Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Dallas Demonstration Would have Been A Model



The terroristic assault that Micah Johnson waged was everything wrong with terrorism--it didn't just end lives and create fear and tragedy, but it stepped right on over the positive action that was going on by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Dallas with the police right there. Because the police department in Dallas is one of the really good ones--the kind of answerable institution that responds to its community. If this troubled young man had any issues with police forces run by white supremacy, he had surely picked the wrong one. In addition, his long-gun rampage could have been even more tragic if people had panicked, or didn't help one another, or didn't really have a commitment to non-violence, and took this act of raining down bullets as the go sign to set of the stupid "race war" that mostly white supremacist asshats periodically want to trigger.

But the defining truth behind law enforcement, when it's done right, and civil protest against bad government, when it is done right--is that we are just people. Just human creatures trying to get though our lives. BLM isn't anti-police any more than the actual existence of law enforcement should in any way denote anti-blackness. There are integrated police forces. There are places where police brutality and bias are addressed. The question isn't about whether police lives matter--but whether policing itself takes seriously the concept that all lives matter, and lives up to it. Otherwise, all lives do matter--but we have to take special consideration of lives that have been made circumstantially more vulnerable.


Denying that there are inconsistencies in our justice system seems like a dogged denial of racism in the face of the facts. When we excuse any pattern of abuse from the "defensive" stand against an empty hand or the necessity of a stop for an unbroken tail light, we shift the authority of policing from the authority of a just, lawful, democratic society, to the brutality of law by force and through force and with force alone. And how the hell is that good for the officers who have to face the trouble and woe of their communities day after day--wouldn't it be better to be backed by the law and good will? Have good relations with the public? Be respected because your badge is?

It would be, and sometimes is even is. But then something like this tragedy happens--the City of Dallas did pretty well (although I have some issues with death by exploding bot for the perpetrator, who for reasons of justice, I might have preferred face trial) but what does this do for the actual message that BLM protests have actually meant--that the cause is against police slayings without answer, the loss of too many black lives under terrifying circumstances.

In response to this event, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking before a conference of the AME in Philadelphia articulated a compassionate speech addressing the concerns of the black community and law enforcement. Even GOP candidate Donald Trump was able to produce a measured and reasonable response. Even Newt Gingrich managed to say something pretty empathetic and real.

But this really brought out the worst in some of the haters. Of course President Obama got blamed for letting Black people think they actually do matter, and Hillary Clinton was blamed for perpetuating that. Former IL Congressman Joe Walsh gave a virtual workshop on "How to Be Rascist". Iowa Idiot Steve King traced the rot in US society between the races not to the Middle Passage or slavery or segregation or any of that, but to a black president weighing in on the nonsense that was a police officer having a problem with a man being in his own home. (Like, say sorry and let the guy be under his own roof, right?) 

The people who blame Obama for the uptick in awareness that Black Lives are being spilled out all over the US seem to be missing the timeline--he was elected in 2008, but the Apple iPhone was introduced in 2007, giving the ability to film from one's own camera and upload to social media suddenly accessible on a popular medium. The social media app Twitter is circa 2006. Facebook-2004. I am old enough to remember why the Rodney King story became what it was- the video of Rodney King's beating. We were once so bereft of visual proof of these things that many people could live in their denial comfortably. But it isn't that way anymore.

Imagine the impact of seeing over and over again these horrifying incidents. Imagine what it feels like (if you are non-black) when you identify that this could be yourself, or your loved ones. Imagine the cumulative effect when these shocks of grief come one upon the other, a new name to mourn before one has begun to process the last. If someone thinks that anyone needs political rhetoric to be deeply upset with this--what the hell is wrong with that person? Is that person a stone?

What the murderer in Dallas did not understand (and never will, his life being terminated by a robot with an explosive) was that there is collective responsibility to make things better, but not collective blame for other tragedies--the blood of those officers he targeted, doing the good job of protecting and serving people exercising their First Amendment rights, was shed for no reason at all. Their blood deepened the resolve of people who despise the movement to continue hating for the same tendency to collectively blame--they don't lay this solely at the feet of Micah Johnson, but at antiracism. It was as utterly wrong as an act can be, and of course, must be denounced.

But the frame that expects a grieving mother to denounce it from the very first question in a CNN interview? The frame that puts Rudolph Giuliani in front of a camera to talk about policing and community relations? Tells me some people do not separate the ideas in their minds at all. Being against black deaths at the hands of law enforcement does not translate to being for police deaths. Antiracism is not de facto anti-whiteness--unless you define whiteness as racism.

And, some people do.



5 comments:

mikey said...

2 things:

1.) Oh, Dallas WAS a model. It was a model of what happens when you oppress people, harass them, beat them, incarcerate them repeatedly and kill them. Eventually, they fight back. Dallas was a model just as Palestine is a model. Treat people like enemy combatants and they will, eventually, BECOME enemy combatants. America's law enforcement agencies created this catastrophe, and as you described, ubiquitous video cameras exposed it. We're not seeing an 'explosion' in police violence - we're seeing the art of urban American policing as has been the lived experience of generations of young black men. And yes, they will fight, and they will kill - but save your outrage. It was always going to happen this way.

2.) I think you're wrong about the robot bomb in two ways. You're wrong from an equipment deployment standpoint - it's an ingenious, precision approach to ending a standoff without allowing any further loss of life. It's no different than using a police sniper, but it's more controlled and useful even against a barricaded suspect.

You're also wrong tactically. I have no argument with your position that it would have been nice to take this guy into custody and try him, but at what cost? You don't end a gunfight that way. If you can get him to surrender, great. But if you have a trained rifleman who's not ready to stop fighting, you HAVE to kill him. This is precisely the kind of situation that lethal force is for. You have to flip his switch. Your choice is to spray a whole bunch of high velocity lead around downtown Dallas or pop him with a tiny anti-personnel explosive on a robot. This is the classic no-brainer.

Vixen Strangely said...

1)On the macro level, America racial history and law enforcement have been utterly horrifying models with many things to condemn, from the evolution of policing from slave catchers, the use of felony convictions to disenfranchise populations, the use of carceral (slave) labor, the brutal statistics of the uneven use of the death penalty, the regular harassment and 4th Amendment violations and the list goes on--on the micro level, the Dallas PD and BLM had a positive interaction that evening before the assault took place. The protest was non-violent. This is where I'm wondering what outrage I'm supposed to save? I'm outraged that white racism will view a movement through the lens of an act of violence without an understanding of the grief and rage people have held back for years. That they can't grasp, because history is so whitewashed and spoonfed to them, why MLK of necessity rooted his protest in nonviolent demonstration--

Because when the oppressor does not recognize you as fully human in the first place, your violence serves as their greatest reason to exterminate you. Like a rabid dog. I'm not defeatist on this subject--humanity must be recognized. Physical actions for visibility show strength of support--physical violence engenders more violence. That is no way to get violence to stop.

2) I didn't even know I said enough about the robot-delivered explosives to be wrong about in two whole ways. I did use the word "terminated"--although that's a little in the line of "terminator" robots like the movies, isn't it? His life is over and this was the technology deployed--fact. I wasn't making a "due process" argument there, because of course if the guy was a present threat, they were obliged to take him out for the sake of the public's safety. Totally.

But, and not just for the sake of brevity, I might just feel a bit awkward taking a "screw due process" stand against a black perpetrator in a police confrontation in a post regarding this particular movement, for reasons. Yeah, no brainer. All I said is that's how he died. Not whether any tactical opinion on it.

mikey said...

I guess I was reacting to the overly circumspect, often worshipful tone that I've been reading for days. I read that same tone into your piece when I said save your outrage. That was unfair. But my point stands - the cops have been beating and killing these kids for decades. It's more than a little precious when people say 'yeah, cops shooting down black kids in the streets is kinda bad, I guess, but SHOOTING COPS IS AN UNIMAGINABLY HORRIFIC CRIME!! The cops have had plenty of time to stop treating the citizens in their community as enemy combatants.

Shame on me, maybe, but from where I sit cops have guns and air power and radios and tanks and body armor - maybe killing a few of them won't actually help solve the problem, but passively letting them kill us (figuratively) hasn't seemed to do much to solve the problem either. Let them know a little fear, sez I....

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I hope you don't mind if I stick my head in the door to find out your reaction to the Dallas situation.

I know you're saying, “Formerly Amherst: Che fin ha fatto?”

Well, between the lodge, the wife, and Les Brigandes I'm kept pretty busy.

Back in the day, an innovative TV program called “I Spy” hit the airwaves. It starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. It actually was the first buddy show and the first program to have central characters that were black and white and were friends working together.

In the program they were secretly spies while having a cover of a tennis pro and his trainer. And they went around the world doing spy stuff. Naturally, there was a fair amount of violence that would probably echo a view of American foreign policy seen through a lens of Graham Greene.

So they asked a political comedian named Mort Sahl what he thought about the program (Mort was a Democrat). And he said,
“It just proves to me that a black man can be just as big of a son of a bitch as a white man if given the proper opportunity.”

As you know, first I was in the service and I fought beside black guys, and then I was in the civil rights movement. I went through a period where I would never open a door for a white girl, but would always graciously open the door for a black girl. I got over all that. Now black is no different than white. Everyone just has their own predicament. This is a world of predicaments. (Malkuth is said to be a world of “doing.” I would add it's also a world of predicaments.)

Black nationalist movements should not be seen as any different than the Klan. Islamic supremacists, black supremacists, white supremacists, all represent the same thing to civil society. In the US we're supposed to vote about stuff, not go on a violent warpath.

Ayn Rand used to say that when violence comes through the door, morality goes out the window. Should black supremacists decide to do violence, they have forfeited their right to be seen from the consideration of their predicament.

It would be good if people stopped politicizing every event. It would be good if local crime scenes were not instantly nationalized for political reasons. It would be good if all the media outlets were not constantly trying to promote antagonism and hostility. When they promote hate, sooner or later they are going to get someone killed.

Vixen Strangely said...

I've seen that show in rerun--there's something uniquely American, Cold War, and paranoid about it that makes it seem kind of like an artifact to a Generation X kid. I kind of see what Sahl was talking about. As a comedian, I wonder if he wasn't getting rumors from the circuit since Cosby started as a standup...fame and money are definitely privileges and the kind of bastard the Cos showed himself to be seems to have started way back.

For the majority of the BLM movement, I'm not seeing black supremacy, so much as a fear of basic civil rights violations--life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness--

You take Philando Castile. This guy was, by all accounts, a good guy--but a close examination of the record shows he got stopped by the police 52 times in 14 years.

No shit: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/philando-castile-stopped-cops-52-times-14-years-article-1.2705348

Think about how that many stops affects a person's life. If you are stopped, you are late getting wherever you're going. So imagine he's had late time coming into work, you get docked for that and it goes on your work record. Depending on your violation, you might have a court date--that's time off work--also goes on your record. If you've got fines, you have to pay them, and if you have trouble paying them, you put that on a card, and if things get really dire, you take out a loan to finance your trouble. How many of those violations are totally legit, and how many do you think were an officer's word against his--because how many would you need before you were the safest least violating driving person in the world? What do you think all this mess did to the man's insurance?

But here's the ridiculous thing--he got pulled over because of his nose:

https://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2016/07/philando-castile-pulled-over-because-he-matched-description-of-suspect-with-wide-set-nose-shots-fired-less-than-2-minutes-later/

A wide nose. Like how many African Americans have a wide nose? Like--the officer was talking about a tail light that wasn't even broken, but he was actually profiling for a certain kind of facial feature. That many African Americans have. And what are you going to do--take your license and registration with you in the car, and leave your face at home?

Now, I'm white, red-headed, and half-Irish, and hearing this makes me want to knock somebody the hell out. I'm not experiencing white guilt or starry-eyed over the black predicament--that's just injustice and there isn't anything else I can call it. A four-year old baby watched a man she knew die riddled with bullets and she and her mom were locked in jail for five hours because they saw it. They were traumatized, and dangerous, because they caught sight of murder in front of them, and the PD didn't even know what to do with them. A young woman and her little girl.

Now, I live in Philadelphia, and maybe this colors my experience. There is a Black Israelite movement that is alive here (I have stood and listened to some interesting speeches) and some of them could be described as black supremacist. I guess you could call NOI black supremacist too, although most are really more "separatist". I think there's some allegations that this Dallas sniper might have been checking out NOI, just like the Beltway sniper was NOI. But BLM doesn't seem at all like black supremacy to me--just social justice in the form of not getting inequally harassed by police and killed on the street. And that seems like a worthwhile cause to me. I don't have a lot of weird ass white guilt--I just came up in integrated schools and neighborhoods--they are neighbors and people I know. It makes sense to me to be worried about people being afraid of 911, and dealing with a justice system that isn't justice to them--just us.