Saturday, February 10, 2018

Everyone Is A Little Bit Racist

Everyone is a little bit racist...

A reader chastises me, saying that I am mocking the Black Lives Matter movement. I'm not mocking the incidents where police have used deadly force without sufficient provocation.  That is indeed a tragedy in any circumstance, regardless of the color of the person being shot.

And sadly this does tend to happen more often to black people than to white people, because black people are more likely to be pulled over or interrogated or be stopped by the police.  And this isn't necessarily a function of direct racism but of the underlying racism in our society.

The black lives matter movement posits that the reason why there's more black people in jail than white people and why more black people are shot by the police is because of police racism.  They posit that police are racist, the courts are racist, and the whole system is racist and therefore that's why black people are in jail and that's why black people are being shot by the police.

However this is actually a very complex problem, and simple answers to complex problems are often the wrong answers as I've often noted.  Yes, racism is involved, but it's not necessarily only direct racism on the part of the police.  I know a number police officers, none of them in my mind go out thinking, "Gosh I need to go shoot a black guy, just for the hell of it."

Sadly, black folks are more likely to be in jail and more likely to be stopped and interrogated by the police because they're more likely to be from a lower socioeconomic class.  Poor white people are also more likely to be in jail and more likely to be detained by the police then richer white people.  It's more a matter of poverty than race per se.  But the reason why more black people per capita are poor than white people does have to do with race.  And that really is the underlying problem not necessarily racism by the police - although that is also a factor.

The sad fact of the matter is that police work is difficult at best.  And when you or I make a mistake at work, maybe we have to do something over or stay late to fix things.  At the very worst somebody doesn't get their report on time or maybe a product is shipped a few weeks late.  But when the police make a mistake, someone often dies, and often it's a police officer.

We've seen a couple of incidents recently where white people have been shot by the police without apparent provocation.  There's a celebrated case in Chicago where an Australian woman was shot by the police when she reported what she thought was a sex crime in progress.  The police drove down an alleyway and apparently she banged on the window of the police car to get their attention, startling one of the officers. He fired his handgun through the open window of the car killing her. And apparently he had his gun right in the face of his partner when he did this which must have been a deafening experience.  Iriony alert:  the cop who shot the white woman was black.   But no one is alleging "racism" or "reverse racism" (which is just racism) as a cause.

It's hard to understand what's going through the mind of the police officer other than he was afraid. Unfortunately one of the effects of the black lives matter movement has been to crank up the level of fear on both sides of the fence here.  And I think as a result, the us-versus-them mentality among the police has been amplified.  When people are marching in the street, calling the police pigs and murderers, you can only imagine that the police must be taking a more defensive posture.

In another recent incident, a white man was shot on his own front porch in Kansas, when somebody "Swatted" his house as a result of some of stupid argument about video games.  By the way, violent video games and video gamers are not an issue and dochuforgetit!   The man was not even involved in the dispute, but one of the people arguing over the stupid video game gave out his address.  The police showed up thinking there was a hostage incident.  The man, curious as to what the hell was going on, went out on this front porch with a cell phone which the police thought was a gun, and they shot him dead.

Funny thing is, we never heard from black lives matter about that incident.  But it was equally as much an injustice if not moreso than many of the incidents that BLM has highlighted.

In another incident which strikes home to me, a young man was shot dead in his car along the George Washington Parkway very near where my house used to be in Alexandria.  This resonates with me because, as I related before, I was pulled over by the police and "sort of" arrested for speeding down the George Washington Parkway.  The police officer thought he had caught Dillinger or something as he asked me to throw the keys from the car and interlace my fingers between my head and then walk backwards toward him.  His service weapon was drawn on me the entire time and if I had turned around and made one false move he probably would have shot me.  Park Police - the clowns of law enforcement.

Almost 30 years to the day and at almost the exact same location, a young man is shot in his car after he left a hit-and-run accident.  Apparently he pulled over and somehow ended up in a ditch and the police told him to halt and he tried to accelerate away at which point they unloaded their weapons and killed him.  It's unclear whether this killing was justified or not.  It's a lot easier to sit in an armchair and decide what was right and wrong if you weren't on the scene.  When somebody starts driving off, particular in your direction, you may feel threatened. We may never know what really happened and what people were thinking at the time.

All I know is, as I was walking backwards towards the police officer with my fingers interlaced behind my head, I remembered what my criminal law professor told us. He basically said that if you were assaulted or killed by the police there's very little chance there will be "Justice" on your behalf. A jury of your peers is likely to side with Mr. Friendly Police Officer, who was in fact apprehending a dastardly criminal such as yourself.  So when the police officer says freeze you should freeze. When he says drop your weapon you should drop your weapon.  When he says walk backwards with your fingers interlaced behind your head you should do exactly what he says because he is likely to blow your head off, if you don't.  Maybe that's right, maybe that's wrong, but that's just the way it is, so you better obey the rules.

And that's the problem with the black lives matter movement.  They've chosen as their poster children for their cause some people who really have kind of sketchy backgrounds.  In some of the incidences it's clearly agreed that the police officer was not justified in shooting anyone -  and police officers have been tried and gone to jail over these things. And other cases officers have been tried and acquitted but their careers have been ruined.

And in other cases, it's more ambiguous as to what was going on. Somebody decides that they don't want to be arrested and tell the police that.  But that's not a matter of your choice. The officer says put your hands behind your back you have to do just that. And you can't do things like leap into patrol car and try to snatch away the officer's gun, as happened in Ferguson.  And we know that's what happened in Ferguson because President Obama himself told us so. And yet black lives matters continues to use that young man as a poster child for their cause.

Similarly, in a case in Brooklyn, man was illegally selling cigarettes. The police went to arrest him and he refused to be arrested.  You can't refuse to be arrested that's not the way the thing works.  So the officers tackled him.  He was an enormous fat man and it took three officers to bring him down. And since he was so overweight, he choked to death and died as a result of the altercation. Was this the officer's fault or his fault or what?  The point is, if he just said, "Okay I'll go downtown you can write me your stupid ticket to appear in court, and the judge will probably tear it up and throw it away!" the whole situation would have blown over.  It's only when he decided that he had the right to decide whether or not he would be arrested or not was that the whole thing went downhill.

And my criminal law professor was right. When you resist the police, no jury is going to find in your favor. And it really doesn't matter because you're dead anyway - so whether or not a jury vindicates you after you're dead really doesn't help you much does it?

Getting back to the idea that simple answers to complex problems are usually the wrong answers, if we want address this issue of the disproportionate number of black people in jail and the number of black people being shot by the police, then we need to address the root causes. And staging protests and linking arms across busy highways isn't going to engender sympathy for your cause.  In fact it's going to generate antipathy.  And that's the problem with the black lives matter movement.  While most white Americans, at least up North, had sympathy for the civil rights movement, fewer people today have sympathy for the black lives matter movement only because the way it's being run, and who they've chosen as exemplars of police abuse.

The problem is, these "movements" are ripe for parody and mocking, even if most comedians are reluctant to touch this third rail.  Today we hear that one of the founders of the "me too" movement is now accused of "sexual harassment" herself - grabbing buttocks and genitals at a softball game in what she probably felt were a playful manner.  Supposedly.  Now the conviction by public acclaim is against her, and maybe people are seeing that like any movement, it has gone too far.

The accusations against her illustrate part of the foolishness of this "movement" - that someone can make a bald accusation and ruin someone's career overnight, without any sort of due process.  It is a new form of McCarthyism - itself a movement that seemed unstoppable but collapsed under the weight of its own hypocrisy.   These "movements" take on a life of their own and become parodies of themselves in short order.

As I noted in a recent posting, many men are being called into account for actions from decades past based on the standards of today. While no one condones outright rape or sex-for-promotion blackmail, the slap-and-tickle of years gone by was viewed in a different manner than today.  And the message we should be sending today is that women should stand up for themselves and say something, rather than wait decades to drop bombshells.   Because that would be real equality if they just could say "No" from the get-go.

Similarly, the BLM movement has to acknowledge that there is more to the story than "police racism" but rather a whole host of factors that have resulted in the situation we are in today.   Black folks are more likely to be poor, underemployed, in jail, or in confrontations with the police because of their socioeconomic condition - just as poor white or Hispanic folks are.  I'm not saying police racism doesn't exist - the experience of my Cuban friend negates that.   But until blacks are on the same economic footing as whites, there will be a disproportionate number of blacks in the justice system.  That is the underlying cause of the problem.

And that problem isn't simple or easy to solve as "end police racism".   We need to eliminate racism, period.  And this starts in the black community, where social mores are desperately in need of reformation.   Black culture today - moreso than in the past - has celebrated criminality and marginal living.   Rap music and hip-hop often glamorize the "gangsta" image and lifestyle, which does little to incentivize black youth to escape this desperate cycle of poverty. criminality, and incarceration.  When the most popular song is "fuck the police" you can see where this is going - even when many of the police officers are black themselves.

This is not to say that black folks are entirely responsible for their own plight, only that there is a factor to it, and a factor that is blithely ignored with chanted slogans and arm-linking marches.  The people gunning down innocents in the ghetto are, by and large, not the police, but gangs and gangsters.  And the BLM movement curiously does not address this.  And sadly, by making cultural "heroes" of people who rob liquor stores or who have rap sheets a mile long, they do a disservice to those folks who do try hard to get ahead, but instead are dropped by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting.

The idea that "all lives matter" is also somewhat of an insult.

This is not to say that I agree with the outright racists out there who posit that "all lives matter!" which is just cover words for their racist views.   As the cartoon above illustrates, when someone's house is on fire, spraying water on the house that isn't on fire doesn't accomplish much.  And as the cartoon's author stated, the idea of the cartoon was to generation discussion, not shut it down.

Yes, there is a huge problem in the black community with criminality, incarceration, and death at the hands of police officers.   But the answer to this problem isn't a simple one - it is not just "racist police officers" who are the problem, but an entire system we have created that a fosteres a culture of poverty and criminality among black folks - often a culture that many are quick to defend as representing "blackness" - as if stealing shit defined who you are as a race.   I simply don't buy it, any more than I buy the argument made on twitter by a young black woman that "black people cannot be racist by definition" - as racism cuts across all boundary lines of race, class, and ethnicity.

Yes, black folks can be racist, as can hispanics, whites, and everyone else.  In fact, we all are, and often the most racist are the ones who claim not to be.  I cannot recount how many times I have been to a cocktail party with "liberal" whites who, once the blacks have left the room predicate their conversation with, "I know this sounds racist, but...." and then go on to make fun of made-up black names or ebonics, or whatever ridiculous-looking thing blacks are doing this week (and whites are emulating the week after).   Decrying racism is fine and all, but we first need to look inwardly and realize that every one of us is uncomfortable, to some extent, being around people who are "different" than us - for whatever reason.

And that's OK.  It is human nature to fear the unknown, fear the different, mistrust the people from the other tribe, the other cave.  It has been bred into us for millennia  It is a survival instinct, for God's sake!  It takes a lot of guts, courage, and faith, to embrace the unknown or the different.  It is not a natural condition of man.

So yes, black people are often uncomfortable being around whites.  Hispanics have a visceral hatred of blacks - or at least many I have met, do.   Some white folks often try to be open to people of other races on a conscious level, but subconsciously are uncomfortable being around those who are "different" than themselves, even if it is just other white people of a different social class.

Hell, we even discriminate against Canadians - and they discriminate against us as well.  Here on Retirement Island, we get a lot of Canadians as winter residents, and for the most part, they stick to themselves.  We had a course available at the Arts Association, and it was booked up with Canadian residents.  One of the participants chirped to another, "you'll like the course,  it's all Canadians!  We're trying to keep it that way, so sign up!"  Birds of a feather, flock together.

And again, this is not to say Canadians are evil or bad, only desperately human like the rest of us. We all like to be with our peer group, as we know the social norms and mores and are comfortable around them.  Being with foreigners?  It is stressful and misunderstandings can abound, due to cultural differences.

We are all a little racist.  And maybe that is the key to ending racism, or at least understanding how it works and figuring out how to make it better.