Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Judge Suspended For Wearing Blackface To Party

NEW ORLEANS -- The Louisiana Supreme Court has given a judge a six-month suspension for wearing blackface makeup, handcuffs and a jail jumpsuit to a Halloween party.

Judge Timothy Ellender will lose all of his pay during the suspension. That totals more than $50,000.

Ellender, who is white, said the costumes worn by him and his wife were meant as a joke. She dressed as a policewoman. And the party's host, Ellender's brother-in-law, was dressed as Buckwheat.

The justices agreed Ellender did not mean to insult blacks. Still, they ordered him to take a sociology course to get "a greater understanding of racial sensitivity."

(credit http://www.nbc4.tv/news/3994952/detail.html)

It's rare when I do a full spit take while I'm working...I don't even have the words for this. Even as a joke, in our sue-happy day, you'd have to be daft to think you can do this sort of thing, public and not face consequences.

57 Comments:

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

If you went to party dressed as a Pirate would that be an insult to Pirates or a man who dressed up as a woman to a party would that be an insult to women. The converse a black man who wore a white face would that be an insult to a white man, certainly would not insult me. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Turn the sensitivity dial down a few notches.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger inkling said...

Lets hope the sociology course will help him see why his actions, while not intended as an insult, is really problematic.

And with due respect, this is very different to a pirate costume. You wear a pirate's face, carry a sword and a pistol and act ready to board some ships – no problem characterizing pirates that way because that is what pirates do. But you wear a Black face then put on handcuffs and act like you are on the way to jail – big problem! Especially if you are a judge!

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Markkind said...

Well, if he had just gone to the party in the prison jumper and handcuffs, that would have been sufficient...he could have even said he was a Slipknot fan. By wearing blackface he's going out of his way to make the point that more prisoners are black than are white. If he was a private citizen going to a private party then all he suffers is the reaction of those at the party. However, he's a public servant and this speaks badly to his feelings toward his consticuence. In short, he should have known better.

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

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At 6:34 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

This judge new exactly what he was doing. He obviously believes that certain groups of people are inferior to others, and that it is therefore okay to treat them in a different manner.

Why didn't he dress up like a Catholic priest and his wife dress up like a choir boy?

Why didn't he dress up like a Mexican and his wife dress up like a border guard?

This judge, and it sounds like his friends as well, is a racist. He believes that blacks are inferior in some way, and, therefore, it is okay to make fun of them.

How can any reasonable person compare this to dressing up as a pirate? You would only make that kind of analogy if you were just as racist.

He should get more than a suspension? How many blacks do you think he may have "given the max" to teach them a lesson? How many blacks do you think he denied their legal rights?

Joke? I don't think so.

 
At 5:59 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

Now I’m labelled a racist, the best way to close down an argument use that word and all hell breaks loose.

Well the Pirate description may have been flippant and a judge should probably have know better, aren’t we eroding though, not only freedom of speech but also freedom of action, you can’t legislate for peoples stupidity. The English have the best sense of humour in the world because they can laugh at their own misfortune; we are, by all accounts lousy lovers, bad cooks and a nation of homosexuals according to a French lady politician. But we don’t need therapy because no matter how bleak the situation, we can always see the funny side of things.
A man who dresses up as a woman does not make him a misogynist. A judge who dresses as a Blackman in hand cuffs may be a fool not necessarily a racist and not a candidate for prison or any other form of abuse.

 
At 6:23 AM, Blogger Markkind said...

Well I don't think Charlie is a racist, but I do think he's missing the point.

What the judge did is insensitive because he's a judge and he sentences people to jail for a living.

Again, I would have had less of a problem if he'd just skipped the blackface and gone in the prison jumper.

Try to imagine you're a drug and alcohol counselor and you show up to a party dressed like a strung out heroin addict. It's the same kind of thing. There's a time and a place for being silly and when you're a judge those times are limited.

...and whom are the French to criticize us?

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger D. said...

You also seem to forget that putting on "blackface" is a symbolic reference use to denote inferiority. I'm not goin to go in to the history of blackface, (google it) but it is an overt, public display of racism.

Add to the fact that he's a judge who represents the state of Louisiana and is supposed to be impartial; remember, justice is blind.

 
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At 10:00 AM, Blogger rashell said...

good lord. No wonder the hand of Justice lays so heavy on some races than others. That really represents to me, the sorry state of our judicial system.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger The Ranger said...

I'm new at this blog stuff, but had to weigh in here. Let me say that this controversy is obviously politically motivated. Who cares if this guy is an insensitive racist with his friends on his own time? It is his actions on the bench that matter. If he shows racist tendencies there, then he is up for scrutiny and hopefully dismissal.

What should the consequence for Donald Rumsfeld be for his public disregard for the safety of our young men and women. I think that calls for more than a fine.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

I’m Sorry I did not mean to poke my stick in a hornets nest, I was unaware that to paint ones face black was a grave insult to black people, as to judges who should know better, they live with 24 hour police protection they are cocooned from the reality’s of life, did this judge realise like me that to paint ones face black is a grave insult or that the profit Mohamed who married a 9 year old girl could be described as a paedophile a grave insult to Islam. Did this judge do his job properly did he make wise decisions as he is paid to do?
When I went to a fancy dress party (which I hate) I dressed as German army officer I would hate to think that people thought I was responsible for the deaths of 6 million jews.

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger William C. White said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger William C. White said...

If an indivdual belongs to the KKK or a White Supremacist organization in their "private" time, do you think that they should be a judge, school teacher, or police officer? Not saying that this judge belongs to any supremacist group, but rather responding to the individual who asserts that what public officials do in their private time is no business of the public. It's obvious that ones "own time" practices reflects ones "true" character.

Back to Charlie, a person is free to hold beliefs and practice behaviors that are racist, prejudicial, or whatever, but that person cannot expect others to allow him/her to hold public offices or positions of authority, positions that require that they not be racist, prejudicial, etc. And yes, you can legislate for peoples stupidity, as you can see this judge was suspended. No, this judge shouldn't go to jail or anything extreme like that. I defend this judges right to belief whatever he wants to believe about black people. However, I wouldn't want him to be a judge, teacher, or police officer. Because you don't stop being a racist once you put on the robe, or uniform, or enter the school building.

The English and French can believe whatever they want to believe. Remember, the English are people who make "Prince" Charles, "Prince" William, and the other boy millionaires (at least) because their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather married somebody "important", and therefore, their blood is "royal" in nature. Get real. As for the French politician, did Saddam Hussein pay her to say that, or for the first time, did one of their politicians come up with their own ideas.

Back to the judge, I don't see how you can't see the problem in the actions of this judge. Maybe this will help: If the judge dresses up like a woman (even a black woman), no problem. However, if the judge dresses up like a black woman and has welfare checks spilling out of his pockets, and has four or five kids in black face, now THAT'S a problem. Can you hear me now???

 
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At 11:00 PM, Blogger jmscott72@gmail.com said...

Don't worry, it's perfectly normal for a liberal to throw the race card around. They do it in almost every situation, mostly elections. I don't believe this man is a racist or anyone that sticks up for him for that matter. White people are constantly being ridiculed by the black population. The judge was without a doubt in the wrong and should have known better, but $50,000 is a lot of money for someone's little joke. I believe all they are doing is trying to make an example of him, which they did if we're talking about it.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

This case is so simple it's hard for me to understand why anyone wouldn't get it. Ellender is a public figure therefore he gave up his right not to be judged by the public, unlike a private individual. Also, Ellender is a judge. He is responsible for being impartial and upholding blind justice. He doesn't have the right to put on a racially sensitive costume. And, regardless of the fact of whether or not it was right or wrong, he's a complete idiot. If you're a public official, then the last thing you want to do is call into question your position in order to wear a costume to a party. That's just plain stupidity. You don't get far in business or anywhere else without learning how to play your cards right.

Also, it would have been fine if he were depicting a particular criminal or alleged criminal that happened to be black, like O.J. Simpson or Kobe Bryant. Then there would be a reason for depicting himself as black. In this case the intent is obvious and it has nothing to do with a man dressing up as a woman OR a pirate.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger raej said...

I'm sorry, but this is just wrong.

This person, Judge or no, was at a private party. Our civil liberties say that we, even Judges, are allowed to be racist bastards in our spare time if we want.

Where a Judge is not supposed to be a racist bastard is when he is sentencing people. If the court wanted to suspend him because that was proven to be the case, fine. But to suspend someone for wearing a stupid costume? No, no no and no.

Moreover, what joke doesn't have, at it's heart, insensitivity and mockery of the discomfort of others? That's just what humour is. Live with it.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

Guru Rae, I'm going to keep this short and simple. If you believe that a person can be a "racist bastard" in his private time, but fair and impartial any other time, then quite simply YOU ARE A BIGGER FOOL THAN A WHITE MOUTH MULE.

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger raej said...

Well, WC.W, the level of debate on this site certainly is always, ahem, variable. Thank you so much for illustrating.

Though I don't agree, I'm going to momentarily grant you, for the sake of cutting to the chase, the Impossible To Be Anything But Constantly and Consistantly Racist thing.

Because my main point is this: It is unjust for his employers to take action against this man for his legal actions at a private party.

If someone had concern that this particular person was a racist bastard, the just thing to have done would've been to get evidence and/or witnesses of racist actions he committed while executing his job.

Even after his stupid costume choice: The concerned parties certainly could've suggested an investigation to be in order. Then, his record could be reviewed for EVIDENCE of skewed sentencing, WITNESSES could perhaps have been called, etc, etc. This would've been fair and just.

To do otherwise sets a disturbing precident. Are they going to begin following all of their judges around to all social events? Is that possible? Why just judges? And so on and so on and so on.

Being an idiot was not an actionable crime last time I checked. Nor, actually, is being a racist.

 
At 5:54 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

The justices agreed Ellender did not mean to insult blacks.

Yet according to certain viewpoints, He’s a racist bastard all because of a foolish act at a private party. I have been to parties where a lot of the partygoers were policeman and you would not believe the stupid things they got up to, certainly shocked me.
I put it down to working in a strict politically correct atmosphere all the time, when party time comes they let of steam.
Political correctness it seems means having to agree to something you know to be wrong, I would much prefer the truth.
Brushing statistics under the carpet for fear of offending one racial group or an another is pointless in the long term.
Many judges make wrong decisions from time to time hence the public and press outrage. Apart from dressing up as a blackman has this judge made improper judicial decisions, if he has then join the club.

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger William C. White said...

You guys may want to learn about the legal system. If judges were capable of "turning off" their personal, private feelings and stick only with the law, Why would we care about which judge a President appointed to a court?

Have you ever heard of a concept called "conflict of interest"? Since, Guru Rae, believes that racist can actually turn off their racism when they put on the robe, it's clear he doesn't understand the "idea" of conflict of interest.

Almost ALL of a judge's decisions are within his judicial discretion, and I know that if it was shown that he sentenced, or overruled objections, or sustained objections, or allowed certain evidence in, in a questionable way, people like Guru Rae would say, "Well, did he violate any laws?" Which shows that looking at his record is a waste of time. A judge's decision is almost never a violation of the law.

When the Supreme Court ruled that black people were property, they were not violating any laws. This judge will always be able to defend his rulings with, "The circumstances of the crime were different." The circumstances are ALWAYS different for every crime.

But since some of you guys are not dealing with the real world, let me ask you this: Does Superman think like Clark Kent? Does Batman think like Bruce Wayne? Does Spiderman think like Peter Parker?

Also, Guru Rae, you can read my other post. But you probably won't understand them because you don't seem to understand that judges step down from certain cases for a reason, judges are removed from certain cases for a reason, prosecuters are not allowed to prosecute certain case for a reason. Until you can understand the reasoning behind those actions, you won't understand anything I'm saying.

But maybe this will help: If you killed a certain judge's child, would you want that judge to be your trial judge? According to you he can turn off his feelings like some type of robot. WAKE UP, MAN!!!

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger KirbyMeister said...

Basically, they're afraid of possible bad PR and they're punishing him for having fun.

Darn sensitive types.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger The Discontented said...

A lot of people confuse racial sensitivity with a sense of empathy. Responding to another commentor, the difference between the man who comes in with a pirate outfit, and the person who comes in with blackface is that the blackface (specifically with the handcuffs and jail jumpsuit) plays off of racial stereotypes and a societal problem that is simply no laughing matter. I fail to see the connections between pirates and a racially oppressed group in American society. Furthermore, if you acknowledge that this judge's characterization might have been especially offensive to a family member of a black male currently incarcerated, I think that it warrants, if nothing else, a class in empathy. Empathy does not simply mean sensitivity to a person's racial identity, but to broad sensitivity to a myriad of emotional consequences to your actions.

 
At 3:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

William C., I think you have missed the point Guru Rae was making. The whole idea of the Rule of Law, which Western Civilization is supposed to value so highly since the time of Hammurabi, is that we clearly define what behavior is unacceptable, and we leave the rest alone. More formally, we permit our Government to declare that the most heinous of actions are outside the acceptable limits of Society, and we leave everything else to be settled between individuals. Moreover, we insist that the Governmental standards be written down, and published in advance. And we agree that the Government will not punish anyone unless certain procedures are followed to determine that they violated one of these written, published standards. This are basic safeguards to individual liberty.

So here's the deal. Our legislators didn't pass a law that says it's illegal to wear blackface and a prison suit to a party. That means the Government is prohibited from taking action against a person who does this. It doesn't mean the judge is right, it only means that, collectively, we can't punish a person for doing something that isn't illegal.

You, as an individual, are free to write him letters expressing your outrage. I encourage you to do that. You're free to publish your letters and opinions on blogs and in newspapers. You are free to appear on television talk shows, and to yell over a megaphone in front of his office. And I believe most Americans would join in your opinion in condemning this derogatory and insulting action. But that does not mean the Government is permitted to supend the guy, and threaten his livelihood, because he didn't do anything illegal. I'm sorry if that bothers you, but that is what it means to abide by the Rule of Law.

Moreover, I'm afraid that if you tried to pass a law to the effect that wearing a racially loaded and demeaing get-up like this was punishable, the Courts would eventually decide that such a law violated our Constitutional right to speak freely and express our opinions in public. And I would have to agree. Much as I dislike racism, and work against it where I can, I have to protect the people who do believe it as a part of their social philosophy in the same way I protect any other unpopular social idea, like Communism, or Pacifism, or Atheism. Judges are not exempt from the protections of the First Amendment. It protects them as much as it protects anyone else. If this particular judge is unsuited for his office, the remedy for it must be sought within the Law. It is wholly inappropriate to punish him summarily.

-- The Green Man

 
At 4:08 AM, Blogger James d. said...

I would have to think that part of the problem is the combination of the blackface with the jail motif.
Not that blackface is really something all that acceptable--while Bing Crosby could get away with it in 1942's "Holiday Inn" as part of a skit at a party, I just don't see how you could do that now and not have any type of feeling like, Man, maybe this isn't such a great idea.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that the case of Judge Roy Moore is illluminating. You may remember, Moore was Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court when he ordered a sculpture of the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the entrance to the court building. Many people felt this betrayed a bias on Justice Moore's part: it declared that people would not receive a fair hearing of legal arguments that run counter to certain religious teachings.

In the current case, this action would be equivalent to commissioning a sculpture of a black man being led away in a prison jumpsuit by a white policewoman, and placing it in the lobby of the court building.

In Moore's case, the Federal Courts ruled that this sculpture did, indeed, advertise a bias in the Alabama Supreme Court that would make it appear the Government was taking sides in controversies that touched on religious issues. The Federal Court ordered that this monument, therefore, was inappropriate and must be removed. Nothing in the Federal ruling suggested that Chief Justice Moore should be prevented from serving on the Alabama Supreme Court, or that his pay should be docked, because he had been so vocal about his position or made it so clear to everyone that he intended to follow his understanding of God's Law while he served on the Bench. In fact, they allowed that Judge Moore could post a copy of the Ten Commandments in his private chambers, as long as he did not display it in the public parts of the Court, and he made it clear that this presentation of it was purely personal rather than official.

In the current case, this would be equivalent to saying the Judge could keep a photo of himself and his wife, in costume, on his desk as a fond reminder of this fun party. I think we'd all find that way more outrageous than simply going to the party in the first place, but there it is. The advertisement of the prejudicial belief is kept within the confines of the judge's "personal" space at the office, and is not advertised as the official opinion of the court. This is not to say the judge is not prejudiced. He could be well known for being prejudiced, as Roy Moore is on a different basis, and still be a judge.

Roy Moore was removed from office because he refused to follow the Federal Court's order, and remove the monument in question. It was only because he refused to a Court Order, and therefore failed to uphold the Law he was sworn to effect, that subsequent hearings and judicial review determined he was unfit to serve.

In the current case, none of the protections that safe-guarded Roy Moore's private prejudices were allowed to Judge Ellender.

-- The Green Man

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger D. said...

Impartiality is completely lost when a judge dresses up in a racist costume like that. I don't see how the judge could not see that as a racist stereotype, especially someone in Louisiana, who is of an age to remember desegregation.
I think he did it because he felt he had no responsibility to the black community to show impartiality.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger William C. White said...

For those who say that this judge operated "within the law" and that he did what he had a "constitutional" right to do, I ask, "Did the Louisiana Supreme Court operate within the law when they suspended him?" Did they have the "constitutional authority" to remove him? If so, what's the problem? A fair exchange is not a robbery!!! You do what you have the legal right to do, and they'll do what they have the legal right to do.

Note: In a lot of states in the US, I know it's true in my state, your boss can terminate your employment "without cause". You could be terminated because of your clothes, your hairs style, or just because "the boss didn't like you." You do NOT have the right to work in many states. So, in my state at least, your livelihood can be ended without cause. And you know what, IT'S WITHIN THE LAW!!! This judge knew that, and decided to do what he did anyway, now he has six months to decide whether or not he wants to do it again.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took your comments to heart, William, and read the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Court ruled on the basis of the specific point in the State's judicial code that says "A judge... should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." Inasmuch as this costume undercuts public confidence in his impartiality, I see how the Court came to its conclusion. I note the two dissenting Justices who believe a censure is more in line with the punishment accorded to other judges in the last 20 years, in cases where the action was even more offensive, and in some cases more directly targeted at suspects and potential prisoners. I also note, as the position is elected, that the most appropriate way to remove the sucker from office is to remind his electorate of this next time he comes up for renewal.

-- The Green Man

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger Maurice Sharpe said...

This post was a great read. Mr White I salute you. I must admit Mr. Green Man almost had me convinced he was right, I can tell he's a Lawyer.

I had heard about this Judge's ill advised antics on the news. The sad thing is I am a black man and I did not even lift an eyebrow when I heard it. Not because I'm not angry, but I'm just tired. All my fifty plus years I have lived with the insensitivity of SOME white people wondering, "what's wrong with them now?" I used to be really upset when they couldn't understand what they were doing or saying. Now I just shake my head, sigh and go on about my business. I do not know what it will take to open some peoples eyes, but I hope one day we will all have our eyes opened. I'm not a complainer or whinner of "how the white man has held me back". I am a lower middle class citizen who happens to be black and very proud. I work, pay taxes, contribute to society positively and treat everyone equally. Just like I'm supposed to do. I don't have any business in court, but I'd hate to have to stand before that Judge, but maybe I have already stood before the same ideology in the realtor, the car dealer, the supervisor, the store clerk, the waitress, the utility worker, my Congressman, my Mayor, my doctor, HEY I have an idea!!! let's all take our blackfaces off!!!....uh oh, mine won't come off.

 
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At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Socialist said...

Ok, All of you riddle me this. If I (a white male) were to say a "racial slurr" to any persons being of another cultural decent it is considered a hate crime, But if a person of another minority decides to call a white person a "cracker, or Honky" it is completely legal, yes they do say it because they hate us, but its not a hate crime because we are white, and white isnt a minority now is it? but wait, studys show the white male is the minority of modern days, why is this? A white male will not get the job even if he is more qualified for it, but the company has to have a certian number of blacks, or mexicans, or middle easterns, or asians, or some cultural denomination it dosent matter if they are qualified or not. This greatly upsets me, and shows how if we are trying to make everyone else non-minority, we are plunging ourselfs deeper into minority, then what will become of that? a reverse struggle for us not being a minority, this is where i belive socialism comes into play. I will discuss this in other time.

 
At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to turn the tables a little, I think that a homosexual school teacher shouldn't be allowed to teach our children because of thier private lives. So I would be a hypocrite if I thought it was ok for a judge to act in a racist fashion when not on the bench, even though this was my first reaction.

But I wonder how many of you that would burn this judge at the stake think that what a teacher does in their private life is their own business.

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.please get a life..jessie jackson is the worst racist .i know maybe he is related to michael jackson???

 
At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IGNORANT.

 
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