Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Michael Vick and Race

Michael Vick is about to plead guilty to dogfighting charges and will actually do time, somewhere between 12 months to 18 months. I think that's only appropriate. One of the things that has been interesting to observe is the media's coverage of the Vick controversy.

The media has covered this story extensively and all of the gruesome details (the electrocutions, rape stands, etc.), however, there is one element that it has sorely missed- race. And I don't think that reporters are necessarily brushing this under the carpet but are simply unaware of this dynamic.

The Michael Vick dogfighting case is quite similar to the OJ Simpson trial in that how it is perceived divides significantly on race. Admittedly, I am drawing this conclusion from a small sample: colleagues' reactions at work, a couple of radio channels, statements from other players. But I do think there is a substantial difference in the White and African-American communities in terms of their perception of dogfighting in general and the Michael Vick case in particular. I didn't anticipate this. With the OJ Simpson case, even though there was a complete irrationality in the perception of OJ's innocence or some grand conspiracy, at the root of this irrationality as it applied to OJ was a deepseated mistrust in the law enforcement community and the justice system that was well founded. I am sure to some extent this is a contributing factor in the Vick case but not one that fully explains this phenomenon. I would speculate that the difference probably comes from differing norms on pet ownership more than anything but I don't really have a clue.

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