Everyone’s Shouting

Last week a shooter killed five Dallas policemen and wounded nine others at a protest held in Dallas to protest the killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. This is the largest single killing of police officers since 9/11.

Too many people remain focused almost exclusively on police abuses, and such abuses clearly exist. There’s absolutely no doubt that they do. And for all the light shined on such abuses, they continue to occur. Some police departments have made great strides in dealing with the issue of discriminatory “over-policing” of minorities, especially blacks, and some have done far less to address the problem of police abuse, especially of black males.

Police officers need to realize that the problem isn’t going to just die down and go away. It won’t, not so long as abuses continue, so long as black anger increases, and so long as there are three hundred million guns in the United States.

Yet, from what I’ve seen reported, the Dallas police department is one of those that seems to have been trying hard and doing well in this regard, one headed by a black police chief, and one where the officers killed were on duty protecting a peaceful demonstration, ironically against police excesses – until the shooter opened fire.

That said, the black community has to face up to some very hard facts as well. By any standard, even taking into account poverty, poor schooling, and various systemic problems that cause discrimination, including racial profiling, the crime rate among young black males is unacceptable. Other impoverished minorities face a great many of the same structural and social problems, and the crime rate of their young males comes nowhere close to that of young black males. Drive-by shootings and random violence and killing of children as a result of gang fights are not deaths caused by police behavior.

Yet all too many on each side of this divide, and it is a divide, refuse to see or address their own problems, and the anger and the shouting seem to grow louder. While neither side is totally blameless and neither side is totally to blame, too many on each side are behaving that way. In effect, it’s another example of polarization.

David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said it well, that the divisiveness has to stop, but it won’t stop until the majorities and minorities on each side in all metropolitan areas and towns take a long, hard, and honest look at their own problems. There’s been progress, but not nearly enough, and we as a society are running out of time.

13 thoughts on “Everyone’s Shouting”

  1. invah says:

    >Yet all too many on each side of this divide, and it is a divide, refuse to see or address their own problems, and the anger and the shouting seem to grow louder.

    Sounds reasonable, but isn’t. This is logically disingenuous.

    In this case, you’ve created a false equivalency: there are “two sides”, and their responsibilities and contributions are equal. Since each ‘side’ is to blame, blame and responsibility is diffused.

    The problem isn’t police v. “blacks” (by the way, side eye to that) or police culture v. Black American culture.

    >so long as black anger increases

    Authoritarian and entitlement-driven police culture impacts EVERYONE. Anyone who doesn’t instantly “obey” an officer in the way an officer believes they should is perceived to be challenging the officers’ authority. “Instant obedience” includes overt respect and instant compliance. If you do not instantly obey a police officer with overt respect, you will be considered and treated like a “problem”; and we all know how police officers tend to treat ‘problems’.

    Police officers are vested with an extraordinary amount of power, and little oversight or accountability, nor are they generally held responsible for their actions. There is zero outside oversight unless specifically established in individual jurisdictions and, even then, police officers are openly punitive toward district attorneys or others who attempt to hold officers accountable.

    Instead of being held to higher or equal standards than a citizen, they are held to a LOWER standard.

    Not only do police officers routinely commit illegal abuses of power against citizens, they are ENTITLED to legally commit abuses of power against citizens. (See: civil asset forfeiture)

    People who have been victimized by police include minorities, the poor, mentally impaired, physically impaired, and women.

    Police officers, all too often, are their own militarized little fiefdoms, and place the onus of the interaction on a citizen instead of on themselves because of their belief that they should be kow-towed to and instantly obeyed regardless of a citizens rights under the law, and that they are aggressed against if a citizen does NOT instantly obey and submit to an officer’s demands.

    And, while the prevailing belief is that officers “serve and protect”, police officers do not actually have a constitutional duty to protect anyone: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect.html

    Comparing this to the “black community” is RACIST. The “black community” isn’t engaging in drive-bys and murdering children. The “black community” isn’t criminal. The “black community” isn’t enabling this behavior.

    >That said, the black community has to face up to some very hard facts as well.

    This is the most oblivious thing I have seen you assert. the Black American community (1) is not homogenous, and (2) is absolutely aware of “hard facts”.

    You are projecting the cognitive distortions of police culture onto the “black community”.

    >When we are taking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force.

    >But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force?

    >Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the department of comparative literature and the program of critical theory at the University of California, Berkeley

    This perception that Black Americans commit more crimes, or more violent crimes is fallacious.

    > By any standard…the crime rate among young black males is unacceptable.

    Firstly, I am reminded of something you wrote in “Elysium Commission” that said something to the effect that most crimes happened at home or in businesses, and those were the hardest to detect and prosecute. I’d add politics to that list.

    You are defining “crime” very specifically. You are also viewing a result of systemic set of causes as a cause itself.

    Violent crime perpetrated by “black males” IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR POLICE CULTURE.

    1. You’re the one who’s oblivious. I NEVER said violent crime perpetrated by “black males” was responsible for a flawed police culture. You drew that erroneous conclusion. I said each side has problems. When a group has a far higher crime rate than other groups, there will be more of a police presence. When the police culture is flawed, as it is in too many places, that interaction will result in the kind of events we’re seeing and have been seeing. The problem has to be addressed on both sides.

      1. invah says:

        Feel free to re-read my comment. Nowhere did I assert that you stated that violent crimes perpetrated by “black males” was responsible for flawed police culture.

        In identifying a “divide” between police and the “black community”, you position the discussion as a false equivalency between the two. That in conjunction with specifically identifying the ‘unacceptable’ crime rate of “black males” creates a rhetorical effect, one that I was directly addressing.

      2. invah says:

        >The problem has to be addressed on both sides.

        This false equivalency creates a rhetorical effect.

        1. Again, I never asserted the two sides were equivalent. They’re essentially very different, but each side has problems to address.

          1. invah says:

            Even referring to “each side” sets up a false equivalency. It isn’t police v. Black Americans, or police culture v. Black American culture. Thee are not “two sides”. Black Americans happen to be the subset of people most vocally speaking out about police misconduct and toxic policing paradigms.

          2. You’re overplaying semantics. Police are supposed to be there to stop crime and catch offenders. Black culture, like it or not, has a much higher crime rate. There is an intersection. There are significant numbers in black communities and significant numbers of police who seem unable and unwilling to recognize the problems within their own “culture.” It’s not just all about over-policing and police abuses, and if you think it is, then you have a significant lack of perspective.

      3. invah says:

        >You’re the one who’s oblivious.

        Additionally, I never stated YOU were oblivious, I said “this is the most oblivious thing I have seen you assert”. There is a difference.

    2. Andreas says:

      “But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force?”
      Is anyone truly free of coercive force? Would be a better question. The whole situation could be caused by the frustration of not being “free of coercive force.” Frustration and thinking you have no choice causes many problems and justifications, just like what happened in those situations. That does not excuse what happens, but it could give a bit of perspective.

      1. invah says:

        >Is anyone truly free of coercive force?

        Police officers are; it is possible to argue that wealthy individuals and well-presenting white men are more likely to be than not.

        There is a difference, however, between being a full participant in a social contract where you have exchanged certain freedoms for protection and other benefits, and “coercive force”.

        I’d agree with you that the social contract as a concept is, in reality, imperfectly executed; however, there are degrees of ‘coercive’ force. Black Americans have been subjected to the full effect of coercive force in each iteration of their citizenship-ship status, or lack thereof.

  2. darcherd says:

    Anyone who resents the requirement to give police officers “instant obedience and overt respect” should undergo a basic law-enforcement Shoot/Don’t Shoot training. I did many years ago, and it was a real eye-opener, making me realize the pressure on police to make instant life-or-death decisions, and the cost of getting it wrong.

    The problem and the pressure on police have only gotten worse in the intervening decades as guns continue to flood the population.

    I sympathize with minorities whose basic human dignity is affronted without any justification in far too many routine encounters with police. It is hard to maintain a respectful attitude when one is not being treated with respect themselves. And I also sympathize with the police for whom every encounter with a citizen is potentially life-threatening and more and more people are carrying firearms.

    More basic courtesy and respect is needed by both police and citizens. And if you have the misfortune to be stopped by the police, whatever your pigmentation, try to remember that they are just as scared as you are – that understanding may help calm the situation, and it may save your life.

  3. Nathaniel says:

    I read an article today written by a former member of the London Metro Police who wrote this:

    “Guns make every decision binary — shoot or don’t shoot. They leave no room for doubt or other options, other points of view. Guns reduce very complicated decisions to the simplest of choices, and that is something I am eternally glad I didn’t have to be a part of.”

    In fairness, he also wrote: “Basically, it comes down to the fact that our conflicts so very rarely involve firearms that we simply don’t need them. If I knew every drunk or crackhead I stopped to search had a concealed carry, I would be the first in the queue at the armorers.”

    Shoot/Don’t Shoot is a sad reflection on the price we continue to pay for an idea (the Second Amendment) whose time has come and gone.

  4. invah says:

    >Anyone who resents the requirement to give police officers “instant obedience and overt respect” should undergo a basic law-enforcement Shoot/Don’t Shoot training.

    Perhaps I didn’t identify this clearly enough, but the police interpretation of what constitutes compliance and respect is extremely authoritarian, driven by the diametrically opposed beliefs that they (1) control and have power in every encounter, regardless of its purpose, and (2) that the non-police personnel are responsible for the encounter.

    It is a splitting of power from responsibility that is dangerous and entitlement-driven; and it allows cognitive rationale for specifically punitive response. (Instead of, for instance, situation-containing responses.)

    It also fails to recognize (1) citizen rights UNDER THE LAW in police encounters, and (2) the fact that their entitlement-orientation sets the dynamic.

    >The problem and the pressure on police have only gotten worse in the intervening decades as guns continue to flood the population.

    Is accurate? Are guns actually “flooding the population”? This assertion should be sourced, but I can see how police *perception* that guns are ‘flooding’ the population would effect their policing paradigm. However, (1) the current policing paradigm is not new; rather, our social awareness of it is; and (2) the only time I can recall people buying guns in large numbers is in context of Obama-related fear mongering…and the people buying those guns were not minorities, generally speaking.

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