Monday, February 15, 2010

Yep, Pretty Much What You Would Expect

I get called cynic a lot when it comes to racial matters.

Folks tell me I see what I want to see. That I'm overly focused on this white/black thing, and that impairs my ability to think clearly. They believe I have a bias that impacts my intelligence.

I get that a lot.

Then I read stuff like this and this.

So, what am I to believe?

As those links show, there seems to be a problem with cops, particularly white cops, shooting black men. Look, I know there is more of a problem with black men shooting black men. I know there is a problem with the amount of power the police have in our society in general. Yet, those two larger problems don't change the fact that far too many black men get shot by white cops.

Certain folks will argue that black men bring it on themselves. It's their own actions that cause police to stop and search them at far higher rates than their white counterparts. See, despite the fact that white men between the ages of 18-35 are more likely to use illegal drugs than any other group, black men are the ones you have to look out for if you're looking for drugs. Just check out what the police chief in Homer, La. had to say about his department's policing policies.

"If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names," said Mills, who is white. "I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested. We're not out there trying to abuse and harass people—we're trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear."

Not only is he blatantly extolling the benefits of racial profiling despite the fact that the statistics that say white folks are more likely to have drugs, he's actually admitting that his role as a police officer is to instill fear in black people. He wants black people, regardless of their guilt or innocence, to feel that they don't have the right to travel in groups of four or more because they are risking police harassment.

And I'm supposed to have a positive attitude about race?

A 73-year old black man got gunned down in his front yard while hanging out with his family. The young son of a professional baseball player was gunned down while sitting in his own car in front of his own home. Yet, some folks would have you believe it's only belligerent behavior by black males that leads to police shootings and beating. If only black men would learn the rules of the world, they would be safe like their white counterparts who get to carry drugs and own illegal weapons with damn near impunity.

This sentiment is baffling and predictable. It's baffling that people could be so blind to reality, so willfully ignorant of the foibles of humanity. Honestly, do people think police officers are inhuman? Do you think they possess some special reserves of honesty and good will? If you believe that, please explain why. And if you don't believe that, then explain to me why you find it so hard to believe that they might be abusing black people for no other reason than it's easier to do their jobs that way.

It's predictable because people always seem to search for a reason to justify their own biases, and avoid situations that would force them to re-evaluate their worldview. Some folks seem to find critical thinking uncomfortable, whether it be about race, religion or health care. It's simple really. Why are so many black men getting shot and beaten by the cops when they don't carry more drugs than their white counterparts? Let's start the discussion from there and see what happens.

But, I doubt that will happen. Like the councilmen in that story about Homer, La. most white folks, especially conservative white folks, would prefer if black people just get over it. Even though they will complain that the justice system is screwed up and that police are overstepping their boundaries, they don't want to use that common sense when looking at the interactions between the police and black folks. They'd rather stick to pat responses and abrupt dismissals.

Pretty much what you would expect.



Anonymous said...

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Sincerely yours

blackgirlinmaine said...

Big Man, I hear ya. I read that story today in the Times..shooting a 70 something yo man on his property doesn't even make sense.

At the same time its hard not to think race matters when you see white professors shooting up their colleagues. Especially when it turns out this same professor put a cap in her brothers behind yet no charges were filed and she never served time. I told someone that was all about white privilege and was told not at all...sorry I think so.

As long as we long live with these types of injustice, it will be hard to not notice race.

Deacon Blue said...

Big Man, you radical autonomist, you...

But in all seriousness, I think that deep down, what a lot of white people want is to FEEL safe, and by picking a smaller group and building it up as less law-abiding, they can round THOSE folks up and rest easy that justice has been served.

That it's based on lies, of course, and ignorance, matters not. What matters is that it's easier to pick out the so-called bad guys and tell yourself the world is now a better place.

As long as you're white...

LisaMJ said...

This is messed up. I couldn't believe this when I heard about it initially and now no charges? You seriously have to question what is going on when it is considered fine to shoot someone who is unarmed on their property in front of their family, which includes small childre, especially when they are elderly. It should be an embarrasment.

Also, it seems that in a country where about 13% of the population is African-American and over 70% of the population is white, that even if every single solitary black person used drugs, committed crimes, and I mean from toddlers to 90 year olds, there still wouldn't be the justification for us to be stopped and arrested in the numbers we are b/c there are so damn few of us.

Based on the current laws and the ways they are enforced against minorities, there should be a whole lot more white people in prison, but they are much more likely to get probation, a warning, or to not even be stopped when they do things. It is beyond ridiculous. All I can say is, if say some aliens came and took all the black people from America, or if we all did a mass emmigration to somewhere, all the other minority groups (who have it rough already) and poor white folks would be in a world of trouble b/c there always has to be a whipping post and we would no longer be available. Not gonna happen but people rarely think about it that way.

EyesPoppinInDC said...

Last fall, near where we live in central DC, my partner saw over a dozen non-uniformed, black-clad, masked cops apprehend a fully cooperating middle-aged black woman in the middle of the day.

When I posted about the incident on our neighborhood listserv, quite a few members - black, white, and of other races - had absolutely no problem with this overt (and uncalled for) police intimidation.

Over and over again, I've been surprised by the us-vs-them, citizens-vs-criminals mentality in our community. Many of my black neighbors say they don't mind getting stopped by the cops if that's what it takes to get the "thugs" off the streets.

Deacon Blue has it mostly correct. A lot of people - and not just white ones - want to feel safe. Some of them even believe their personal security is guaranteed in the Constitution, ala "What about my right to feel safe in my own home?"

But - at least here - many of the loudest "lock 'em all up" voices hold positions of leadership in the black community.

Some of these individuals are contemplating running for office. Perhaps they're just pandering to white and/or conservative voters (though a whole lot of my neighbors are liberal/progressive).

But I suspect it's worse. I think many of them are terminally sanctimonious, and The War On Drugs (and everything which cascades from it) is a perfect showcase for their self-righteous indignation.

Raving Black Lunatic