On Ferguson

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I have a few random musings about the goings on in Ferguson:

  • Everywhere I look, on Facebook and Twitter, I see people who are very certain in the fallout of the death of Michael Brown. As an African American male, I do connect with the frustration of being seen immediately as a threat. I think police harrassment is real. But I feel comfortable judging the white police officer who shot Brown as immediately guilty. Contrary to what others might say, we court of law needs to figure out what happened. I feel uncomfortable with the linking of the incident with other larger issues. It almost seems like people are using this event to talk about their pet issue.
  • I also take issue with those who want to side with Officer Darren Wilson. There are still some conservatives that tend to give the police the benefit of the doubt, something they don’t extend to African American males.
  • I’m always a bit wary about using the “White Privilege” approach. I know that it happens, that it’s real, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with how it is used. The point of talking about white privilege should be about how certain things in society are biased towards whites and then offer that people find solutions to the problem. However, in practice, the whole exercise seems to be about making white people feel guilty. If people think this is an important part of the discussion, then let’s bring it up without trying to implicate your next door neighbor.
  • Why was Michael Brown’s body allowed to stay in the street for four hours?
  • What role does the church have in all of this? Besides issuing statements, that is?
  • Conservatives seem bent on focusing on cultural breakdown to the extent of crowding out other problems between African Americans and the police. I think culture does play a role. I think we have to do more to discourage things like teen pregnancy. We also need to look into stregthening the social ties that seem to be missing in many African American communities. Sadly, too many conservatives tend to use cultural argument as a bat to beat African Americans. Writer Cathy Young brings up an article I read shortly after the Trayvon Martin verdict by Heather MacDonald. The author, who write for City Journal says this about the concerns of African Americans in how they are treated by the police: “Here’s a proposal: For a good five-year stretch, blacks bring their crime rate down to white and Asian levels. Once it becomes widely understood that blacks are no more likely to steal, rob, rape, or shoot than whites or Asians, we’ll see if blacks still elicit the defensive reactions.” Wow. And you wonder why people think conservatives are racist?
  • There is , however a kernel of truth in MacDonald’s views. Behavior does need to change. There are many groups that are working to give African American males a chance and keeping them out of prison. There needs to be more.Bringing up ethical and moral young men is not a cure-all, but it might make a difference.
  • It’s been heartening to see some conservatives and libertarians such as Rand Paul question some of tactics used by local police forces.
  • I wish African American leaders would not use phrases like “war on black men” or “genocide” when talking about police harrassment. If this was a hundred years ago when lynchings were taking place, I could the legitimacy. But what is happening now is not intentional or planned. This isn’t slavery, this isn’t Jim Crow, this isn’t apartheid. Yes it is a problem, a major problem, but this isn’t the equivalent of Emmett Till. War is a word that expresses intent. I might be wrong, but I don’t think police departments are targeting us for elimination. Bias is something that has to be rooted out, but let’s keep in perspective. What is happening is probably more unconscious. It’s still wrong, but it’s not a plan to wipe out black men.
  • It’s interesting that we talk about interactions with the police as if every police force in the country is full of only white people. What about cops of color? What effect do they have within police forces?
  • We keep saying that there needs to be a conversation on race. What does that look like? What is the goal to be accomplished?
  • Why is the police so suspicious when it comes to persons of color? Is some of their bias grounded in truth?
  • When President Obama began running for President is when I started to hear the phrase, “post racial.”  I wonder if people thought the election of an African American to the presidency would be end all racial problems.
  • Interesting that all of this unrest didn’t happen in the urban core of St. Louis but in a suburb.

 

The image above is a comic by Minneapolis-based artist,Blue Delliquanti who writes/draws numerous webcomics including “O,Human Star.

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80 thoughts on “On Ferguson

  1. What role does the church have in all of this? Besides issuing statements, that is?

    In Ferguson at least, clergy were on the front lines of the protests, often trying to keep the peace between police and protesters.

    If this was a hundred years ago when lynchings were taking place, I could the legitimacy. But what is happening now is not intentional or planned.

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by intentional and planned. However, I was looking at data yesterday suggesting that just based on the states that report statistics to the FBI (many states do not, meaning these numbers are likely significantly lower than the actual numbers), a black person is killed by police about every 4 days in the U.S. on average. That’s not too far off from how often black people were lynched at the peak of the lynching epidemic of the early part of the 20th century. While there are differences between the phenomena, to be sure, the amounts of people being killed are remarkably similar.

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    • It’s apparently worse than that. That’s “justifiable police homicides” — where the police were, via their department or whatnot, cleared for the shooting. Nobody tracks unjustifiable ones.

      Even better, if it’s NOT clear it doesn’t get logged until the case is closed — in which case it might not get logged at all.

      And that doesn’t count things like “someone died in police custody” or “shot but didn’t die”. That stat is entirely “number of people killed by police per year where the police were considered justified in doing so. In the areas that reported statistics, at least”.

      There is no way to tell how many people actually get shot each year by police (much less beaten), because no one tracks that. At all.

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  2. But I feel comfortable judging the white police officer who shot Brown as immediately guilty.

    Did you mean you do *not* feel comfortable judging him guilty?

    White Privilege

    I agree. And I think it largely boils down to wording. Using “white privilege” to refer to the ability to walk down the street and not be assumed a criminal abuses the commonplace definition of “privilege”. White people shouldn’t feel guilty about having that, they should seek to maintain it while extending it to others.

    “war on black men” or “genocide”

    I think we agree here too, though perhaps for different reasons. Such language only rallies those who already agree with you. Those who might otherwise be convinced won’t be because reality doesn’t live up to the extreme claim.

    Why is the police so suspicious when it comes to persons of color? Is some of their bias grounded in truth?

    At the risk of being horribly offensive, I’m going to say “yes”. But civil liberties exist for this very reason. IMHO, police actions should be directed at those who have specific signs of having done something wrong (e.g. blood leaking out of their trunk). Unfortunately, we seem to have become more comfortable as a society with using the statistical impressions of individuals.

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    • If you say “yes,” and I can understand why you would, even if I ultimately disagree, it’s important to look at the role that policing actually plays in creating the conditions that lead you to say “yes.”

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      • Agreed. Our justice system seems to be locked in a vicious cycle with regard to black men, with police seemingly overly focused on finding something to arrest black men on, DAs who seem uninterested in giving said arrestees any kind of break, and courts who refuse to demonstrate any kind of mercy/leniency with regard to black men.

        A whole sub-population of Americans should not have to spend five years being better behaved than white people in order to be given the same consideration as white people.

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      • Our justice system seems to be locked in a vicious cycle with regard to black men, with police seemingly overly focused on finding something to arrest black men on, DAs who seem uninterested in giving said arrestees any kind of break, and courts who refuse to demonstrate any kind of mercy/leniency with regard to black men.

        And then, as yet another generation of black kids grows up with broken families (because some of them are in jail) and poverty (because it’s hard to keep a steady job, what with jail), we’ll say “Look! These young black people are committing crimes at a disproportionate rate! Best lock them up and throw away the key!”

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      • It doesn’t really matter whether or not police have a greater reason to be suspicious of people of color or not. Its the governemnt’s burden to prove guilt and they really should have some very good evidence before they even begin the process of policing.

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  3. “Here’s a proposal: For a good five-year stretch, blacks bring their crime rate down to white and Asian levels. Once it becomes widely understood that blacks are no more likely to steal, rob, rape, or shoot than whites or Asians, we’ll see if blacks still elicit the defensive reactions.”

    Yup. If there as a perfect example of what racism is and how it functions, this is a pretty good example.

    I am an individual human being, intrinsically worthy of respect and of being judged on my own merits. Stop blaming me for things for which I am not directly responsible. You are a part of an undifferentiated demographic mass. I will not respect your humanity until you all can prove your worth to me.

    What I do not get Dennis, is why it matters whether this is planned or not. Slaver and Jim Crow were not really planned either. All of these institutions are evolved sets of social norms and political structures. It’s not a coincidence that blacks were once held as property, then designated second class citizens and now subject to an inordinate amount of state and state-sanctioned violence. The fact that it wasn’t purposefully designed this way doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot.

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    • Jim Crow was by any reasonable definition of intentinonal, intentionally planned. After the Civil War, practically no white in the South or North was really prepared to give African-Americans full political and social equiality. In the North and West, segregation was enforced on an informal basis because of the low numbers of African-Americans. The South had a much larger proportion of African-Americans in their population and needed something more thorough to enforce segregation than informal social practices.

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      • To add to what says, the actual formally encoded laws that came to be known as “Jim Crow” weren’t for the most part enacted until the 1880s and early 1900s. Of course, things were bad before then, but it wasn’t as if the day after Hayes was inaugurated all the former CSA automatically adopted the specific laws.

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    • “What I do not get Dennis, is why it matters whether this is planned or not. ”

      The solution to “by accident” is very different from the solution to “on purpose”.

      The solution to “by accident” is lapel cameras, audits, training, recruitment in the municipality, improvement of investigation methods to encourage community involvement.

      The solution to “on purpose” involves people not having jobs anymore.

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  4. Here’s a proposal: For a good five-year stretch, conservatives bring their intellectual honesty up to liberal levels. Once it becomes widely understood that conservatives are no more likely to lie, bully, slander, or appeal to racism than liberals , we’ll see if they still elicit automatic disnissal.

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  5. I am going to sign on with intent does not matter. I think law enforcement should use force as a means of last resort. Too often we seem to have force being the first or close to the first tactic used. This is also partially because law enforcement have become our poorly trained first responders for mental health issues. The last sentence was a broader observation than the Fergusson affair.

    And wow is that Heather MacDonald phrase offensive. Really breathtakingly so.

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  6. Teen pregnancy is dropping, last I checked.
    as a general cultural issue, people need to stop fantasizing about “Big Buff and Violent” men.
    I say this not to look more harshly on black culture… but to say, that as purely a matter of economic well being, it’s a bad idea for all races to have their young women seeking out guys who aren’t going to do well in contemporary society. And statistically they don’t do well.

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  7. Good points, Dennis. I know that you disagree with me pretty strongly about the amount we know at this point, so I guess this is perhaps a bit more than a quibble, but anyhow:

    Contrary to what others might say, [a] court of law needs to figure out what happened.

    While I completely understand the impulse behind this desire, I think it’s unrealistic and misunderstands the role of the courts. Specifically, at least in terms of any kind of a criminal case, the courts cannot tell us anything more than whether there is reasonable doubt as to whether Officer Wilson violated the law. They will not tell us with any kind of definitiveness what did and did not actually happen, nor will they tell us whether a moral wrong was committed. And all this assumes that he is even charged and, more importantly, that the prosecution vigorously prosecutes the case in good faith, both of which are pretty large assumptions at this stage.

    In a criminal case – if it even gets to trial – the likelihood of Wilson being convicted is exceedingly slim under almost any conceivable factual circumstance at this point. Under basic homicide justification laws in Missouri, he would only need to create “reasonable doubt” that he was reasonably in fear of his life. In essence, if there is any doubt in the jury’s mind whatsoever as to whether Wilson thought Brown was charging him, h e would need to be acquitted. But that tells us close to nothing as to whether Brown was actually charging Wilson, only that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to prove that Wilson believed otherwise. Even if the jury were able to go so far as to say definitively that Wilson believed Brown was charging him, that will tell us little as to why they believed Wilson’s belief was reasonable, much less whether Brown was, in fact, charging Wilson. But in this case we’re likely to find out even less than that, because Missouri provides an even greater safe harbor to police for exercising deadly force, under which deadly force is permitted as long as there is reasonable doubt that the officer believed force was necessary to effect an arrest of someone he believed had committed a felony. Wilson is unlikely to have much trouble showing that he believed Brown had committed a felony, so the only question would be whether he thought deadly force was necessary to effect an arrest of Brown. For that, he’d most likely only need to create reasonable doubt as to whether he believed Brown was surrendering.

    A civil wrongful death suit may come a lot closer to finding out the truth, but even there we have enough complicated and heavily weighted legal questions, combined with a strong possibility of settlement, that it will provide us with few answers.

    So with that in mind, I think people are fairly well justified in trying to draw their own conclusions at this stage, though certainly it’s necessary to remain open to new evidence and to be willing to change one’s mind if new evidence comes in that contradicts a conclusion. More importantly, I don’t think we need to ignore the evidence that we do know, particularly items on which both sides appear to agree.

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    • Every now and then on Facebook, usu. when soldiers or police are killed, I see posts lamenting a culture that cares more about, eg, athletes than police–“who are the real heroes”, etc. etc.
      The aftermath of Ferguson has given me a new perspective on this. Tom Brady, to pick a white name at random, is charged by very large black men every day of his life. The amount of courage and heroism he has displayed by refraining from shooting any of them must stagger the imagination. Maybe athletes are the real heroes.

      I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out how many people would support him if he did, in fact, act as Wilson did.

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  8. That McDonald quote. Eash. And perhaps the most depressing part about it is that the American black population could have a five-year run of committing zero crimes, helping every old lady cross the street, holding doors open for everyone, and picking up any and all litter they come across… and it would barely move the needle for a lot — perhaps even most — people.

    Most people don’t have the negative perceptions they do of black folks in America because of a careful analysis of the facts. They do so because of racism — be it their own or that of society around them.

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    • McDonald’s quote reminds me of John Oliver’s response to patronizing tests imposed by our betters:

      “I know the police love their ridiculous unnecessary military equipment, so here’s another patronizing test: let’s take it all away from them, and if they can make it through a whole month without killing a single unarmed black man, then — and only then– can they get their fucking toys back.”

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    • the American black population could have a five-year run of committing zero crimes… and it would barely move the needle for a lot — perhaps even most — people

      Well, that’s the big question. Leaving aside the unfortunate phrasing, MacDonald is saying that what we’re dealing with isn’t really racism per se but understandable reactions to the fact that the “young black male” demographic category is responsible for an out-sized percentage of crimes in many cities. You’re saying that it’s racism pure and simple. Is there any real evidence for either your or MacDonald’s assertion that doesn’t depend on pre-existing assumptions and beliefs? Does it really have to be all one or the other?

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      • How about the dictionary? Is that objective enough?

        rac·ism noun \?r?-?si-z?m also -?shi-\

        1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
        2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

        Demographic categories don’t commit crimes. Demographic categories are not responsible for anything. Individuals are responsible. Denying the individual humanity of a particular group of people and reduce them to their demographic category is what racism and prejudice is.

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      • “Committed crime” statistics are based on what’s reported, prosecuted, and punished. But if all people are naturally exactly identical except for skin color, then obviously no particular person is more likely to commit crimes than any other person. Therefore, if “committed crime” is higher for a particular demographic, then there must be some institutional or societal bias against that demographic, because otherwise the statistics for committed crime would be perfectly homogenous.

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      • Jim,
        oh, certainly!
        But what if the institutional bias is air conditioning?
        … people are NOT “just alike” except for skin color.
        There are tons of confounds, and environment does a number on everything even after all the genes are done being dealt.

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      • This is begging the question – one who sides with MacDonald doesn’t have to think that race is the determinant, just that regardless of the underlying cause, it’s perhaps a reasonable heuristic to treat this particular category (note: not just blacks in general, but young black males in particular) differently than other categories.

        The whole debate that’s referenced by Dennis and by the Cathy Young article he linked to is the extent to which the black community should explore the ways in which the negative attitudes towards this “demographic category” are amplified by the actions and culture of that category. This is not to say that racism isn’t part of what’s going on here, but it is to say that racism isn’t the whole story and that just shouting “racist!” is unlikely to be productive. Do you disagree?

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      • No. It’s answering the question. And I’m not sure who in this situation is “shouting ‘racism!'” You asked for an objective reference that might settle whether this is an instance of racism or not. I gave you the objective definition of racism. Whether or not this is a reasonable heuristic is a separate, but related, question as to whether it is racism. As to whether signaling individuals out for negative treatment based on their membership in a particular ethnic group is racism or not… well, it’s pretty darn self-evident.

        On the question of reasonableness, I guess it depends on to whom you are asking this question. To the people who won’t be stopped and hassled by police because they fit a description, then I suppose it might be quite reasonable. Funny, however, that these are the same people who chafe at the thought that individual whites could be held accountable or asked to suffer some negative action in any effort to make up for some of the injustices of racism.

        In other words, is it reasonable that the same people who defend stop and frisk and racial profiling are also the same people who complain that affirmative action is a horrible injustice of reverse racism?

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      • The problem isn’t that people look at the crime data and say, “That black guy over there has a slightly greater chance of robbing me than that white guy over there. But, hey, that bus coming down the road is much more likely to kill me than anything else.”

        They look at the crime data and say, “All blacks are criminals!” Or, maybe if they’re not completely ridiculous, they’ll say, “Most blacks are criminals!”

        Those people aren’t going to have their mind changed by facts because the facts already exist to prove their beliefs wrong.

        People conflate “The odds that a particular criminal is black” with “The odds that a particular black person is a criminal”. They do this because A) they woefully misunderstand stats and B) because racism (again, either within themselves or within society).

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      • Well, I think it depends on exactly who we’re talking about and what we mean by “racism”. Obviously there’s the really odious sort of racism involving a belief that black people are inherently inferior and not worthy of respect — those people are out there and I wouldn’t try to defend them. There are also some people whose impressions are formed by their day-to-day experience — e.g. a white police officer who sees the city jail cells dominated by black males is apt to draw conclusions based on this statistically limited dataset, without thinking about root causes and the vicious cycle people mentioned above.

        But there are also the people whose impressions of the “angry young urban black man” are formed mostly by what they see in the news, TV shows, movies, etc., and what they hear from their like-minded neighbors — you can call these people “racist” if you want, but to me it’s a mistake to conflate them with the people who are actively hostile to black people in general. Sure, they’re not doing statistical analysis, but to some extent they’re doing the same sort of largely faulty but understandable risk assessment that we see in non-racial areas (e.g. the perceived risk to letting kids roam the neighborhood unsupervised, as was discussed here a while ago). IMHO, many in this last group are “reachable”, but not if you just dismiss their fears and lump them with the truly hateful racists. Going back to your hypo, I think many people in this group would actually change their minds if there was such a dramatic change in the incidence of crime among young black males — such a shift couldn’t help but be reflected in the news and popular culture.

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  9. I wonder if people thought the election of an African American to the presidency would be end all racial problems.

    I don’t think anyone thought it would end all racial problems (though I recall plenty of white people saying something like, “See? We have a black president. Racism is over”). I do think a lot of people thought that with a black man in the Oval Office, things would get better. I wonder if anyone thinks they have.

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    • In response to these people, a podcaster I followed said “2012 is going to see the ugliest appeals to racism we’ve seen in a while.”

      In may of 2011, when Obama was essentially forced to release his long-form birth certificate at the behest of then GOP presidential frontrunner and relentless race-baiter Donald Trump, the same podcaster noted “we didn’t even make it that far.”

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    • Seeing as how is The Executive, in charge of the execution & enforcement of laws, you’d think he’d be able to make some pretty sweeping changes with regard to police & race if he wanted to (it’d be expensive as hell, politically, but he could do it, if I’m remembering my Civics lessons correctly).

      I wonder if he will now?

      BTW, anyone following the story out of Ohio?

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      • It’s barely possible to keep up anymore. Most recent “what the hell?” shooting is in Omaha. The cops shot a robbery suspect and a sound guy for the show COPS (who was there as part of taping a show).

        http://www.omaha.com/news/crime/robbery-suspect-dead-after-shooting-at-wendy-s-cops-tv/article_a919c242-2d98-11e4-9cee-001a4bcf6878.html

        Look at the spread of bullets in the picture there.

        Aren’t people in the military told to practice shooting? Those shots are 8 feet apart from each other. 10 feet.

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      • Jaybird,

        Most cops never fire their gun outside of the range. Most cops never need to. I sincerely doubt the various PD’s bother with all that time-consuming mandatory range practice, especially when they’ve already shed such pointless things like “How to de-escalate a situation” and “You’re a member of the community, not an occupying force” and VERY busy with their “How to drive the armored vehicle and work the machine gun!”

        The US might have been a lot better off if Robert Peel had been born earlier. Or we’d broke off from the British later. Or if, you know, we bothered to look at Peel and think “That man had some decent ideas. Let’s see what we can use”.

        It’s been getting worse since at least the 99 WTO stuff. When your cops look like stormtroopers (Sub-set: Star Wars) people aren’t gonna trust them, and the cops pick that up and start acting worse. Nice feedback cycle. (The guy in charge of the response to that has some very interesting things to say these days — basically “Everything I did was wrong, and apparently everyone has decided to copy me”). Wish people would listen.

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      • I think it was Dave Kopel who pointed out that despite the fact that police in Japan almost never fire their sidearms on duty, they spend more time training with them and other self-defense techniques than American cops.

        …that’s pretty ridiculous.

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      • Thanks, — I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to clean all of that off my brain.

        Worse still is that some of those commenters appear to be bloggers at a Fox talking head’s site called Clash Daily which is hard to believe isn’t a parody. It has videos of black people who “deserve to be shot” and opinion pieces about immigration with titles like “Operation Wetback 2014.”

        I mean, holy shit.

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      • Holy crap! Someone else has actually heard of Sir Peel & knows what he wrote! Awesome! There are days I wish a remotely talented cartoonist, because I’d start making something like Chick Tracts, but with references to Sir Peel, and then blanket police stations with them.


        As Zic & I have gone on about many times on other threads, cops do not, as a rule, practice with their firearm except what they need to do for the range qualifications. There are, of course, individual officers who drill more often on their own time, and some Tac Teams actually run their people through shoot houses, but only those with lots of budget.

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      • Holy crap! Someone else has actually heard of Sir Peel & knows what he wrote! Awesome! There are days I wish a remotely talented cartoonist, because I’d start making something like Chick Tracts, but with references to Sir Peel, and then blanket police stations with them.
        Anyone who knows Sam Vimes knows Peel. :)

        One of Pratchett’s latest books (Dodger) would be enough to convince anyone that’s where Pratchett snagged the character (Peel was in Dodger but briefly, but the sheer..Vimesness…shown through) from.

        I found out about him through some comment Pratchett made, years and years ago. Fascinating man. The British police don’t always live up to his principles, but by and large they try.

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      • But very much true. The habit of incorrectly addressing say a baronet as “Sir lastname” or adding “esq” to a lord, etc. is something the French did with some regularity. In fact it’s almost become a de facto method of identifying a french character in a period piece, they’ll describe say Joseph Banks as “Sir Banks”.

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  10. However, in practice, the whole exercise seems to be about making white people feel guilty. If people think this is an important part of the discussion, then let’s bring it up without trying to implicate your next door neighbor.

    Huh, and so far no white person has said that proves you’re part of the problem.

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    • That’d be me, I assume? It’s consistent with the other criticisms of my comments you brought up in the previous thread, both in its superficiality and its unfairness. If you think that what he said here is what I was criticizing, I’d ask you to go back and read my comments again.

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      • Respectfully, I think it is neither superficial nor unfair. Brooke said, don’t start by trying to make me feel guilty, and Dennis says, it seems to be about making people feel guilty. She’s saying it’s not good because it’s just going to turn me off–which you critiqued–and Dennis is saying that it’s not good, although he’s not specific about why.

        Sure, it’s unfair that whites get to control the discussion of racism. But it turns out Dennnis is saying we shouldn’t do that particular thing some whites are asking us not to do. Maybe he’s thinking something about the indecency of prospectively making someone feel guilty, or maybe he’s thinking about how ineffective it is.

        And maybe that’s the difference between you and me. You’ve taken a moral stance so you’re outraged at Brooke. I’m thinking about what might actually work to get people like her to really listen to you, so that you can get through to her your argument about how she benefits from and unknowingly helps perpetuate racist social structures. You want her to get the message, but you’re unwilling to do so in a way that might actually get her that message. So you’re putting your moral satisfaction ahead of your goal of talking about racism to people who are perpetuating it, which means you really aren’t prioritizing a serious discussion about race, even though you appear to be telling yourself you are.

        I know it’s not the same thing when Dennis says it as when Brooke says it, but I think you ought to listen closely to Dennis. Hey, he has more authority on this than you, right? And he says don’t start by trying to make them feel guilty. Which is a far cry from your ‘Brooke, you are the problem’ (paraphrase) statement.

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    • It’s hard to tell who’s actually racist–you have to dig really deep into analysis and interpretation sometimes–but one thing we can all agree on is that the easiest racists to spot are the people who think they aren’t racist.

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    • There’s a world of difference between this statement being said by a white person and a person of color. One is expressing discomfort at the idea of imposing guilt, the other is about feeling guilt.

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      • See my response to Chris. There is a difference, but by emphasizing that difference I think you completely overlook the significance of what Dennis is saying, and how it does relate to what Brooke was saying about how she can be made available for a conversation on race.

        Basically, I think Chris’s approach was a great approach for two countries negotiating over a disputed border (as was Brooke’s, of course). It’s a really inappropriate strategy for trying to get others to understand your point of view.

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  11. Another case of blacks being railroaded by the law is the lady out of PA/NJ.

    She was, for all intents & purposes, a law abiding gun owner who made the mistake of not understanding just how strict NJ gun laws are. While I think NJ laws are exceptionally severe (and often used to charge people who have committed no violence), the fact that the woman was open & honest with the officer, and hurt no one, but has been refused access to a first time offender program is pretty outrageous.

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  12. Anyone want to comment on the latest: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/the-problem-is-im-black/379357/

    Basically an American citizen, who happens to be black, was sitting outside a school in a public area waiting for his kids to come out after classes were over, and was reported to police by a local merchant. Three cops arrived and after discussions in which he “resisted” – an all-purpose word that should probably be better defined – he was arrested. In front of his children, who had just emerged from the school. And even better – he was tasered!

    Seriously, WTF? Are black people just inherently that scary or are white people just inherently such cowards? Or is the stupid running rampant throughout the nation? Sitting while black – that’s got to be a new one.

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    • That’s a good article, and good on Conor for writing it. The thing that caught my eye was the byline: “A controversial video documents the St. Paul resident being harassed and tased.” If the video actually documents a resident being harassed and tased, then the video isn’t controversial at all. The only controversy would be over wheher folks (usually white folks) think the cops ought to be allowed to harass and tase black folks who are just going about their business, or who think a (black) citizen who invokes his rights when being harassed by cops is “resisting” and therefore ought to be tased.

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    • The story says that the police held onto the guy’s phone (which recorded the incident) for six months. And the PD is still defending the cops, saying that no formal complaint has been made. So, my comment is:

      1. The cops are not going to be disciplined in any way.
      2. There’s no reason to think it’s a unique occurrence.
      3. It’s only getting national attention because of Ferguson.
      4. If we’re going to talk about how police treat black people in the South we have to add “of Canada”.

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  13. How relevant are Police Unions to the problem?

    I mean, it seems to me that we’re not going to solve this sort of thing without union-busting but, hey, that’s something that I *WOULD* say.

    So let’s ask those who are more into such things than I: will we be able to address this sort of thing without taking on the police unions too?

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    • Yes police unions are part of the problem. Anything that gives workers some power to control their situation makes it harder for administration/authority to make arbitrary changes. Unfortunately some of the changes we should make cops won’t like such as wearing cameras. Other changes we would need to make go far beyond cameras like real powerful civilian review boards, better laws that would lead to prosecutions of cops, beefed up Internal Affairs ( possibly done by outside agencies like State Police), and more aggressive DA’s would also be resisted by a lot of citizens and multiple layers of politicians. There are quite a few reforms we need to really address this problem. Not the least of which would be a massive loss of support from significant sections of the populace for the police as they are now.

      PU’s are certainly standing in the way but cops by their nature have a lot of social power in any case. Even if there were no PU’s they would form some sort of Orgs, like a PAC, to offer support. Pols would still want the official nod from whatever police groups out there.

      Also police unions will be the last public employee unions to be destroyed. All the janitors, clerks and admin assistants will lose their power and get crapped on far before PU’s lose their power.

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    • I’m very far from being an expert on this stuff, but it seems like if this were an issue with the unions, then the management would be talking about how they’d love to make changes but the unions are in the way. In most of these stories it seems like management is insisting that the cops did nothing wrong. Which ultimately seems like a much bigger problem than the cops’ original actions themselves.

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      • Yeah, that’s what it seems like to me too. Cop culture is the problem, not insularity. I mean, some of the stats Tod linked to in an earlier post are pretty damn horrifying. The problem, in my view anyway, isn’t so much the protection offered by cop unions as it is our entire criminal justice culture and by extension, our dominant culture, one which glorifies cops and copdom, embraces truly psychopathic levels of retributive “justice” with a commensurate level of psychopathology, and circularly believes that anyone of “those people” who is a victim must have done something to warrant the exact punishment they in fact receive. THe only problem is that we can’t round em all up. I don’t know where that last one comes from, actually, but it’s an example of emotional dysfunction probably originating in Christianity. (Heh. I kid!) I mean, seemingly obvious examples of cops using excessive force are reflexively justified, apologized for, rationalized away, ec etc by people who really ought to know better. Folks that actually think about this sorts of things. Which of course leaves out all those who simply don’t think. It’s truly fucked up.

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