The Daily Caller reaped a social media shitstorm Monday when they launched an “investigation” into Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery’s blackness, or lack thereof. The post was entitled “TheDC Investigates: Is WaPo’s Wesley Lowery Black?” It examined Lowery’s claim of blackness, versus a contradictory data point from an October traffic stop in Maryland. While Lowery implied that he was black in criticizing Politico’s lack of diversity, the police report from Lowery’s traffic stop told a different story:
The police report lists Lowery’s physical vitals — his height (5’9″) and weight (145 pounds) along with other standard information that included race. As you can see below, it reads: White, Caucasian, Asiatic Indian, and Arab.
DC reporter Betsy Rothstein (full disclosure: a longtime frenemy of this reporter) fended off accusations of “racism” on Twitter:
I love this. So now no one is even supposed to even ask questions about race involving a reporter who covers it.
— Betsy Rothstein (@betsyscribeindc) December 1, 2014
The Daily Caller is what many would call a “racist rag” that operates under a formula in which they carefully write something racist in such a way as to give themselves cover for their obvious subtext (for example, by studiously using quotes from others in order to evoke a stereotype), but then fucking it up anyway. The problem is, they aren’t that clever, and so they slip up.
In this case, the racist subtext is obvious. Under the law, race is a self-reported characteristic, so since Wesley Lowery says he is black, he is legally black. That’s also how it works in the culture at large. By reporting the traffic stop data as a contradiction of Lowery’s self-identification, the DC is presuming that Lowery may be lying about his race, rather than that the traffic stop data may be inaccurate. In post-Jim Crow America, racial self-identification is the norm, while third-party judging of racial purity is unquestionably racist. That’s all subtext, though, because as Rothstein points out, Lowery was kind of asking for it when he claimed to be black.
The Lowery piece is chock-full of such subtext, but contains at least one overt racist passage:
Humorously enough, Breitbart News, not exactly known for their sensitivity toward anyone, calls Lowery a “snowflake,” which is actually technically just about right.
“Snowflake” is, of course, a racial slur for whites or whiteness, and while The Daily Caller cleverly puts the word in Breitbart.com’s mouth, they agree with the sentiment on a “technical” level. Since no evidence is presented that Lowery is composed of tiny ice crystals, this is a reference to his white lineage.
The entire premise of the piece, however, rests on the question of how police in Garrett County determine the race of a citizen during a traffic stop, which The Daily Caller attempted to find out, but was unable to. If Lowery told the cop he wasn’t black, or certified that on his driver’s license, then even with all of the racial subtext, there’s at least a shred of cover for running an article questioning Wesley Lowery’s racial purity.
Thankfully, The Daily Banter has learned how police in Maryland determine race in traffic stops. First, we determined that it could not have come from Lowery’s driver’s license, since Ohio driver’s licenses don’t have racial designations. Furthermore, the State of Maryland releases annual reports on racial data for traffic stops, and according to those reports, “The demographic information of the driver in the traffic stop was determined using the officer’s observations.”
The officer who stopped Lowery reported him as “White, Caucasian, Asiatic Indian, Arab” based on his own observations, which coincidentally, would put Lowery into the report’s “other” category, thus lowering the proportion of black stops in the report. In the most recent report, black people accounted for 39.5% of all traffic stops, while making up only 29.8% of the population. Black men were also 50% more likely to be searched than white men, and 20% more likely to be arrested, even though white males were 13% more likely to be found with contraband.
The proportion of black people in Maryland traffic stops has been edging up over the past few years, but lucky for confused Maryland cops, the law that requires the reporting expired in June. Maryland’s legislature is still solidly Democratic, but the state’s voters did elect a Republican governor during the 2014 midterms.