Saturday, December 26, 2020

This Has To Stop...

Not every black person is a saint, not every white person is a devil.  People are people, good and bad, regardless of race.  We have to stop this beatification of criminals.

A recent article in the paper chronicles the tragic death of a young man who apparently was trying to break into a home, when the window sash crashed down on him, choking him to death.  It is tragic, but I am sure a few people found it comic, and others felt he got his just deserts.  If you break into a home, it's all on you - although I suppose his next of kin will sue the window manufacturer for not making them safe for burglars.

But what got me about the article is that one of his friends made it out to be like he was a nice fellow, just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and perhaps there was "more to the story" - perhaps the homeowner choked him with the window sash?  If so, there really is no more to the story - if someone breaks into your home, you are justified in killing them, period, particularly in Florida.  Don't break into people's homes - that's my advice.

His fiancee, however, said he was a nice guy:

"Soon as I got there I'm like, there's no way. This isn't what happened," she said.

"I need a proper investigation," Duarte said. "I need the actual truth to come to light."

Tyson Lane added: "He is not a burglar. He's not a thief. He's not a bad guy. That's not what he is."

Duarte added that when she first met Hernandez, she thought he looked like "he has a rap sheet like El Chapo."

"He's the complete opposite of that," she said. "He's the sweetest person you'd probably ever meet and has the biggest heart."

That sounds heartwarming and all, but the police and court records tell another story:

In a video on the sheriff's office Facebook page, Park described Hernandez as a convicted felon and said he was "no stranger" to law enforcement.

He was arrested over his involvement in a murder case in 2014, Park said. However, he provided no further details.

However, a 2014 report in the Fort Myers Beach Observer said Hernandez was charged in the fatal shooting of a man during a drug deal alongside two others.

The outcome of that case was not immediately clear, but the Lee County Sheriff's Office's online records show Hernandez, who was also known as Jonathan Hernandez-Zuluaga, has multiple arrests dating back to 2007.

They include arrests for larceny, grand theft, violating probation and marijuana possession.

What a sweet guy!  As you can see, his next-of-kin are already angling for a "story" here - that somehow his death is "suspicious" and perhaps something else was going on.  Perhaps they are hoping to make him a BLM hero - I don't know.  But the reality is, based on his rap sheet, it would not be surprising that this fellow was trying to break into a house when he died.   I don't think he is a suitable poster-child for Police brutality or whatever.

Few people are.  There have been a few cases where the police over-reacted and someone ends up dead.  But this can happen to whites as well as blacks.  If you or I make a mistake at work, the worst that can happen to us is we have to do things over - or maybe get fired.  But for doctors, policemen, air traffic controllers, pilots, and anyone else whose job involves life-or-death situations, one tiny mistake means someone ends up dead.  And often the stress from this isn't compensated by how much they are paid.

Are there incidents where cops intentionally killed a suspect because of their race?  I am not so certain of that.  Maybe subliminal racial profiling lead in part to a death in custody, but outright racist killings would be very rare in this day and age.   That being said, a lot of the "poster children" for police racism turn out to be at least partially if not wholly at fault for their own deaths - sometimes these are not very nice people, and should not be used as exemplars of police brutality.

If you resist the Police while they are trying to arrest you, then can - and will - use force to subdue you, and if you reach for their gun, well, it can be a fight to the death. Such cases are not really good examples of "Police Brutality" but rather of suspect stupidity.   No, it is not fun to be cuffed-and-stuffed into the back of a squad car, as I can attest from personal experience.   Trying to resist arrest, however, only makes the experience far worse.

As I noted before, the granddaddy of these modern protests was the Ferguson case.  People protested that the fellow involved, an "unarmed black youth" was gunned down heartlessly by laughing police who shouted racial epithets.   Turns out those "witnesses" weren't even there at the time, but instead were repeated second- and third-hand stories told to others.  To lay people, I guess, this is the same as being a "witness" - that is, if you don't understand the hearsay rule.

While a Justice Department investigation revealed a culture of racism in the Ferguson police department, they didn't find that the particular incident was racially motivated - the "unarmed teen" had robbed a store and then tried to wrestle a gun away from the police officer.  The latter will get you shot.

In subsequent cases, the fact scenarios were muddied,  A 300-lb "father" is selling illegal cigarettes.  Two younger and much smaller police officers arrest him.  He decides he doesn't want to be arrested that day.  So, rather than go downtown, get a mugshot, get an appearance ticket and be back home in time for dinner, he decides that wrestling two police officers is a good idea, because, hey, they might just decide to give up and let you go, right?  This is the kind of irrational thinking that can get you killed.

We have to choose these racial heroes more carefully.  Sadly, it seems today that anytime a "person of color" is arrested, injured, or killed, people are all-too-quick to play the race card.  The person in question isn't a criminal, no.  They are a "unarmed teen" or a "mother" or a "grandfather" or whatever, and their high school graduation photo is trotted out as an example of what they looked like (long before they got their prison tats and lost their teeth to meth).

The lawsuits follow shortly thereafter, along with a call for the Chief of Police to resign, followed by some rioting and looting.

Sorry, but no, this has to stop.

Why?  For the simple reason that it isn't accomplishing anything, other than to further entrench people in their positions and preconceived notions.  After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, there were riots in most of America's major cities.  What did these riots accomplish?  Maybe a few looters got a new television set.  Many were injured, and some even killed.  Entire neighborhoods were burned to the ground, and many never rebuilt.  Most shop owners took their insurance checks and decided to retire or relocate - as getting insurance in the inner city became prohibitively expensive.  Decades later, we complain about a "food desert" in some inner cities, where the only place to buy food is an overpriced corner convenience store.

If anything, this rioting sets back the cause - as it just reinforces the notion among racists that maybe they were right, and the people rioting are little more than animals that need to be corralled and controlled.

But most importantly, these cases are a slap in the face to people who have really lost loved ones to malfeasance by the Police.  When we elevate a criminal to the same level as an innocent, the innocent suffers.  The fellow who was shooting at the Police when he was gunned down is not on the same level as the innocent man who is shot while reaching for his wallet.  It is a disgrace to equate the two.

Of course, today, we have right-wing rioters - starting riots and looting explicitly to discredit black protests.  But in addition to that, we have right-wing rioters who are breaking windows, setting fires, trying to break down doors to the legislature and threatening to kidnap and kill government officials - and apparently setting off fertilizer bombs (today, in Nashville) as I predicted earlier.

Crazy creates more and more crazy, as crazy becomes the new norm.  Of course, the normative cues for crazy come right from the top - from President Crazy.  We can only hope that in 2021, people will become more normal, and stop looking for outrage under every rock.  Because there are real outrages out there, but when people make up outrage, it dilutes the effect of the real outrages.

I am not sure the fellow above is a good poster-boy for racism in this country.  Claiming he is a victim of society or racism is an assault on the dignity of people who were actually victimized by racism in this country.

We need to stop.  Just stop.