Thursday, January 15, 2009

Because I'm Me and You're You

A recent rash of shootings involving police officers and black men has sparked a lot of discussion and led to some very familiar questions:

Would there be fewer police shootings if police departments more adequately reflected the makeup of the communities officers patrol?

Can black men ever be safe in America when our default position is that of an imminent threat?

Why are police officers given the benefit of the doubt whenever they commit a violent act involving black people?

Those are all worthy, valid and important questions. Unfortunately, those questions haven't been asked enough by the general public or by the mainstream media charged with informing the public. Instead, another question has been asked way too often:

Why is it such a big deal when the police shoot a black man, but it's not a big deal when black people shoot each other?

I live in New Orleans. Black on black crime, particularly murder is as common here as red beans and rice on Mondays. Just about every single day in this city brings the news of another young black man gunned down in the streets like a rabid dog. Rarely do these shootings involve the police. Most often, they involve other black men involved in some way in the narcotics business, and often they go unsolved. The public is upset by this reality, we complain about it, but it rarely leads to riots.

Those are the bleak but accurate facts.

What I'm still trying to figure out is what those facts have to do with the fact that unarmed black men are killed disproportionately by police officers.

Do any of y'all know?

In my mind, those are two separate and important issues. The fact that young black men are killing each other at an alarming rate has very little to do with the fact that the police are killing young black men at an alarming rate. Logically, those two things are not related. Both issues are worthy of attention, but that does not mean that the two issues are connected.

So why do people keep bringing up one issue when I want to discuss the other?

Well, we all know why this happens. It happens because self-serving white people and idiotic black people love to point out examples of black pathology whenever they are confronted with the pathology other groups display towards black folks. It's as if people really believe that because black people have their own internal problems we have no right to complain when other people fuck us over.

It's like telling a rape victim she really shouldn't have been wearing that miniskirt and walking alone on the street.

Police officers are not supposed to be common criminals. They have privileges and rights that common criminals do not have. Police officers demand a level of respect and wield a level of authority that common criminals do not possess.

So, why would anybody expect the public to react the same way to a shooting involving police officers and a shooting involving common criminals?

It is pure hypocrisy for police officers to regularly embrace the benefits of being part of a special class, and then shirk the responsibilities that come with that status when things get rough. That's not the way life works.

You dance with the girl you brought to the prom. You live with side effects of the job you chose. Life is about living with the consequences of our choices, and one of the consequences of being a police officer is that you are held to a higher standard when you shoot someone.

Because you're you and I'm me.


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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

One thought on why white cops get the benefit of the doubt when they kill a black person:

Because whites don't want to admit that racism still exists. We (yeah, I'm white) want to pretend that we live in a post-racial world, and that none of us are racists, even if we've thought bad things about another culture with a different skin color. Assigning the white police officer with non-racist motives somehow feels like absolving our own guilt in the crime.

Its pretty reprehensible.

Darth Whitey said...

Not that I disagree with this fact or anything, but has any thought ever been given to the demeanor of the victims versus that of white suspects? I find that a disproportionate number of African-Americans seem to dress and behave in a more aggressive manner.

Big Man said...

Anon

Thanks for that perspective. I've thought about that briefly in the past, but mostly I've concluded that white people are far more optimistic about law enforcement than black people, which makes it hard for them to believe the worst about police officers.

Big Man said...

Darth

How can you dress aggressively?

And, considering the fact that black people are more likely to be harassed and searched than their white counterparts, I can imagine that black people would get more frustrated. If somebody kept bothering you for no reason, would you be polite?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the New Orleans Police Department is majority black. At least in theory, I'd hope that would help them be culturally sensitive out on the streets.

Deacon Blue said...

I think part of the falacious logic in bringing up the black-on-black shootings in such discussions is this:

People in any given race tend to prey on people of their own race.

As far as I know, that's been the case for eons and hasn't changed.

So, not only is it an apples-oranges comparison, it's also almost a no-brainer that blacks with guns in black areas would be more likely to shoot black people. Just like white shitheads in white areas are more likely to sexually assault white women. And an assholish Jewish finance guy (yes, Madoff) is more likely to prey on Jews.

Big Man said...

Anon

I'm not sure about whether the NOPD is majority black, but it might be. But, the NOPD is far whiter than the city of New Orleans and has been for decades.

the uppity negro said...

Um...

I hate to be the Juan Williams of the discussion, but whatever happened to personal responsibility.

Would not this whole situation be remedied if young black men stopped carrying illegal items on their person, then they wouldn't be arrested if they were randomly stopped because they fit the profile, or their tint was too dark in the windows.

This does not excuse police brutality--especially when the would-be victims have been subdued, nor does it excuse veritable torture in back interrogation rooms, but hell, they know the shits illegal-why do it? It's as if some blacks that grow up in those communities act as if they are a microcosm unto themselves and DARE the rest of the world to enter.

Would there be fewer police shootings if the PD's more adequately reflected the makeup of the communities officers patroled?

No, in fact it may go up. I think Boyz N' The Hood and Crash and Training Day reflected just how many black officers feel after being on the force. A result of disillusionment and ultimately being stressed out with the rigors of the job. Hell, if I can be perfectly honest--I didn't grow up in the 'hood, I didn't want to do 'hood rat stuff so, I myself have my own prejudices if I were to drive, oh let's sayyyyy down Claiborne Ave. and see people standing on the street corner.

I hope I made my point clear, any questions, feel free to ask them.

Can we as black men ever be safe?
No...not in the near future. There's still too many of us out here making boneheaded decision in the face of a stark reality that doesn't match the reality of the rest of us.

Why are P.O. given the benefit of the doubt whenever they commit a violent act involving black people?

Because they don't commit violent acts against white people. Seriously, you're a reporter--name the last time there was a national news story, hell a local one, where there was a violent act that occurred between a white person and an officer of the municipality.

So, in the minds of most non-black citizens, whatever prompted the violence must have been justified.

Big Man said...

Uppity

I didn't advocate black people carrying illegal weapons and expecting to get off.

I advocated having discussions about what's actually happening instead of random discussion about bullshit.

If folks want to talk about black on black crime, let's discuss that issue in depth. It's not as simple as telling black people to stop killing each other.

And if they want to talk about police brutality and racial profiling, let's talk about that too.

What I don't want to do is talk about police brutatlity and have somebody else decide that they want the conversation to be about black on black crime, and then have them present their change of conversation as if it's some form of enlightment.

It's not, it's a sign of a short attention span.

Darth Whitey said...

Big Man, you're damn right I'd be polite to the cops if they had a special interest in watching me, even more so than someone who isn't the subject of such scrutiny. Don't provoke the mofo with the gun and the rights to use it heh.

Macon D said...

Great post about a ridiculous and sadly common white Race Card.

It's as if people really believe that because black people have their own internal problems we have no right to complain when other people fuck us over.

Right--excellent exposure of the bad logic behind this common white evasion/strategy.

I am not Star Jones said...

In my mind, those are two separate and important issues. The fact that young black men are killing each other at an alarming rate has very little to do with the fact that the police are killing young black men at an alarming rate. Logically, those two things are not related.

I agree with your point but can I add something about the connection -- maybe people bring up black people killing other black people in connection with police killing unarmed black people is because both type of killings come from the erroneous belief that black life is worthless.

We know it's not but my thinking is that there are sociopaths with and without badges who dehumanize their victims.

Of course knowing that there are sociopaths without badges doesn't change that any police office who shoots and kills an unarmed person needs to be fully investigated.

MODI said...

great post BM...

"What I don't want to do is talk about police brutatlity and have somebody else decide that they want the conversation to be about black on black crime, and then have them present their change of conversation as if it's some form of enlightment."

It's not, it's a sign of a short attention span."

I'm with you BM. They are completely separate conversations. COMPLETELY. Not even the same book. One is about police brutality, and another is about crime. But "short attention span" is not the issue, it is deliberate avoidance of an issue.

peter said...

the guy shot in n.o. had a "concealed carry" liscense in his home state. that's a big deal, why doesn't the NRA weigh in on this one? try this, when someone says "drug related killing" substitute "money related killing" in your head. the colors are not "black and white" they're "blue and green"

Raving Black Lunatic