Much has been made of Michael Vick's return to the NFL this year after two years in prison. Two years! How did he get that much when another NFL star got just 30 days for manslaughter. First, he managed to get snared in federal racketeering charges instead of local laws. Second, he was uncooperative and was "made an example" by an angry judge.
Meanwhile, Brett Favre likes to kill animals for sport, too. But his animals are bear and deer. Moreover, I and you, tender reader, enjoy eating hamburgers, chicken wings, and other pieces of dead animals bred in captivity and killed at will. It's hard to see the difference in treatment as anything other than social fiat: we, as a society, like dogs, and don't want to see them killed. We, as a society, believe that animal bloodsport (including bullfighting and bear-baiting as well as dogfighting) is unbecoming of our humanity and detrimental to social peace, but that slaughtering cattle is just fine. That's all well and good: I don't question the content of those decisions.
But race plays a role. It's not racism per se that's at play here. The white American majority did not set out to make "black" sports illegal because we dislike blacks. Nor would the law have let Favre walk if he chose dogfighting instead of bear-hunting. Rather, the majority has outlawed that which it finds inhumane, and the tastes represented by that majority must be the tastes of most whites: there's no other way to construct an American majority.
So what's a majority to do? Should we allow behavior we think inhumane? Should we outlaw behavior that anyone thinks is inhumane (PETA, we're looking at you)? Or should we have different standards for different races? No; separate was never equal. So we find no clear alternative to democracy (in one form or another), which will always elevate the tastes and sensibilities of a majority.
And then what's a Vick to do? By his own lights, he did no worse than Brett Favre with a hunting rifle. He could have accepted the standards of others' consciences, like a foreigner would; but he's no foreigner. Instead, he accepted the harsh punishment of a society in which he enjoys the futility of full individual representation.