Speculation on the Reasons for Michael Brown’s Death

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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130 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    I further suggest that as a police officer, he probably felt Brown owed him obedience.

    Could have just written that.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I edited that a bit down.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I was going to add that as a white man, though we don’t know for sure that he is (the odds are pretty great), he thought that a young black man owed him obedience, but that would definitely be speculation.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        The need for obedience comes primarily from the position held rather than the race, in my mental model of police behavior.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yeah, that is a big part of it.

        But run an experiment: have a white man talk back to a cop, then have a black man talk back to a cop, and see where the cop’s sense of status has the greatest effect. Even if they both get arrested (and they may, some cops can’t handle any back talk), watch how they get arrested.

        I say this as someone who is a white man who has talked back to cops more than once, and who has seen black and Hispanic men talk back to cops, and experienced the difference.

        Back in my old neighborhood, the cops had a habit of showing up in the evenings when everyone was in the pool. Received a call about a disturbance, or something, probably, and the people at the pool looked overwhelmingly like the suspects in question. Friend of mine, father of one of the kids my son played with in the pool, who was black always said, half jokingly, “Let Chris do the talking.” Only half jokingly. And not because of my pleasant demeanor.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Chris,
        round here it’s not just the cops.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @chris While ceteris paribus race has an effect, class and education matters. A black lawyer or investment banker in a suit talking back to a cop is going to get treated better than a white guy that looks and acts like a character from COPS.

        I say this as a Middle Eastern guy who has seen the difference between how my parents get treated and how I get treated possibly entirely due to me lacking any accent.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Mo,
        then again, there was that professor from harvard who got arrested in his own house for “resisting arrest”Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @mo — But that can backfire hard, and this might be an area where the experience of a middle easterner is not like the experience of a black man. Cops are working class. The imagine of a black man of higher status than them goes against their sense of rightness. They may feel somewhat more reservation about hurting such a man, because they sense there will be consequences, but they may very well want to, very very much. Just give them the slightest excuse.Report

  2. Avatar notme says:

    Just what we need, another “speculation” thread about those bad ol’ cops.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Here’s the thing notme: you’re so quick to castigate folks for engaging in a “speculation” thread, that you effectively reject the value of speculation. As if the answers to this stuff don’t require going into any laborious intellectual adventuring or passing the boundaries of what our guts tell us, or CNN Fox News for that matter. Some speculatin can be dismissed. But the idea that speculating can be dismissed is a sign of a closed mind, no?Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Multiple eye witnesses tell one story, the police tell a partial story that has no explanation for the final shots. It’s not speculation, it’s reasoning.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Reasoning requires evidence/facts while speculation is just talking without knowing anything.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Reasoning only if evidence facts, speculating = ignorance.

        If that’s right, then your only problem with Vik’s post title is semantic, yes? You think the word means something different than he does.

        Whew! I’m glad we go to the bottom of this issue before tempers started to flare. Arnchew?Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        For the record, I’m one of those folks who views eyewitness accounts with some suspicion. I’m doubly suspicious of media reporting of eyewitness accounts because of the inherent inability to prevent a full account.

        However, the times when eyewitness accounts align, that’s pretty damning. People can convince themselves that they’ve seen all sorts of goofy ass shit that didn’t happen, but it’s really unlikely that they all imagine the same goofy ass shit.

        So while I’m certainly not one to jump to any conclusions yet, based upon the versions of the stories that I’ve read, I’m also one to say that if you properly interview a few different eyewitnesses and you get a fairly linear story, the single guy with the conflicting story is probably full of it.

        Of course, it’s hard to do a proper interview when the media may have already sunk any opportunity you had to do a proper interview.

        All of that said, your objection is reactionary and fairly content-free, notme.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Even more than the eyewitness, which are far from accurate, is the official police story. As i remember the cops said there was a struggle at the car, a shot fired, Brown ran and the cop shot him from approx 35 feet. The kid was unarmed and running away and was shot. Boom right there is a major F’ing problem with the cops behavior. He didn’t kill him in defending himself but when the unarmed kid had started to run away. The cops story suggests something , at the least, seriously improper happened.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        “However, the times when eyewitness accounts align, that’s pretty damning. People can convince themselves that they’ve seen all sorts of goofy ass shit that didn’t happen, but it’s really unlikely that they all imagine the same goofy ass shit.”

        I used to think that, until I read Columbine. Now, not so much.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @tod-kelly – I don’t want to speak for @patrick and haven’t read Columbine but I suspect you and he may not be that far apart. I take Patrick’s implied meaning to be

        the times when eyewitness accounts align, that’s pretty damning. People can convince themselves that they’ve seen all sorts of goofy ass shit that didn’t happen, but it’s really unlikely that they all imagine the same goofy ass shit [so long as they are interviewed quickly and properly, before they’ve had a chance to absorb the accounts of others].

        (bolded words added in by me)

        In any event that is newsworthy, the minute people start talking to each other about “what happened”, “memories” start getting cooperatively created. Not that I am saying that happened here, but it can.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        These don’t sound like the sort of facts that get blurry. Facial features, heights — sure. But you remember the difference between “right by the car” and 20 feet away running.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        As an aside, I think Mark elsewhere has proposed that *any* state police shooting of a civilian (or maybe just an unarmed one) should immediately trigger a federal investigation; this might help in these situations, since the very same police who *should* be quickly and properly interviewing all witnesses before the story gets any more muddled, have a clear incentive to instead hunker down, get their story straight, and cover their own asses.

        Mark’s proposal of course doesn’t help much when it’s a Fed who does the shooting (for ex., this still seems…fishy to me):

        http://time.com/37019/boston-marathon-bombing-fbi-agent-todashev/

        Also, it probably incentivizes police to plant weapons if they shoot someone.

        Of course, right now, they don’t even have to go to the trouble of planting a weapon. They can just say that they thought there might be one. Somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        @tod-kelly

        Glyph has it exactly.

        Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. People under stress are particularly bad at detail recall… they remember the oddest things and miss pretty big ones. You interview 100 people that evacuated a sinking ferry, for example, you’ll get 95 different time scales, 95 different sets of accounts of how the crew acted, hell, you’ll get 87 different accounts of what the captain actually said when he said to abandon ship.

        But if a crewmember threw somebody overboard in order to make room for himself in a lifeboat, you’d have a bunch of people that remember that this happened. They’ll still disagree on the age of the crewmember, they’ll disagree on the age, sex, and appearance of the person that was chucked overboard, they might even disagree on the number of people that were thrown overboard, and a couple of them will even disagree on which crewmember it was that threw the person overboard.

        Interviewing people property is *hard*, because it’s so very very easy to interview people with the wrong sorts of questions, the sort that ply upon the inherent bad recall people have and implant ideas into their head. It’s also almost functionally indistinguishable – in result – from interviewing people correctly and helping them recall events as accurately as they can. You can only tell if people have done it right if you watch the interview roll out in person.

        “Oh, yes, that’s right, it was a crewmember wearing a baseball cap. Oh, yes, that’s right, it couldn’t have been a man he threw overboard because I remember now that I saw a flash of skirt.” Those can be honest recallings, or they can be the interviewer taking the indecision of the current interviewee to plant details that the interviewer *knows* are accurate, or that match a previous interviewee’s recall, and thus construct a narrative.

        One reason why I’m not quick to assume that this guy actually shot the kid as described is because the interviews I’ve read are all media ones, and once a narrative is constructed by the first interview and published where other witnesses can read it, it’s amazing how often their stories start to take on the character of the previous account.

        People will do this, naturally, they will not realize that they’re doing it, and if you show them a video of an event that contradicts their account, their first response is severe cognitive dissonance.

        I’m almost certain this matches what Tod is talking about from Columbine (haven’t read the book, I really need to get around to that one day). But, in the case of Columbine, it’s definitely true that two guys still shot up the school and killed a bunch of people.

        Conflicting accounts of when, how, what they said, who they chose, why, etc. etc., those are all conflicting accounts. We can’t tell which one of them is true, or how true it is.

        But we’re pretty sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were the two guys that did all the shooting, and none of it was righteous.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        But you remember the difference between “right by the car” and 20 feet away running.

        Not necessarily.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Patrick,
        remember, every single time the victim changes their story, a rapist goes unpunished. We ought to train kids in school to tell the cops the damn truth.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        I’ll note one thing:

        If that police officer did *not* shoot that kid entirely unjustifiably, it’s going to be really hard for him to make that case, now. Even if he gets off the criminal case, dollars to donuts says he’s going to lose the civil one.

        Because the police, as an institution, really totally screwed this investigation. The witnesses needed to be found, sequestered from each other, and properly interviewed to have a snowball’s chance to get anything resembling a decently accurate narrative out of them. That’s done, burned, and buried.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Kim:

        The whole point is that people don’t know what the truth is. They only know a reflection of the truth. Under stress scenarios, your body is just flooded with all the right chemicals to maximize your chances of surviving an encounter with something that is trying to eat you, and those chemicals also completely screw with your brain’s ability to accurate process and record sensory data.

        Bad interviewing actually exacerbates this problem.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @patrick – Because the police, as an institution, really totally screwed this investigation. The witnesses needed to be found, sequestered from each other, and properly interviewed to have a snowball’s chance to get anything resembling a decently accurate narrative out of them.

        Agreed, but their incentive (“as an institution”/system) is to screw up the investigation, every time, when the shooter is a cop.

        Also, assuming the eyewitness accounts are *anywhere near* correct, I just don’t see how this shooting could be anything other than “entirely unjustifiable”. Even if they had struggled previously. Even if the kid had previously grabbed at the cop’s gun.

        *If* the kid was unarmed, at distance/running/hands up, then the most likely explanation to me is that this cop (IMO) still had his adrenaline going/hackles up from their confrontation (whatever its details, verbal, physical, shot fired, whatever) and…just shot the kid, in rage.

        This explanation doesn’t require race to even factor in per se; I’ve been involved in emotional/angry/fearful confrontations (a white road-rager who got in my face, and punched me through my open car window, after illegally pulling out and nearly causing me to T-bone him, then taking exception to my complaints about his driving) and I thought later that if I’d had a gun, I mighta shot him.

        And I don’t mean I’d’a shot him in the moments when he approached the car or threw the punch; I mean I might’ve shot him in the moments after the punch, before the red mist and adrenaline left me, and the shaking really set in.

        Because I was that angry.
        Because I was that scared.
        Because I was that angry, that he had made me that scared.

        Which is one reason (of many) that I’m not a cop – a cop *has* to know better. A cop has to be able to control his emotions and actions better. Even if he just came out of a scary/adrenaline-raising situation.

        If the dude is unarmed and running or surrendering, you *can’t* shoot him.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Agreed, but their incentive (“as an institution”/system) is to screw up the investigation, every time, when the shooter is a cop.

        Oh, yes. Or rather, their incentives as individual members of the institution is to screw up the investigation. The long term incentives for the institution are to get the investigation right, otherwise you lose public trust. You know how we’re always complaining that corporations pursue short-term profit over long-term sustainability? Same problem. Crisis of leadership.

        Also, assuming the eyewitness accounts are *anywhere near* correct, I just don’t see how this shooting could be anything other than “entirely unjustifiable”. Even if they had struggled previously. Even if the kid had previously grabbed at the cop’s gun.

        If the autopsy shows one frontal gunshot wound and X in the back, Officer Wilson should probably be up the creek.

        If the autopsy shows X in the back and nothing else, he should get lying in wait.

        On the other hand, if the autopsy shows one frontal and none in the back… we still have a lot of work to do.

        This explanation doesn’t require race to even factor in per se; I’ve been involved in emotional/angry/fearful confrontations (a white road-rager who got in my face, and punched me through my open car window, after illegally pulling out and nearly causing me to T-bone him, then taking exception to my complaints about his driving) and I thought later that if I’d had a gun, I mighta shot him.

        Oh sure.

        Which is one reason (of many) that I’m not a cop – a cop *has* to know better. A cop has to be able to control his emotions and actions better. Even if he just came out of a scary/adrenaline-raising situation.

        Hi-yup.

        In the light of the current release of data, I will say that the police department leadership deserves to get fired. Today they announced that Brown was a suspect in a robbery, releasing a video (that could be him, but probably isn’t, as the clothes don’t match)… but still no autopsy report.

        (It’s hard not to suspect they’re trying to rely on uncertainty and doubt to manage the public reaction to this case.)

        The preliminary autopsy has to have been done already. How that isn’t already released to the public…Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @patrick @glyph

        Yes, but I think that there is an assumption here that there is no way that could have happened other than the way the current media is presenting it — and I think this is a highly dubious assumption.

        FTR, what happened in Columbine happened organically, happened due to a number of reasons, and most importantly, happened simultaneously to the witnesses, law enforcement, and the media in the first half hour of when everything began.

        And while I would agree with your point about everyone getting the main event correct, Pat, I would argue that the corollary here is “the police shot and killed Michael Brown,” not “the poise overreacted and shot someone who was doing nothing that warranted using deadly force.”

        Now, I think notme’s insistence that we “not speculate” is absurd and disingenuous. (He speculates pretty freely on almost every other news story we talk about here, when that speculation allows him to chase his partisan goals.) But I think he’s spot on that it’s folly to assume because the news media has interviewed people and everything turned into a circus that we therefore, as pretty much everyone in these threads is claiming, know exactly what happened because “reasoning” shows us there is only one way everything could have gone down.

        For reference, see every major national news story involving real or suspected terrorism, violence, or disaster story since I’ve been writing here. Every single one that I can think of follows a pattern of everyone “knowing” what happened because they’ve been paying careful attention to the news, only to find out days to several weeks later that this was not actually the case.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @tod-kelly

        I’d say the problem is that on-the-ground reporting is prone to spreading inaccurate information — not what actually happened, but what people think they saw or heard second-hand — and media outlets are generally very sloppy at correcting that record; and even when the do, people don’t bother to actually look back and readjust their notions of what they heard.

        This is particularly devious when it comes to innuendo — crazed on drugs or slutty or drunk or whatever.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        @zic and @tod-kelly

        Oh, it’s definitely the case that the current dichotomy in the news media is hardly an accurate way to suss out what is likely to have happened here.

        We know a police officer shot Mr. Brown. We don’t know how many times, or where the bullets landed. We have two conflicting reports of what happened, one offered by someone who was involved and one offered by some witnesses who were interviewed by journalists as opposed to crime scene investigators.

        The two descriptions are, on the fact of it, irreconcilable. The physical autopsy could possibly eliminate one description as not consistent with physical evidence.

        This doesn’t prove the other narrative, mind you. But it makes the other narrative more likely to be more representative of what happened than not.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I’m speculating about exactly one cop, not the population as a whole. Additionally, I am not assuming he was a bad ol’ guy. To have a chance at being correct, speculation needs to assume somewhat reasonable actors rather than exaggerated caricatures.

      I would be incredibly surprised if the police officer shot Brown for absolutely no reason other than his blackness. There are a lot of black people in Ferguson, and he shot that particular one. On the other hand, I find it unlikely that a young man without any other signs of mental illness would walk up to a police officer and attack him and his friend would later come up with a fairly detailed lie about a dispute over being on the street.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      But @notme is quite willing to speculate that Aaron Swartz is guilty of a crime, although he was never tried.Report

  3. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    This isn’t just a black thing. I’ve lived near two predominantly white universities, and white asshole pedestrians leisurely strolling across intersections against a red signal were a scourge in both. I don’t have anything against jaywalking—I do it myself all the time—but I don’t feel entitled to obstruct traffic when I don’t have the right of way.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Young white males were also mentioned as “offenders” in some of the threads I saw, so it’s not just you.

      It does seem like some people think being in a car means the pedestrian should speed up while others don’t. I’m sort of going out of my way not to judge either behavior here, but clearly if a driver in the first group meets a pedestrian in the second group, there is going to be frustration on the driver’s part, and some of them might vent about it on the internet, but some of them might be in a position that let’s them go a step further and…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “I’m sort of going out of my way not to judge either behavior here, but clearly if a driver in the first group meets a pedestrian in the second group, there is going to be frustration on the driver’s part, and some of them might vent about it on the internet, but some of them might be in a position that let’s them go a step further and…”

        This. This this this. During a teacher training institute I just led, I talked about the issues that arise when cultures clash in the classroom. The example I always use has to do with language around requests and demands. There is a trend in talking to children whereby which children are “asked” to do things that they don’t really have a choice about. “Johnny, I asked you to put your shoes on.” “Susie, please clean up your room.” Despite the presence of words like ask, please, and the like, the children are not really being given a choice. And they understand with. They speak the code. This trend predominates among wealthier whites. And there is nothing wrong with the trend itself.

        But it is not a universal trend. Many kids — particularly young kids who are very black-and-white in their thinking — operate in a context where a question can be asked in the affirmative or negative and commands are to be adhered to. This tends to predominate among families of color and those of lower socio-economic status.

        Now, personally, I think we should err on the side of clarity of language… especially with children. But leaving that aside… presuming each approach is equally valid and legitimate… real issues can arise when these methods of communication interact. When a white teacher with an upper-class background “asks” her black students to quiet down and they tell her, “No”… well, now we’ve got a problem on our hands. Those kids are quickly labeled as “defiant” or something similar and reprimanded for their disobedience. All because they did what would be considered completely normal and appropriate in their home context. Unfortunately, the people who tend to make decisions about education (and most things) are wealthy white folks, meaning they not only get to decide what language is used in their classroom but also what the consequences are of adhering to a different cultural context. Even if the two approaches are equally valid in a vacuum, the power dynamics privilege (yes, privilege) one over another in such a way that one groups dominance is entrenched and reinforced.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        It’s the “against a red signal” that’s the damning portion here. If you’re jaywalking, you shouldn’t cause any delays for cars at all–that’s the unwritten social code of the jaywalker that lets you go against a red signal. To do otherwise is a dick move. If you’re a pedestrian who has the right of way, on the other hand, you’re under zero obligation to hurry up so somebody can make his right turn.Report

      • @kazzy How is using the word “please” a request? If I tell my daughter, “put your shoes away, please,” that’s unambiguously not a request. It’s just polite.

        However, I totally agree that too many times adults “ask” kids to do stuff when they do not mean it as a request.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @jonathan-mcleod

        I think with children it communicates it as a request. Or risks doing so if they haven’t learned the code?Report

      • @kazzy Okay, but I think that’s still a little off. It’s not that they haven’t learned “the code”. They have, just one that makes “please” and request.Report

      • *makes “please” *a* request.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        From the late Seth Roberts’s blog:

        [A]n African-American female professor, who insisted we call her Doctor…told us about a research study done by Lisa Delpit, an education researcher, who advised teachers not use please with inner-city male students. According to her study, when students in that demographic hear the word please they feel they have a choice. For example, a teacher should say, “Go back to your seat,” instead of “Go back to your seat, please.” In my experience, she was right. The command without please worked better.

        Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Vikram,
        can you unpack that a bit more? Did the person just not do what you had to say? Were they happier when you “stopped pretending not to be an authority figure”?
        To me, the lack of “politeness” reeks of the military’s level of discipline.

        of course, there’s a vast difference between a cool, collected “go back to your seat”, and one said in anger.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Kim, that wasn’t my experience. That was Seth Roberts when he taught for a bit in an inner city school. You can read his post for more context.

        I think the essential point is that for most of this blog’s likely audience “do this” is rude command and “do this, please” is polite, but still most definitely a command.I think many people have gone through life without ever saying anything stronger like “You’d better do this, or…” and if they did say it, it’d mean they were really angry.

        With certain groups, everything shifts down a couple of steps in urgency. “do this, please” is like saying, “It’d be ok if you did this.” Even “do this” probably might not qualify as a command unless said sternly. And “Do this or I’ll…” and “Fishing do this” might not indicate the speaker is angry at all but simply is serious about their command.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        @dan-miller
        It’s the “against a red signal” that’s the damning portion here. If you’re jaywalking, you shouldn’t cause any delays for cars at all–that’s the unwritten social code of the jaywalker that lets you go against a red signal. To do otherwise is a dick move.

        Yes. The code is, if you don’t screw things up for other people, you can sorta do whatever you want, because no one will complain.

        If you’re a pedestrian who has the right of way, on the other hand, you’re under zero obligation to hurry up so somebody can make his right turn.

        No.

        You have the right of way, which means you should take as long as you *need* to cross the street. If you’re using a walker and it takes 45 seconds, well, it takes 45 damn seconds, doesn’t it? You have the right of way.

        That does not mean you should do it as slow as you *feel like*, in much the same way that you should not drive 30 miles an hour on a 45 mile an hour road. Even if that’s legal and you’re not in a hurry. If you can drive 45, you should drive 45, at least if there’s anyone behind you. Heck, even if you can only drive 30 miles an hour, you still have a social obligation to occasionally let people pass.

        We shouldn’t judge people who don’t hurry in crosswalks, but that’s because *we don’t know if they can* hurry or not. Maybe that already is their version of hurrying. But it really is something you should do if you can.

        Again, this is just a social obligation, not a legal one. The social obligation is ‘Do not pointless waste other people’s time.’ (And often you shouldn’t waste other people’s time even if there *is* a point, but you certainly shouldn’t waste their time if choosing not to waste their time wouldn’t impact you at all.)Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      re: pedestrian culture

      … New York…

      (mic drop)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        When I was at the University of Kentucky (Go Big Blue!), the biggest dorms were across a fairly major street into downtown Lexington (Rose St) from the bulk of the classroom buildings. Students simply crossed in the middle of the street, regardless of whether there were cars coming, throughout the day. Most local drivers knew this, and were vigilant, but every year someone got hit.

        Here at UT, crossing the street in front of cars isn’t as common, though it’s not unheard of. And pedestrians do get hit. Though by cyclists more often than cars these days, it seems.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Chris,
        Mostly at U of Pittsburgh, folks get hit by buses (they come on their own special lane, and from the opposite direction of all other traffic). Eventually, they’ve put up barriers, which has somewhat decreased the stupidity of jaywalking across 5 lanes of traffic.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        When I watched this, the video paused for loading for about a minute at the exact moment the guy got hit by the bus. It would have been a major cliffhanger if it hadn’t been for the huge spoiler in the video title.Report

  4. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    One correction–I wouldn’t label reddit as a liberal site (this will vary by what subreddit you’re on, but /r/funny is a default site and attracts a broad and not-necessarily-liberal audience).Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      Sure Dan, just try to mention that you don’t believe in global warming and watch how fast you get banned. Not that I’ve done it but there have been news stories about it.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ve lived in and spend extended periods of time in several black neighborhoods. I suppose you could say my hometown was a “black neighborhood”, though I lived in a white/Jewish section. But I also spent 15 months living in Yonkers and regularly visited/stayed with friends who lived in Columbia Heights (DC) and Washington Heights (NYC). I noticed very different “cultures” around driving, pedestrians, the rules of the road, and the like. And what stood out more than anything was how well it worked. You rarely, if ever, heard honking. Many laws and generally accepted customs elsewhere were blatantly flaunted and yet I never saw an accident. There was one intersection (I think 181st and Broadway but I could be mistaken) where a few seconds standing on the corner led you to cringe at all the near misses… but a more extended look indicated a well choreographed ballet. Everyone — cars, pedestrians, gypsy cabs — just seemed to “get it”. As I began driving around Yonkers, I had to “get it” too. I had to adapt. And adapt I did.

    Surprisingly, so too did the police. They seem unmoved by all that was going on — so much of it technically illegal and arguably unsafe — because, in practice, it was all perfectly safe. Again, it worked. Some of that might be a function of cops seeming to generally ignore routine traffic violations in heavily urban areas (I don’t even know if NYC has posted speed limits and snarling traffic to pull someone over is not worth the time or money; they tend to make their hay on parking tickets and only go after people who are impeding traffic (e.g., blocking the box)).

    But still… in Yonkers at least, where I had the most experience, the cops seemed to have an understanding of at least this part of the local culture and adapted. It makes me wonder what the prior relationship was like between the police and the people in Michael Brown’s community. Slowly crossing a street might warrant a response from a cop if the context in which it is happening is unsafe. But if it is not unsafe… and it doesn’t seem unfair to speculate that Brown’s behavior was perfectly safe for where he did it… the cop should have known that and left well enough alone. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ… a young man is dead because he walked too damn slow?!?!?!Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Megan McArdle wrote about a piece about how quickly the demographics changed in Ferguson from white to black. Is it possible this officer didn’t realize this would have some influence on road behaviors?

      I read through these black-people-walk-too-slow-in-the-street threads, and I didn’t find one sympathetic take, even when the person commenting said they were black. There seem to be a lot of people who take this as quintessentially assholish behavior.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @vikram-bath

        Most people don’t realize they come from a specific cultural context. It’s like asking a fish to explain water.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Most people don’t realize they come from a specific cultural context. It’s like asking a fish to explain water.

        I don’t buy that at all. People aren’t fish. Human beings have the power of abstract thought and self-cognition. People realize more than you give them credit for. The real issue is to what extent they assimilate these realizations into their worldview and everyday behavior.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Human beings have the power of abstract thought and self-cognition. People realize more than you give them credit for.

        You really need to read more psych lit, that will quickly put gigantic holes in your “people think rationally” default.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @patrick

        As I’ve said before, if people used quotation marks to refer to actual quotations, we could cut down on these instances of claiming that some said or believes something that they didn’t actually say or believe.

        As for my actual contention, it should be fairly obvious that there are problems with the “asking a fish to explain water” analogy. It implies that fish can’t understand water because they are surrounded by it, when, in fact, the reason that fish can’t explain water is because fish can’t explain anything. Human beings, on the other hand, are surrounded by air and humans are quite plainly capable of explaining air.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        As I’ve said before, if people used quotation marks to refer to actual quotations, we could cut down on these instances of claiming that some said or believes something that they didn’t actually say or believe.

        I stand rebuked, sir.

        But, I’ll note, whether you intended it or not, it’s really hard not to read your comment as accusing Vikram of not just underestimating people’s rationality, but doing so severely.

        If you intended your reader to infer something else, you communicated badly.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        The last sentence clearly communicates what I was trying to say. I do think that Vikram’s comment underestimates people’s abilities to think rationally. Most people do have the ability to suss their relative social contexts, but many of them, for various reasons, choose not to fully cop to the subjective nature of their worldview.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I think it’s fair to say that the fish/water analogy won’t hold up to scrutiny that closely. If we really can *never* appreciate cultural context, then how would “we” fish be able to talk about the lack of understanding on this blog?

        But the impetus behind the analogy isn’t wholly wrong. Kazzy has mentioned a couple of things that aren’t necessarily obvious even once explained. And if I were to be placed in a restaurant next to a group of people using the confrontational cadence, I might not be able to adjust to it that easily just because I read a theroot.com article about it.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        By the way, just realized that I mistakenly said that I was responding to @vikram-bath’s comment when I was actually responding to @kazzy.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        @vikram-bath, I agree, but it is important to establish that there is a difference between something being impossible and something being difficult. A fish can never explain water, because it is wholly outside of the capabilities of fish.

        This goes to how we speak about the concept of privilege. I reject the notion of privilege as this invisible ether that surrounds us, but they we are incapable of ascertaining. We have the tools (social science, psychology, imagination, basic human emotions, etc) to step outside of ourselves and try to appreciate other people’s experiences. The question is usually one of whether we choose to use them or not.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Kazzy,
      it IS NYC. Quite possibly the courtroom law is on the side of the walker.
      (Legislative law got written by the car companies… that was a vast initiative.)Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think in California the rule is that pedestrians always have the right of way.

    Consideration is a very interesting thing about when it should be given and not. People being people are always quick to insist that they should be given consideration but others are the ones being inconsiderate.

    This happens in arguments over transportation modes and civil disobedience all the time. SF transportation comes in five modes: Public, Cars/Motorcycles, Pedestrians, Skateboarders/Scooter drivers, and Cyclists. All groups seem to hate each other or at least there is a constant battle between the cyclists and the drivers with occasional skirmishes with pedestrians and public transit users. There is a certain faction of cyclists who treat it as a religion and think we would all be happy and healthier if everyone rode bikes to work instead of driving, walking, or taking the bus. Never mind the person who says they like to read during their morning commute. There is also a debate among road rules peoples about whether cyclists should stop at traffic lights or should be allowed to do the Idaho stop and run reds. There is something jarring about walking and being nearly run over by a cyclists doing an Idaho stop. There is also something annoying about just wanting to go home and being stuck in a Critical Mass protest.

    Civil Disobediance is rarely considerate. It is not meant to be considerate. Deciding when civil disobediance is necessary or just or not is a rather tricky affair. I don’t think Critical Mass quite reaches the level of the Fergusson protests or Ghandi’s March to the Sea but I know others who claim with a lot of passion that Critical Mass is doing the work of angels.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      I think in California the rule is that pedestrians always have the right of way.

      Yeah, so when I was in high school a kid (who, months later, wound up being a friend of mine) was a big believer in “fish you, dude, I have the right of way” and he would step into the crosswalk on one of the busier streets in San Jose to get to the other side and catch the bus.

      Three weeks into the semester, he lost an argument with a couple tons of automobile and was out for a while.

      In California, the pedestrian does have the right of way in the crosswalk (not necessarily anywhere else). But if you treated crosswalks in California the way pedestrians in Manhattan treat crosswalks…

      … well, a couple of weeks into the semester, you’re gonna lose an argument with a couple of tons of automobile.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        My retired CHP friend refers to it as the “lugnut rule of thumb.” Whoever has the most lugnuts wins when there’s a collision regardless of what the law says. Humans have zero lugnuts.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        My version was always: “Physics trumps the law. The real right of way goes to the object with highest value for (1/2)*(m)*(v^2).”Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        I phrase this as: You can’t repeal the Laws of Physics.

        Not germane to this topic, but you also can’t repeal the Laws of Economics.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      there is a constant battle between the cyclists and the drivers

      Ah, memories of an asshole in a pickup truck swerving across three lanes on Fourth Street to try to hit me and chasing me down the block until I peeled off at Howard against a red light. Bizarre as hell.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I was actually bumped into by a cyclist running a red light just yesterday (just bumped my elbow as I half jumped out of the way). Probably happens a couple times a year at least. Seeing a cyclist get a ticket is one of my favorite things in the world.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I think in California the rule is that pedestrians always have the right of way.

      Only blind pedestrians have the right of way unconditionally. Sighted pedestrians have the right of way only at crosswalks, and not when there’s a signal and it’s red. If pedestrians had the right of way everywhere, there would be no such thing as jaywalking.Report

  7. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I was thinking about this today as I was honked at in a pedestrian crossing here in Boston. The driver also accelerated at me, to which I responded to by slowing my walk and looking away from the approaching car entirely. This is admittedly pretty stupid behavior, because crazy people get behind the wheel too. But the etiquette is actually pretty simple: someone in the situation is going to be inconvenienced, the walker can change from walking to jogging, the driver can move their foot to a different pedal. There is clearly no comparison between the costs involved (nor the danger) – tie goes to the walker.Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      Something like this happened to me in NYC a few months ago. My then pregnant wife and I were in a crosswalk, a taxi gassed it and cut us of, almost hitting us and I got pissed and slammed my fist on his trunk. Then he got mad, there was some back and forth yelling of obscenities and then a couple of hollow threats like me calling the TLC and him being lucky that nothing happened to my wife because I would have eviscerated him right then and there.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Once in SF a car made a fast left turn and almost plowed into my wife (then girlfriend) in the crosswalk. He screeched to a stop just before hitting her–her hands were on the hood of the car. As I blew up and started yelling at him, someone driving by yelled out, “get a car!” I still think that’s the single weirdest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Even people who drive cars park and walk across streets to get to their destination.

        And when it comes to bikes, I’d bet every other bike rider here will vouch that there’s something about bicyclists that triggers a bizarre rage in some people. It’s fishing scary out there sometimes.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “there’s something about bicyclists that triggers a bizarre rage in some people.”

        Balancin’ on two wheels…
        [spits chaw]
        ‘Tain’t natcheral, I sez.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        Even people who drive cars park and walk across streets to get to their destination.

        I think he meant one of these. So you would drive to the grocery store or whatever, then take your micro-car out of the trunk and drive that into the grocery store. In the brief instance you’re between cars, you should be making rumbling engine noises with your mouth.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      A few weeks ago, Obama was in town, and they shut off one access to I35 on 11tth street west of Trinity for his motorcade, which meant everyone was turning left onto Trinity at rush hour. Except me. I was trying to cross Trinity. So as soon as the light turned green on 11th, which meant I had a walk signal to cross trinity, the cars would just start pouring onto Trinity from 11th. Finally there was a break, and I started to cross, still with the walk signal mind you, when a young woman came flying around and only saw me in time to stop close enough for me to reach out and touch her car. So I flipped her off. And she called me a “cock sucker.” And I was reminded how good Obama is at bringing people together.Report

  8. Avatar Murali says:

    Vickram, Indians are the worst offenders on this score. Every time I have to drive into little India, I become a self-hating Indian.Report

  9. Avatar clawback says:

    There might be something to this. There’s definitely a cultural norm here that assumes the primacy of cars over anything else. Just a couple of weeks ago the mayor of Sunset Hills (another St. Louis suburb) was accused of intentionally running down a cyclist after repeatedly yelling at him to “get off my fucking roads.”

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/furor-erupts-over-clash-of-bicyclist-mayor-of-sunset-hills/article_81ac765b-e12c-5990-abe6-afa62e3f51c9.htmlReport

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      WTF, St. Louis?

      He came around the corner at a pretty good clip on some fancy bike.

      It’s hard not to guffaw when the guy saying that drives a red 300SL convertible.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith says:

        A 1991 convertible worth maybe $2000. Meanwhile a $12,000 bike and a gut “beating the pants off riders half his age”. Can you say roid rage? Mark my words Murdoch is juicing, and is lying. Naturally cyclists will support him until he is caught with the needle in his veins, ala Armstrong. IMHOReport

      • Avatar clawback says:

        Roid rage? So he attacked the mayor’s car with his bike?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        The car might not be expensive, but it is certainly fancy. There would be no reason to spend the money on such a car but for the desire to own something fancy. There are certainly much more practical options out there.Report

  10. Avatar j r says:

    Black pedestrians seem to be pretty confident they have the right of way regardless of crosswalk placement. Cars will wait for a pedestrian who walks As Slowly As Possible before accelerating past them. The (black) drivers don’t seem angry. They seem to accept this as the norms of the neighborhood.

    It is likely that what you are capturing here has more to do with urban vs suburban norms. And all people are territorial about their neighborhoods and demonstrate that to the extent that they are able. Wealthy suburbanites don’t tend to walk into the street and stare down unfamiliar cars, but that’s because they have other means of policing who does and who does not feel welcome driving down their streets.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Yeah. it’s called the cops.

      (Of course, our cops do the whole Driving While Black and Driving While White things… if you’re in the wrong neighborhood too late at night, you’re going to get a bit of trouble.)Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I’m open to the possibility that urban vs. suburban has something to do with it rather than just race. Can we please call that the traffic intersectionalist viewpoint?Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Sure, but the larger point is that almost everyone is a traffic intersectionalist. The relatively wealthy simply have other means of disrupting vehicle traffic in their neighborhoods that don’t necessitate them stepping out into the street.Report

  11. I’m not sure how to take this, Vikram. The analysis of varying norms regarding traffic/pedestrian culture is interesting, but the power plays by Ferguson cops against the black community are quite revealing. And the comments you quote are dripping with racism and animus.

    I’m not willing to agree that it was Michael Brown’s status as a jaywalker that led to the apparent murder. His status as a black jaywalker, on the other hand…Report

  12. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    A former partner of mine used to get annoyed with me for walking briskly across the street when cars were stopped for the two of us. “Rufus, they have to stop for you. They can wait,” she’d say. Not sure that adds much. We’re both white. I was raised working class and she was from a family of good fortune. For whatever reason, she seemed to see it as demeaning to hurry.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      @wardsmith: Can you expand a bit on this comment? Because it reads like an attempt to add more heat and less light to the conversation.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Like Tom van Dyke all over again.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Here’s another.

      You know what would really quiet things down and eliminate a bunch of speculation? The autopsy report. We don’t need to wait for toxicology.

      We need to know how many times he was shot, and where. And that’s already known. The fact that it isn’t released yet and surveillance photos of an alleged crime are is telling itself.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        My working assumption is that the authorities would release the information now if they thought it would help to discredit the eyewitnesses. They haven’t so I suspect that they are waiting for media interest to turn elsewhere first.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It’s clear they’ve spent almost a week working out a way to defend their own.Report

    • Ward, I’m honestly shocked and disappointed that you, of all people, are the one taking the side of the police in this.
      https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/04/20/wardsmiths-wto-blanket-partyReport

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      Also:

      Odd that someone who now supposedly thought a guy was a suspect in a robbery would say that he originally just pulled up and asked him to get out of the street.

      The original version of the story was that this was an incidental contact, no?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        In addition, the St Louis County police said that the officer who shot him did not know he was a suspect in the robbery at the time he pulled him over. So, the release of the information about him being a suspect is pretty typical “smear the victim” stuff.Report

      • Aye. And of course there’s the fact that the alleged “accomplice” to this – who is also the primary witness to the murder of Michael Brown – has neither been arrested nor interviewed.

        Maybe Brown shoplifted – I don’t know, and I don’t care. What is very clear though is that the “he is the prime suspect in a ‘strongarm’ robbery” claim smacks of post hoc justification.

        There’s a whole host of other problems with the narrative as well.Report

      • I will add this, though – if Brown had, in fact, just gotten caught in the act of shoplifting, it seems rather unlikely that he would have gone out of his way to attack a police officer who was just asking him to get out of the street a few minutes later.Report

    • Avatar Wardsmith says:

      Literally I wanted to see how big big mike was. Would the autopsy report mention that he is 6’7″ and weighs 300 lbs for instance? What if Barney Fife with the Ferguson police is 5’5″? I’m thinking there is plenty of heat in this story already, most of it – ahem blowing in a singular direction.

      My take? Pretty much what the report said with the proviso that this officer quickly got in over his head and didn’t follow proper procedures.

      @mark-thompson I was damn lucky I didn’t get shot myself. Of course no one would riot for me. I don’t automatically hate all cops now, but definitely treat them with a different “respect” than before. If a dog attacks me I don’t hate all dogs either, just have more respect about what could go wrong.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Ward, a small cop doesn’t get extra latitude to fire away. If the kid was bigger than the cop that doesn’t change the cops responsibility or duty. Heck the cop had a car to hide in if he was scared or could have called for back up.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Where has anyone on this thread said that they hate all cops?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @j-r : I believe that @wardsmith was simply answering Mark’s not-quite-articulated question about how he could have been so angry about police in one circumstance and not in another.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Also, are you getting my emails? I’m trying to navigate that fine line between trying to get ahold of you and stalking you.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith says:

        Exactly correct Greg. My ex brother in law was a smallish cop in San Francisco about 5’6″. He pretty regularly got roughed up by perps, but considered it a point of pride that he wouldn’t reach for his weapon. Most of his peers thought he was crazy. My sister was there when he was attacked (off duty) and they were wrestling on the ground. The worst part was when the guy had ahold of the handle of his service weapon and “Bill” was yelling for my sister to hit the guy with something because now it had gotten very dangerous. She did and everyone lived. They were walking distance from their place, everyone in the neighborhood knew them, knew he was a cop but no one stepped in to help. He told me being a cop was 99% boredom, 1% terror.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        OK, I get it.

        I will check that email, I haven’t in a while as I just moved and was sort of offline for a few weeks.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        That’s disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. The inmates running the asylum.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Lemme get this straight.

        1. They arrest the wrong guy. (You know, we can forgive them for that if that was as far as it went; sometimes the wrong guy gets arrested.)

        2. They throw the arrestee into an already-occupied, one-man jail cell, deliberately filling up the cell over its capacity. (You know, if that were all there was, and there was no other cell available, maybe we could forgive them for that, too.)

        3. When the arrestee protests that the cell is over capacity and can’t accomodate him, they put him on the ground and beat him up, kicking him in the head hard enough to cause the wound depicted in the photograph atop the linked article and requiring a trip to the emergency room for stitching up and replenishment of of all the blood he lost.

        4. Then they take him back to the jail (where they keep on holding him for the maximum 72 hours before letting him out?).

        5. Four days later, they charge him with property damage because he bled on the uniforms of the officers who were beating him up in the jail cell.

        That last one is like a punchline to a sick joke. Quite a coup de grâce, that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @burt-likko

        I don’t think it sounds like the punchline to a sick joke. I think it was literally the punchline to what was literally thought to be a joke by the people doing it. And the joke was truly sick(ening).Report

  13. Avatar Nancy Adams says:

    I live close to the City of Ferguson, drive to its farmers’ market each week, and would like to comment on the “crossing the street” slowly that has been discussed here. Jaywalking or crossing slowly is not the problem why the cop stopped the two boys or what other young people of color are doing here. They are walking slowly in traffic on purpose stopping cars behind them from advancing. Most of the city streets are one lane each way, so the police are trying to stop this crazy practice. These young people who are continuing to walk in the street are pushing the envelope with the police and drivers of all races. It’s basically telling us that they are not going to follow the law.Report

  14. Avatar Wagon says:

    I have a friend that works for a non-profit, and he told me they had a recurring problem of enmity between white and black coworkers over punctuality. The white employees were punctual, and the blacks were not. It would eventually piss off the whites because wasted time, and thus the conflict begins. This occurred so frequently that they had to have special cultural differences training to get both sides to give a little.

    My response? This is not something I could give up on. When one is habitually late, they are being inconsiderate of everyone else they are inconveniencing. They’re basically saying that their time is more important than the person waiting on them. This offense is compounded by the fact that time is truly our only non renewable resource.

    I am inclined to feel the same way about pedestrians obstructing traffic. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it assholish. It could simply be absentmindedness or ignorance. But I don’t think there’s anything racist or culturally insensitive about saying maybe people shouldn’t engage in this behavior.

    And, really, everyone will draw a line somewhere and not let the “cultural differences” card trump all other considerations. Everyone will make a value call at some point. Genital mutilation, binding feet, slavery – all cultural norms of other cultures. Walking slowly in the street is obviously less extreme, but still, if you draw the line anywhere you’re going to require a different rationale than “cultural differences.”Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      But I don’t think there’s anything racist or culturally insensitive about saying maybe people shouldn’t engage should be shot for engaging in this behavior.

      Now, if you said that, we could have an interesting discussion!Report

  15. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Oddly enough, I was just thinking about this earlier today.

    I think a lot of what people are seeing are their perceptions. I live in a small very white town, and *people don’t get out of the way of traffic here either*. Especially not in the side streets, or parking lots.

    A week ago I was driving down a winding hill road and turned a corner and there were half a dozen people casually standing in the street on my side. Not walking, standing. Why, I have no idea…presumably they lived there and had a yard somewhere to stand in, and even if they didn’t, the lot next to them was woods, with the shoulder at least ten feet wide before sloping off down a hill, so they obviously could have stood there. But, no, they stood in the middle of that side of the street watching me as I had to drive on the other side of the road to get around them. (And, in case it matter, yes, this group was entirely white. A mix of older and younger adults, but no kids.)

    The thing is, I think a lot of white people just drive through where black people live, and think of it as ‘just a road’ and see some random black guy walking there, and, oh, look, a black guy holding up traffic.

    Then they go home and walk their dog and don’t notice that they’re in the street also. (Of course, they might hold up traffic less because rural side streets are less traveled than urban side streets. And they might stay in subdivisions, and have no through traffic at all. But they’re still just as likely to hold up traffic if traffic shows up, it’s just that traffic doesn’t show up as much.)

    White people see urban streets as ‘This is a road’, and fail to notice that there are apartment buildings all up and down it, so it’s actually a *neighborhood* they’re driving through. And, just like their neighborhood, people wander around in it…in fact, they wander around more, because that’s how cities work.

    A lot of those comments are racist at heart, and it seems easy to blame some of this on racism…but in reality, we perceive ‘our own’ areas, places we walk and know well, one way, and places we just drive through another way. We can see behavior in the latter place that annoys the hell out of us, and then not recognize that we’re doing the exact same thing.

    It’s an extension of the logical fallacy I’ve temporarily forgotten the name of, where our own bad actions can always be justified based on the situation, but other people’s bad actions are inherent to their character. People walking through the road you’re trying to drive on (Unless it’s your own neighborhood and you know the people.) are just layabout deliberately wasting everyone’s time. *You*, OTOH, are just trying to get somewhere, and doesn’t that driver know pedestrians have the right of way?Report

  16. Avatar Barry says:

    Vikram: “It’s very plausible to me that Michael Brown did what he thought was required to preserve his dignity and the officer did what he thought was required to preserve his authority. ”

    You’ve just justified cold-blooded murder on the grounds of ‘respect mah authority’.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Only if someone’s thinking something is sufficient to serve as moral justification. (It’s not.)Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Your presentation was remarkably non-judgemental.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        It kind of had to be in order to formulate a plausible thought process for him.

        Everyone seems themselves as the heroes of their own stories. If you want to understand a person’s actions, at some level you have to ask yourself how doing what they did could make sense to a person in that situation. For this post, that meant I had to put myself in Brown’s shoes and empathize with him and in the officer’s shoes and empathize with him. Judgment tends to get in the way of that.

        But let me say here in the comments at least that I condemn the killing of people who pose no substantive threat.Report

  17. Avatar Barry says:

    Adding on to Burt’s statement –

    They did this sh*t, got caught, perjured themselves repeatedly, got caught at that, and the PD was good with that. Right now, from their own documentation, nobody in the Ferguson PD has any more credibility than members of a crack gang.

    BTW, I’d like to know the name of that judge who figured that beatings and perjury were not worth bothering about.Report

  18. Avatar Barry says:

    Mo

    “While ceteris paribus race has an effect, class and education matters. A black lawyer or investment banker in a suit talking back to a cop is going to get treated better than a white guy that looks and acts like a character from COPS.”

    I recall at least one study on resumes and hiring which placed the ‘effect’ of being black as more detrimental to being hired than being a felon was for a white applicant.Report

  19. Avatar Philip H says:

    I think it all starts with a cultural desire to “be seen.” Much of the writing in the last week by authors of color has focused on two themes – the loss of educational and economic opportunity for black males in urban environments; and the overmilitarization of the police as a result of both the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Drugs. and a central point cutting across both themes is that our society generally refuses to “see” young men of color as valuable individuals when we encounter them. The LA Policeman’s unusual op-ed in the Washington Post today is a prime example – youcan’t possible believe each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous situation unless you have stopped seeing the car occupants before you as individuals in a cornucopia of situations.

    I would venture the same is true here, and Vikram does allude to it. My surmise is Mr. Brown was walking the way he was not to thumb his nose at the law, or to purposefully create a safety hazard, but simply to be seen as a person, a human, and to be dealt with accordingly – which is all about preserving his dignity but doesn’t stop there.Report