I’m sure plenty of y’all have been waiting to weigh in on George Floyd’s death and the aftermath consuming the country. Fine, that’s what this Playpen is for.
First, some words of caution. I don’t have a lot of bright lines here when it comes to commentary at GTP, but making racist comments is one of them. Anyone who posts something that crosses that particular line will find his/her post scrubbed and their posting privileges revoked for good. As to what crossing that line might entail, that’s entirely my call. If you don’t like that, I would suggest that if you’ve composed something you’re unsure passes the smell test, don’t post it. I’ve still got a couple of neo-Nazis who try to pass their garbage off here on occasion and I don’t have any desire to tolerate it. Please, don’t be stupid.
As for the topic du jour, I feel a lot like Kirby Smart. I haven’t experienced racism, but I recognize the pain it’s caused and still causes. If you are a skeptic about institutionalized racism, I strongly recommend reading this Radley Balko post. The math is the math.
Institutionalized racism, unfortunately, is a subset of an even bigger problem, institutionalized indifference to police power abuse. There’s math for that, too, as Balko summarizes here:
The answer to the first question is easy. The problems in policing — from militarization to lack of transparency, to misplaced incentives, to the lack of real accountability — certainly do affect everyone, not just black people. According to The Post’s database of fatal police shootings, since 2015 police have shot and killed about twice as many white people as black people.
But while police abuse and violence have the potential to harm anyone, as with virtually all of the other shortcomings of the criminal justice system, it disproportionately harms black people. Cops may shoot and kill twice as many white people as black, but there about six times as many white people as black people in the United States. Proportionally, black people are much more likely to be shot and killed by cops.
Which brings us to the whole “Black Lives Matter” thing. Swinging back to Smart’s comment, it’s hard for most of us to understand what that means when we haven’t walked in those black lives’ shoes.
When white people see video of unjust police abuse of a white person, it may make us angry, sad or uncomfortable, but most of us don’t see ourselves in the position of the person in the video. If we’re polite and respectful, we think, and don’t put ourselves in scenarios that lead to confrontations with police officers, there’s little chance that we’ll ever end up like Daniel Shaver. When black people see video of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, their reaction is much more likely to be that could have been me — or my son, or friend or brother.
I am not arrogant enough to pretend that I have all the answers, or that I should even be somebody who deserves to be listened to in a serious way about this. But what’s left of my inner libertarian insists that a large part of this is fueled by what I’ve called the failure of the Wars on Nouns (Drugs, Terror, etc.). We have sacrificed our civil rights and liberties steadily over decades for false security and we’re paying the price for it.
It’s time for our politicians to recognize that and start undoing the damage. This is a good first step.
And this is a good second one.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have begun a new push to shut down a Pentagon program that transfers military weaponry to local law enforcement departments, as bipartisan urgency builds to address the excessive use of force and the killings of unarmed black Americans by the police.
Somehow, in too many places, we’ve allowed police to mutate from “protect and serve” to occupiers in our midst. We didn’t intend it, but it’s happened nonetheless. And while I’ve seen countless examples of good cops over the past week, I’ve also seen what happens when you have police departments that feel threatened, not by individuals’ violence, but by wide scale resistance to police power abuse. Fixing that isn’t going to be easy, but we’ve got to start making the effort.
Okay, I’m climbing off my soapbox now and inviting you to stand on it. Please be considerate.