would a President Mitt Romney have deported his father, George Romney? Afterall, Mitt’s grandfather was stripped of his US citizenship in 1882 as a result of the Edmunds Act. In 1884 his grandfather “self-deported” to Mexico one step ahead of the law as the US government was about to kick him out of Utah (then not yet a state). Mitt’s father (George Romney) was born in Mexico in 1907. George Romney entered the US in 1912 (age 5) along with his father. But since his father was not a citizen of the US (due to the Edmunds Act) both Mitt’s grandfather and father entered te US illegally. The difference is that back then no one really cared and for all intents an purposes the Romney’s were treated as though they had entered the country legally. Mitt Romney’s father benefited from the early 20th century’s version of the Dream Act. The Romney family fortune was even founded on the proceeds from a lawsuit against the Mexican government! Even in 1968 no one particularly cared that Presidential candidate George Romney was born in Mexico. Would immigrant Orly Taitz and the birther movement have pitched a fit about George Romney the way they do over Obama? Will Donald Trump hire a team of investigators to look into the circumstances surrounding Mitt Romney’s status as the US born son of an undocumented illegal immigrant who actually spent time living FRANCE???
    Mitt Romney’s bashing of China as a currency manipulator might have been more credible back when China really was a currency manipulator and back when that manipulation made private citizen Mitt Romney a very wealthy man. But today China’s growth is weakening and worrying about their status as a currency manipulator is unhelpful. The only bright side is that Romney’s opposition to supposed Chinese currency manipulation is almost certainly a convenient lie meant for the consumption of the wingnuts in the party. Romney’s only saving grace is that he’s a complete phony and inveterate liar. When Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “The Graduate” was give a one word recommendation — plastics — Mitt Romney seems to have taken that advice to heart.

  4. The Rage

    Nationalism would work if you follow through. Shut the economy to global forces while the government fills in the void on investment.
    Same with immigration. What if a Democrat ran and told organized labor to attack legal aliens, immigrant workers and destroying businesses that hire them. Cause you know, they are deflating wages and stealing jobs from the workers. It would be ball into glove.
    It would rock the electorate and make the Democratic convention very very interesting.
    It is the reason why I see “national capitalism” never succeeding. Because capitalism needs more and more innovation to support the system. We actually could blame the current malaise on this very problem. Being a nationalist and ultra-capitalist simply doesn’t work. You are contradicting yourself at will. It is why Rothbard’s sad attempt to use the poor white people as a base to spring his theories was true evil. That also describes types like Lew Rockwell as well. They claim to be nationalist, but their ultra-capitalism betrays them. Even Neo-Nazi’s don’t fall for that.
    It is why the current electoral setup frankly doesn’t work. The beliefs systems are flawed on each side. The time has come to fix that.

  5. Steven Kopits

    In the US, last election, the two strongest candidates were a woman and an African American. This election we have an African American against a Mormon. Two of the other three Republican candidates were Catholics. Show me just one other country with this kind of diversity in religion, race and gender.
    Race will always matter to some people at some times. But I am continually amazed by the diversity of people in the United States and that, on the vast majority of occasions, we get along well.

  6. Steven Kopits

    Rage –
    “Being a nationalist and ultra-capitalist simply doesn’t work. You are contradicting yourself at will.”
    Right. Neither socially conservative (Syria, Morocco)nor egalitarian (Cuba, Soviet Union) socieities tend to succeed. Liberal societies succeed (Hong Kong, US, Singapore). In general, the more liberal (economically speaking), the more successful. And the more liberal, the more socially tolerant. Open economies tend to create open societies.

  7. c thomson

    Right on! Brother Kopits is on to something too! Now spread the word among the faculty lounges in Madison, Professor. Real liberalism is of a piece; individual economic freedom is part of it.
    Hooray! It is never too late to renounce snivel – aka American faux-liberalism.

  8. john personna

    America has more racists of any grade than we want to admit.
    Separate from that, I think free trade has had an untended consequence. When you have both tariff and native taxes, and reduce tariff, you shift the tax burden on-shore.
    The old comparative advantage argument, I think, under emphasized that somebody still has to pay tax.

  9. 2blocs_frm_K_St

    Kopits- the issue is not diversity, but polarization, and the hatred instigated to shift attention away from the true cause of problems. A county can be both diverse and polarized, as what we have experienced in the recent decade.

    When certain aspects of public opinions have been poisoned, the only way to get elected is to act even more stupid than what the public can expect. I wanted to shout out loud to the China-bashing politicians from both sides of the aisle, “Thank you for putting on a good show!”

  10. dwb

    how sad. This blame on foreign entities is pure xenophobia (aka bigotry). But why does that surprise anyone when the tenor of the discussion is that Obama is an islamic keynian-born socialist fraud?
    People do realize that Chinese imports are… what, less than 3% of personal consumption expenditures?
    If the EU breaks down, i am sure there will be a Germany bashing campaign in the EU.
    Of course, when people perceive that the pie is shrinking, they fight over their piece of the pie. Just one more reason to urgently get the unemployment rate down to normal levels at all costs: more than economics is at stake here. Its joblessness and deflation that historically lead to extremist politics.

  11. Steven Kopits

    The electorate is polarized because there are genuine differences of opinion about what national priorities should be. There is no consensus, and the debate reflects that.
    The issue is whether egalitarianism (Krugmanesque liberalism) or social conservatism will be on the median voter boundary. This is a high stakes conflict; the rhetoric reflects that.

  12. Rick Stryker

    Your history seems to be wrong yet again. The Edmunds act of 1882 did not strip people of US citizenship. Rather, it made polygamy a felony, co-habitation a misdemeanor, and stripped offenders of certain privileges such as the right to vote, hold public office, etc. Whatever your interpretation of this act, the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 in Trop v Dulles that a US citizen can’t be punished for a crime by having his citizenship removed. Thus, Mitt Romney’s father was not an undocumented illegal immigrant. You are spreading left wing birther nonsense.
    Not sure what you are trying to imply about the foundation of the Romney fortune being a suit against the Mexican government. Romney made his money on his own, having co-founded an extremely profitable company. He was already highly successful when he got his inheritance after his father died. Romney says he gave his inheritance away to BYU.

  13. Procopius

    I get a (bitter) laugh from the “conservative” or “libertarian” quacks who are demanding “strong action against Chinese currency manipulation.” They are so ignorant they don’t realize that they are contradicting themselves. They bray endlessly about the horrors of “debasing the currency” and “weakening the dollar” and don’t even see that mainig the renminbi more expensive must mean the dollar becomes cheaper, in other words “weaker.” Now I agree that this is one way to address the trade imbalance, which is the real underlying cause of the budget deficit, but in other places they are screaming that this is NOT what they want, that this is terrible policy and will result in the destruction of our nation. Oh, well, Romney emits 20 to 30 high-level lies in his campaign speeches every week and nobody seems to care. Why should this subject be any different?

  14. Ricardo

    You are right about Romney’s position on China. It is just one of his economic mistakes. Hopefully after he is elected he will be disabused of this fallacy.
    But one thing we do know is that President Obama does not counter even worse stupidity from Sen. Chuck Schumer. Obama has even sent Geithner to China to chastise them when the US can’t control its monetary system and its economic system in headed south.
    There is enough bashing all around. Let’s try to put a stop to it all.

  15. benamery21

    There were no quota limits on Mexican immigration before 1965, anyway. In 1912 I’m pretty confident there was no regulation of Mexican immigration at all.

  16. benamery21

    I understand Chin is a symbolic case and I certainly agree that there is a lot of nativist racism in the U.S. But it should be noted that: this happened in 80’s Detroit (an extremely violent place), testimony included accounts of Chin escalating the conflict twice (throwing the first punch and then challenging Ebens to finish the fight in the parking lot), both Ebens and Nitz were also tried in federal criminal court (Ebens was sentenced to 25 years vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct, both Ebens and Nitz were ordered to pay damages to Chin’s estate in an additional civil trial, Ebens was basically blackballed from the auto industry (UAW extrajudicial action). This was not brushed under the rug.

  17. benamery21

    Although I find George Romney’s success far more compelling than Mitt’s (who was born a step from home plate), George received a monetary gift worth about 8 man-years at minimum wage early in his adult life (1938) from HIS father (half of a settlement by the Mexican government of property losses suffered due to the civil war in Mexico that drove the Romney’s back to the States).

  18. 2slugbaits

    Rick Stryker Stripping people of the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to practice their religion and the right to live in the US sure sounds a lot like stripping someone of their citizenship. Take those away and what’s left of citizenship? In any event, old common law did not permit individuals from denouncing their citizenship…it was something you had your entire life whether you wanted it or not. The 1868 Expatriation Act changed that and allowed people to surrender their citizenship. The 1907 changes to the Expatriate Act extended that concept of alienating citizenship by providing for the stripping of citizenship of those who had demonstrated the intent of giving up US citizenship. For example, the Romney clan’s participation in Mexican political activities in the 1910 Mexican election would have filled the bill. The Romney clan also sued the Mexican government for reparations of property losses. This is pretty strong evidence that the Romneys considered themselves Mexican and never intended to return to the US. The only reason some of them came back was because of the Mexican civil war.
    All that aside, my question was whether or not Mitt Romney would have deported his dad if we could imagine some “Back to the Future” thought experiment. George Romney was clearly not a US citizen. No way, no how. George Romney clearly entered the US illegally. Fortunately no one cared back then. But given Mitt Romney’s own rhetoric on the subject, would he have demanded that his father “self deport? In 1968 Mitt Romney was old enough to vote. Did he vote for his father who was not a native born US citizen?
    And just to be clear. I think George Romney was a great success story. The guy had a moral core. And I would like to see the Constitution amended to eliminate the “born in the USA” requirement. I’m simply asking if Romney’s rhetoric matches what he really believes. If not, then Romney is cynically stoking the kinds of nativist tendencies that lie just below the surface of American politics, and slightly above the surface for ~30% of the electorate on the far right.

  19. Menzie Chinn

    benamary21 I believe you should review the events; the fact that Ebens and Nitz pursued Chin to another restaurant to beat him with a baseball bat suggests to me that a punch does not warrant execution.

  20. Rick Stryker

    Felons today are routinely stripped of the right to vote, to serve on a jury, and to possess a gun, despite the second amendment. And yet they are not stripped of their citizenship. Despite your initial assertion, the Edmunds Act did not strip Romney’s father or grandfather of their citizenship.
    You’ve now raised a new birther claim I haven’t heard before. You imagine a thought experiment in which Romney goes back in time and has to decide whether to deport his father under the Expatriation Act of 1907. Your new birther claim goes well beyond those claims of Democrats (the first birthers) who argued in 1968 that George Romney was not a natural born citizen and therefore couldn’t be president. You’ve taken it a step farther by claiming that George Romney wasn’t a citizen at all in 1912.
    What should Romney do when he steps out of that time machine? Welcome his father and grandfather back to the US of course!
    By stepping into that time machine, Romney doesn’t forget what he knows. As a lawyer, Romney would know that the Supreme Court in Mandoli v Acheson would rule that the 1907 act applied to naturalized citizens, not natural born citizens. Romney as a lawyer would also know his grandfather was natural born, since he was born in the US. He’d also know that legal and historical precedent dictate that a person born in a foreign country to natural born citizens is a natural born citizen as well. So Romney’s father is natural born too since Romney’s grandfather and grandmother were natural born citizens. And since Romney’s father is under 18 in 1912, the 1907 act would not apply to him anyway.

  21. Rick Stryker

    What I find amazing about this post and some of the comments is the attempt to connect a murder somehow to Republican policies.
    Nitz held Chin down in a McDonalds while Ebens beat Chin with a baseball bat. That is a clear case of second degree murder. And yet, in a town dominated by democratic politicians with strong ties to the UAW, these offenders were allowed to plea bargain to manslaughter. And then the judge, who had a reputation as a lenient liberal, and who came from a political family with strong UAW ties, gave them probation plus a fine. After they beat someone to death with a baseball bat!
    It was the unholy alliance between Democratic politicians, big labor, and left wing judges that denied justice to Chin and his family. It’s important to keep that in mind.

  22. DOR

    One of these days Americans — households and government alike — will learn to live within our means. When that fine day comes, we will no longer have any excuse to blame foreigners, either Japanese 30 years ago or Chinese today.
    And, one day pigs will fly.
    First class.

  23. 2slugbaits

    Rick Stryker George Romney was not born in the US. He was born in Mexico. If his name had been Jorgi Ramirez instead of George Romney we wouldn’t even be having this discussion; Sheriff Arpaio simply would have asked for his papers and Jorgi would be back in Mexico. His ancestors fled the US because of the Edmunds Act. His ancestors settled in Mexico and intended to stay there permanently. And many did. George Romney only snuck over the border because his father was fleeing from the Mexican civil war. Citizenship is not something one inherits through one’s grandfather’s genes. And as I said before, Romney’s ancestors clearly indicated that they had renounced US citizenship by settling in Mexico for almost 30 years and by taking an active part in Mexican politics.
    I am not making a birther argument. I am simply asking if Mitt Romney would apply the same rules to his father George Romney’s illegal immigrant status that he tells right wing groups he would apply to Jorgi Rameriz.

  24. Rick Stryker

    You missed the point about George Romney. I said:
    “He’d also know that legal and historical precedent dictate that a person born in a foreign country to natural born citizens is a natural born citizen as well. So Romney’s father is natural born too since Romney’s grandfather and grandmother were natural born citizens.”
    In other words, the fact that George Romney was born in Mexico is irrelevant: George Romney is automatically a natural born American citizen since his parents were natural born citizens.
    Let’s review your arguments so far:
    1) The Edmunds act stripped the Romneys of their citizenship. Status: false
    2) The Romneys intended to give up their citizenship by moving permanently to Mexico, participating in Mexican politics, and suing the Mexican government and would have been stripped of their citizenship under the 1907 Expatriation Act. Status: false
    3) George Romney was born in Mexico and is therefore not a U.S. citizen. Status: false
    Your latest claim seems to be 2) above, but without any statutory basis. That’s false on that face of it. You don’t renounce your citizenship simply because you’ve decided to move to another country permanently, for example.
    You are indeed making birther arguments in order to accuse Romney of hypocrisy. But your claims are wrong: Romney’s father was a US citizen, not an illegal immigrant.

  25. benamery21

    So I read the decision vacating Eben’s conviction and 25 year sentence. I’m not convinced A)that the killing was racially motivated, or B)that there was intent to kill. I could be wrong about both things, but I think there is/was reasonable doubt. Our criminal system is supposed to err, when it errs, on the side of innocence, not vengeance. The fact that Chin was alive and talking when Ebens stopped drunkenly flailing at him with a baseball bat and that he took 4 days to die from his injuries (not my idea of an execution), the intoxication of all participants, the alternative explanation of how the verbal confrontation started offered by Ebens and some 3rd party witnesses (Chin’s drunken disparagement of a particular dancer), the undisputed fact that Chin began the physical confrontation by sucker punching a seated Ebens, the use of blunt instruments (chair) inside the club which drew blood from the head of Nitz, the repeated escalation of the incident by Chin, the fact that he did not immediately depart and was waiting outside the club, the relatively short duration of events, the recorded coaching and confusion of the prosecution witnesses, the admitted adoption of weapons (stick/bottle) outside the club by both Chin and Choi, the lack of a criminal record by both defendants, sentencing standards and community norms of violence at the time, and the previous sentencing record of the judge, all helps me understand how the Jewish judge (in the normal for the time/place absence of either prosecutor or victim’s representative at sentencing) could allow a plea to a charge carrying a 15 year maximum sentence, and calibrate the sentence to the low end of the scale, given that violation of probation terms would have resulted in doing time. I don’t say I would have reached the same conclusion, but I wasn’t the judge. Like many another case tried in the court of public opinion, sentiment reaches a conclusion not fully supported by the facts.

  26. benamery21

    Somewhat related to how this thread is playing out, until at least the Depression and to some extent until the early 60’s, the U.S. was expansionist. It was widely assumed that Mexico and Central America, Cuba, the Philippines, and many Pacific islands would become part of the U.S. Or more fully part of the U.S. in the case of U.S. possessions. Moving to Cuba, Mexico, the Philippines, Venezuela, etc. was thought of in much the same way that earlier generations thought of moving to Mexican held Texas or Alta California. Similarly, for certain racial/national categories of immigrants (non-Asians), the doors were wide open. My sister-in-laws Mexican relatives moved back and forth across the border between AZ and Sonora repeatedly before and after the border existed (Guadalupe-Hidalgo). Before 1965, nobody thought twice about it. The Spanish-American war was in 1898, (around the time my grandfather’s family arrived from Denmark and started picking fruit in Florida), my Mom’s uncle lost a washing machine factory in the Philippines to the Japanese invasion. The U.S. owned Panama canal and the Pan-American hwy date to shortly after that war. The U.S. wrote Venezuela’s 1922 oil law, by 1929 Venezuela was the 2nd largest oil producer in the world, largely because of American FDI. U.S. Fruit companies owned most of Central America.
    Viewed thru this prism the racist anti-exclusion act was aimed at stemming Asian population growth in the west due to fear that the tables were in danger of being turned and U.S. Dominance in the area would be lost, the bigamy law was aimed at reducing Mormon control in the interior West (which rivaled U.S. Control), if that seems incredible to folks now I submit you’ve never lived in an area of the U.S. with a majority LDS population.

  27. Menzie Chinn

    benamary21 So regarding (A), your doubt the killing was racially motivated — you must believe that had Chin been of German extraction, he would have still been pursued, held down and beaten senseless with a baseball bat?

  28. benamery21

    This kind of violence is often motivated by no more than a misheard word. I’ve seen plenty of white-on-white bar brawl violence, including folks being pursued out of the bar over trivial remarks which struck a nerve with a drunk, and can certainly imagine that having happened to a German-American. In fact, two of Chin’s party were white, and some testimony was that at one point that pair was chased from the parking lot by a bat brandishing Ebens. Had they not fled, you would almost certainly never have heard of this case. I grew up in a neighborhood and white socio-economic class where some people’s idea of Saturday entertainment was looking for fights. I’ve had plenty of bottles thrown at me or broken and brandished. My ex-girlfriend’s standard reaction to having a knife pulled on her was to pull her own. She did time for assault for knocking a man who got too familiar six ways to Sunday. I only barely kept her and her cousins from killing an in-law who raped another cousin (he did 5 years and they got off with no charges). I was in a bar about a year ago where two little white guys went at each other with (heavy) beer mugs and pool cues, one of them was ejected with the assistance of the patrons (bar staff was female). A few hours later when I left the bar I found him laid out on the asphalt in the parking lot (he’d waited and the other guy apparently followed him out). The fact that the killers did not have that kind of record (as did many in Detroit at the time), is likely what the judge was looking at.
    Ebens claim as to the triggering remarks, is plausible to me, and supported to some degree by the fact that Choi apologized to Ebens, and by the transcript of the prosecutorial coaching..

  29. Hitchhiker

    For once, I also agree 100% with Menzie. Bigotry is ugly and hillbillies and rednecks with this mentality will always be with us. Unfortunately, such bigotry is not relegated to backwoods rural folks but, used extensively by politicians on both sides of the aisle (but mostly one) to further political ambitions. The tribal fear of others is part of the human condition. One political party embraces all with true diversity and a common bond of freedom and opportunity. The other uses these tribal tendencies to divide and conquer and force their utopian fantasies on everyone. When are you going to switch parties?
    Let’s not forget how and why unions were first founded. It was not to raise the wage or improve the working conditions of average folks. That was the ruse, however, the true intent was spoken by many and it was pure racism. It was an attempt to keep colored labor from undercutting white labor and taking their jobs. This same hatred and selfishness was on grand display in Madison recently.

  30. Menzie Chinn

    benamary21: If you continue to assert that probabilistically the likelihood of being pursued and hunted down, and then having one’s head cracked open with a baseball bat, would be equal regardless of whether the victim was asian or caucasian, given the statements that witnesses overheard, then I believe you are in serious denial.

  31. benamery21

    Have you read the transcript of the tape of the prosecution coaching those witnesses? I think most people want to believe that violence ending in death had a motivation that doesn’t seem trivial–such as racism–rather than accepting the pointlessness of much violence and death. Alcohol, testosterone, and scantily clad women are a volatile combination. I in no way deny that racially motivated violence exists–my high school had race riots (latino vs. non-hispanic white) in the 90’s. Because I spend time socially with very diverse and disparate groups I’ve had a lot of opportunity to see this directly–I tend to think bias more prevalent (or at least more consequential) among authority groups (particularly cops) than the underclass, though rawer when present in the less polished. My life experience may involve more exposure than the typical to the kind of pointless violence, police perjury, and prosecutorial coaching I suspect to have been involved in this case, this may incline me more to accept the possibility that there was reasonable doubt as to Ebens’ motivations. If you’ve never seen somebody cracked over the head for no good reason, or seen obviously solicited testimony, or seen cops perjure themselves to support the prosecution, you may have less reason to accept that possibility.

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