Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees… Again.

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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188 Responses

  1. Avatar ScarletNumbers
    Ignored
    says:

    they all wear Hawaiian shirts

    Nice, I am a trend setter.Report

  2. Avatar j r
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    says:

    Great post! Not sure that I have much to add other than to say that I am digesting what this sort of thing really means. To the extent that I have thought about this topic, it’s alternately hopeful and frustrating and depressing.Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Good post. In general correct, but just to stoke some fires you are off a wee bit off. Yeah white people….what can you say about them…it is all about them. It is a shame one of the two major parties doesn’t have a lot of black lawmakers at all levels so blacks can have some power. You might imagine that might be good.

    Or some of us liberal types might start a discussion by saying that racism is some collection of: America’s original sin, endemic in the us and something that has shaped every aspect of this country from founding until today.Report

  4. Avatar zic
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    says:

    Here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates:

    The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.

    snip; and a note that the store clerk did summon police, but the officer who shot Michael was not responding to that call, to Coates’ conclusion:

    Black people are not above calling the police—but often we do so fully understanding that we are introducing an element that is unaccountable to us. We introduce the police into our communities, the way you might introduce a predator into the food chain. This is not the singular, special fault of the police. The police are but the tip of the sword wielded by American society itself. Something bigger than Stand Your Ground, the drug war, mass incarceration or any other policy is haunting us. And as long we cower from it, the events of this week are as certain as math. The question is not “if,” but “when.”

    Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Good post. I’m in agreement that many white people are missing the forest for the trees because it suits them for various reasons. Some or many them are open or closet racists. Others are not racist but admitting that the persecution of African-Americans is the underling problem is really unsettling. It places the onus of responsibility on all whites and suggests that any solution is going to require deep and radical change in society. That’s never an easy thing to digest.Report

  6. Avatar Mal Blue
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    says:

    In the extremely unlikely scenario that someone calls the cops with an anonymous tip that one of my sons is dealing drugs, no SWAT team is showing up at my upper-middle class white home. In fact, I would bet you $20 they would never bothered to come by at all.

    Google the following phrases:
    berwyn heights mayor dog shot
    swat hoax patterico
    swat hoax chambliss

    Seriously, your point is valid but I wouldn’t bet the consequences on it never happening. The attempts to intimidate and smear conservatives were less than totally successful, but the mayor is a pretty dramatic case. I’d also add that your protection may have to do with your neighborhood as much as your race. White privilege provides less protection in other neighborhoods.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mal Blue
      Ignored
      says:

      White privilege provides less protection in other neighborhoods.

      Less, but still plenty. As I think I said on another thread, when the police showed up in my old apartment complex, as they frequently did, a friend of mine who was black half jokingly (only half) said each time, “Let Chris do the talking.”

      I was able to walk around the neighborhood without much fear of being harassed by police. People with darker skin than mine were frequently not able to do so.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris
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        says:

        You’re lucky then (or in a sufficiently mixed neighborhood) The police will stop a white guy in a black neighborhood often enough because they think he’s just there to buy drugs.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        K,
        depends, pretty heavily, on the city, actually. Pittsburgh’s rather notorious for Driving While White (being in the black neighborhoods after a certain time of night) — we do the whole Driving While Black thing, but that’s pretty much universal.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @kolohe the numbers just don’t support your claim; unless the only reason a white dude get’s stop-and-frisked is because he’s in a black neighborhood. Recommended viewing, I’d embed it if I could, and hope someone who has the power will.

        http://www.vox.com/2014/8/19/6045335/the-racism-of-the-us-criminal-justice-system-in-10-chartsReport

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        zic,
        that happens all the time around pittsburgh. Granted, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were fewer consequences for a “dumb white frosh” rather than a “dumb black frosh”…
        [Pays to know someone who leaves the radio tuned to the police bands…]Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        My claim is that sometimes (esp in ‘targeted enforcement’ areas) a white guy or gal will be stopped by the police because they ‘don’t belong there’. Notably I didn’t say they were also frisked. I believe one of the HBO vice episodes on Camden showed the police turning away all the white kids coming in from on the other side of the bridge. (Who were definitely there to buy drugs, but that should be immaterial in a free society)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Kolohe, that’s just not true. I mean, I’ve heard people say that, but it appears to be a myth. Maybe if they see someone driving around the block several times, but not just walking or driving around.

        And the neighborhood was between 5 and 10% white, depending on the year (high turnover of residents, because people generally got the hell out as soon as they could).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Even if @kolohe is right (and he might be) it’s actually still a pretty strong argument in support of what everyone else in the thread is arguing — which is what I took his point to be.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        The most common thing I would get from police is a car slowing down to check me out for a second, particularly late at night. In later years, I used to joke that all I had to do was flash my smart phone and they’d drive off immediately (this was before smart phones were ubiquitous, obviously).Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Phillippe Bourgois noticed some of what K’s talking about while living in Spanish Harlem. (see, I do cite sources. Once I dig them out of the memory bank.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        In In Search of Respect?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Chris,
        no, Crack in Spanish Harlem.Report

  7. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “we all know that they aren’t going to use those on us.”

    Yeah, right. ‘Cause anyone who actually pays attention is concerned that the trendline is EXACTLY the opposite. If you’ll accept it being done to sketching folks, you’ll accept it being done to minorities, you’ll accept it being done to “folks that don’t look like me”, the next person it’ll be done to, is you.Report

    • Avatar EB in reply to Damon
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      says:

      That’s the fairy-tale version, anyway. It’s been ‘being done to minorities’ for about 400 years–when exactly do you foresee this inevitable slide down the slippery slope happening? “First it happened to black people, and I did nothing b/c I knew as part of the dominant group in a racist society, the power of the state would never be used against me. The end.”Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Damon
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      says:

      This is eerily similar to the whole 47% dialogue, in some strange and twisted way. If the policing tactics are racist, expand the group they’re used on until the racism goes away; just like the 47% of moochers expanded the concept of the welfare state beyond the traditional welfare-queen in a pink stereotype to nearly half the US population (this is not my observation, it’s Coates, he wrote an amazing post on it).

      Here’s the problem: it’s not a discussion about ending the problem policies, it’s a discussion about ending the discussion about racism because being called racist is about the lowest insult possible these days, even if it’s true. Just like the discussions about institutional racism end up bogging down in the ‘Is it a problem? Are white people racist?’ At some point, somebody’s gotta stand up and say, fuck yeah, this shit is racist and we need to get over our addiction to continually crafting policies that harm black Americans.Report

  8. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    Andy Lopez was not white-as-Jefferson-Davis, but he was still visibly not black, and the cops still killed the hell out of him.

    “no SWAT team is showing up at my upper-middle class white home.”

    A SWAT team blew up Alicia Phonesavanh’s baby and she is most certainly white.

    “We have made it a story all about white people.”

    Right. The important thing is not that some guy with more gun than sense shot a fleeing suspect. The important thing is not that police are using tanks and tear gas to suppress demonstrations in a suburban American town. The important thing is that white peoples be racist. And if you disagree that means you’re racist too.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Jim Heffman
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      says:

      Score one for Tod being correct.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman
      Ignored
      says:

      Jim,
      you must be a colorblind racist!
      (this is a bit of a joke, and a bit of a Yes, RacismStillExists and Is A Problem).Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jim Heffman
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      says:

      the important thing is that white peoples be racist.

      I love it when you slip into racist voice to say “I’m not a racist.”Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Never said I wasn’t, and whether I am or not isn’t relevant to the comment.Report

      • Avatar EB in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Of course it’s relevant! The whole underlying discussion is about how white people would rather make any argument about anything other than white racism. The existence of white racism is not some out-of-left-field distraction here.

        On a side note, I would prefer to see people become more willing, rather than less, to discuss their own racism, and I’m not sure how to go about that. Given how strongly I reacted to JH’s denial of racism denial, I don’t think starting a conversation with “I am racist and so are you” is likely to be all that helpful (even though it’s obviously true for almost every white person [intentionally dodging whole “can minorities be racist” argument here]).

        Probably a thread-jack comment though.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
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        says:

        EB,
        everyone’s racist. That should be manifestly obvious, but the research done on black girls playing with Barbie should remove all doubt.Report

      • Avatar EB in reply to Chris
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        says:

        kim: while I agree, I was trying to avoid the seemingly-inevitable “why aren’t you talking about anti-white racism” arglebargle. Internalized racism is a different (very interesting!) topic.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jim Heffman
      Ignored
      says:

      @jim-heffman

      “Right. The important thing is not that some guy with more gun than sense shot a fleeing suspect. The important thing is not that police are using tanks and tear gas to suppress demonstrations in a suburban American town.”
      [Emphasis mine]

      This reminds me of Vikram’s post… why does it matter that it was a suburban town?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Because, in stereotype (and, generally, actual experience) suburban American towns are not the kind of place that has such large-scale breakdowns of social order that you need to send in the tanks to gas ’em all and let God sort ’em out.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        It’s a particular kind of suburban town, though. Since 1970, St Louis (the city) has lost 57% of its population. Since 1970, Ferguson, pretty much an inner-ring suburb, has lost 27% of its population. Since 1970, St Louis County overall has basically held even. This over a period when the country’s population grew by 52%. Living where I do, where growth has far outstripped the national figure, I look at those numbers and feel like what one of the regulars said a while back: “It’s like you’re writing about a completely different country.” I can sympathize, but I know that I’m unlikely to ever understand what it’s really like.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Michael,
        How is the housing vacancy rate in St. Louis? People used to live with their grandparents, uncles, a lot more children. House vacancies are a better way to predict presence of taxpayers — and presence of problem houses.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        How do you want to count? For the “Greater St. Louis” metropolitan area (17 counties in Missouri and Illinois), the vacancy rate is relatively low. For the city of St. Louis proper, some parts are doing just fine, but there are parts that look like Detroit in terms of abandoned homes — some estimates are as high as one-third of the homes in north St. Louis are empty. Here’s a sentence from an article on the problem, where the “he” is the Fourth Ward alderman, and “them” is homeowners complaining about crimes associated with empty buildings there: “But the response he gives them is that if he took down all the empty buildings in the Fourth Ward, there wouldn’t be a ward left.”

        It’s not in the same class as Detroit or Flint, but north St. Louis is often mentioned in the same discussions.Report

  9. Avatar Patrick
    Ignored
    says:

    “The sad truth of the matter is that the plight of black Americans is something that white America is fine with.”

    We pretty much knew that already, right?

    The question is, what do you *do* about it?

    I mean, besides recognize that this problem actually is there (a battle admittedly a whole bunch of folk still haven’t fought, thanks for showing up to illustrate the point, Jim).

    “Even when whites believe the current laws are too harsh, they’re less likely to support changing the law if they’re reminded that the current prison population is disproportionately black”.

    From the perspective of the human nature, your two choices are: get people to stop otherizing (lemme know when you get some workable ideas on that score) or get people to realize that the consequences of the policies and procedures that they implement don’t just fall on the “others”. Stick their nose into a pile of dog shit, and hey, they’ll figure out it smells.

    That would mean blowing up stories about random white guy getting screwed by the police up to the scale of Ferguson. “Here,” you say, “this guy could be you”. Or talking about the white reporters being detained or the cops pointing guns at protestors that look like them.

    Kinda like having an anti-SSM politician suddenly have their kid come out as gay.

    Yeah, they shouldn’t be bigoted to begin with (lemme know when you get some workable ideas on that score). Hell is other people.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Patrick
      Ignored
      says:

      “get people to realize that the consequences of the policies and procedures that they implement don’t just fall on the “others”. ”

      I don’t get how that’s not “making the story be all about white people” but hey what do I know, I’m just a stupid racist.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        You were fine in your comment until you got to the end, Jim.

        Then you went full asshole. I know, it’s your gig. Maybe you could work on getting over it, some.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        Patrick,
        the pages of this blog are entirely too small to go full asshole.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        So, no, no explanation of how you aren’t still making the story be all about white people.Report

      • Avatar EB in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        What is the contradiction here? The OP argues that a white-dominated culture would prefer to concentrate on explanations for Ferguson, etc, that don’t implicate white racism. Patrick argues that in order to get white people to care about such things, you have to make it about them (us), since not only are white people unlikely to care about racist police tactics, we appear to affirmatively support them!

        You got him, though. Yes, white racism is about white people. Zing!Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        You need me to walk you through it? Okay.

        The problem with your comment, here is pretty straightforward.

        Andy Lopez was not white-as-Jefferson-Davis, but he was still visibly not black, and the cops still killed the hell out of him.

        Okay.

        “no SWAT team is showing up at my upper-middle class white home.”

        A SWAT team blew up Alicia Phonesavanh’s baby and she is most certainly white.

        Still okay.

        “We have made it a story all about white people.”

        One quote from Tod’s whole post. Your response:

        Right. The important thing is not that some guy with more gun than sense shot a fleeing suspect. The important thing is not that police are using tanks and tear gas to suppress demonstrations in a suburban American town.

        See, that’s just fucking stupid, and you clearly know it’s a terrible interpretation of Tod’s whole post, because not anywhere in there did he say that none of those things are important things.

        See he says the opposite right here:

        “Since the first day or so, white America has gone out of its way to make the primary focus on the shooting of Michael Brown a conversation about What’s Wrong With the Police, the Militarization of the Police, or maybe A Killer Argument for Why Our Political Party Totally Rocks. And why all of those are valid subjects, they very much detract from where our primary focus should be: Yet another enormous, blaring data point that we’re by and large OK with gunning down African Americans for the pettiest of reasons.

        Which you summed up as:

        The important thing is that white peoples be racist. And if you disagree that means you’re racist too.

        Jesus. If you can’t see how those two aren’t equivalent, then I really just don’t have any more time to fucking talk to you any more.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s hilarious that you’ve quoted the paragraph where Tod tells us that white people only want to talk about White People Problems as support for your argument that he isn’t claiming that white people being racist is more important than anything else that’s going on in Ferguson.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        your argument that he isn’t claiming that white people being racist is more important than anything else that’s going on in Ferguson.

        The fact that you think this is my argument says something. The fact that you read Tod’s whole point and came to the conclusion that he’s arguing that is also telling.

        Jim, not everything is measurable and comparable in an ordinal sense.

        I know you really, really want it to be that way, so that you know what problems you can ignore until the other problems that have a higher rating on “Jim’s Scale of Awfulness” are taken care of…

        … and (bonus for you) you can ridicule anybody who says that a problem that you’ve scored with a 3.4 is more important than one you’ve scored with a 6.2 is actually the bigger problem.

        You want it to be that way so much that you see arguments about “what problems are important” as implicit arguments about primacy on your scale.

        See, nowhere anywhere did Tod say that police brutality isn’t a problem. Nowhere anywhere did Tod say that police brutality is a bigger problem or a smaller problem than racism.

        You’re inferring that, because you want to bust out your, “bbbbuuuutttt… racism” line of bullshit.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        “[N]owhere anywhere did Tod say that police brutality isn’t a problem. Nowhere anywhere did Tod say that police brutality is a bigger problem or a smaller problem than racism.”

        So you mean when Tod wrote “That is white America in a nutshell, at least where black America is concerned: A young unarmed black man is shot dead by the police, and the track record of racism by those same white police officers…is a story we can’t be concerned to talk about for more than an hour…” and “[W]here our primary focus should be: Yet another enormous, blaring data point that we’re by and large OK with gunning down African Americans for the pettiest of reasons”

        …he wasn’t saying that racism was the bigger problem here?

        I’m not the one who brought “well this is a bigger problem than that” into the discussion.Report

      • Avatar Guy in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Not that I really feel like defending Jim here, but “they very much detract from where our primary focus should be” is a pretty clear indicator that Todd thinks the racial element is more important, at least for purposes of discussion, than the above-mentioned valid topics.

        (As far as I’m concerned, the racial angle, the police’s decision to ignore their political oversight, the probable lack of consequences for the shooter, and the decision to use teargas, etc, on peaceful protesters are all worthy of discussion, and attempting to determine a rank order among them is a waste of time)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        Jim, the charitable, in fact, the competent reading of that would be Tod saying, “White people can’t be bothered to talk about this problem for more than half an hour,” but you read it as, “White people can’t be bothered to talk about the problem for more than half an hour.”

        The problem, it appears to me, is that you decided what Tod said before you read it, and you’ve been railing against it ever since.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        @chris “The problem, it appears to me, is that you decided what Tod said before you read it, and you’ve been railing against it ever since.”

        Man, you should copy and save that for later pasting. Big time saver.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod titled his post “Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees…Again”, and then went on to point out all the many things that people are talking about instead of racism along with examples of how white people’s racism colors, as it were, their attitude towards law enforcement.

        How are we not supposed to conclude that A: he thinks white people aren’t talking about racism, B: it’s happening because white people are intentionally avoiding it, and C: racism is the root cause of what’s happening in Ferguson right now (and with police militarization and overuse of force more generally)?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Jim, read your last comment, and then read all of your other comments in this thread. If you can tell the difference between the latest and the rest, then I think we can have a conversation.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        @jim-heffman “Tod titled his post “Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees…Again”,”

        Oh man, this again? Your old argument that a headline is an advertisement, and that what the post says is immaterial because of what I lead you to believe it would be about with the headline?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod: People are saying, “Here, this (thing A) is evidence of these problem (x, y, z)!”. I’d like to remind everybody that “This (thing A) is also evidence of that other problem q. It’s actually kind of important that we keep in mind that this (thing A) is a member of a particularly a long line of things that point to the existence of q as a big problem. And yet somehow we’re talking about (x,y,z) to the point of the near-exclusion of q. Doesn’t that seem to be weird?”

        Jim: “You’re saying that q is a bigger problem than x, y, z!”

        Pat “No, he’s saying that (thing A) is particularly good evidence of q. Maybe we should talk about q.”

        Jim: “I’m not a racist! You just want to be able to call white people racist! Why do you have to make everything about race!?”Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “Your old argument that a headline is an advertisement, and that what the post says is immaterial because of what I lead you to believe it would be about with the headline?”

        If your post isn’t about “white people are racist and don’t want to talk about racism, even though that’s the real conversation we should be having”, then what is it about?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “If your post isn’t about ‘white people are racist and don’t want to talk about racism, even though that’s the real conversation we should be having’, then what is it about?”

        Oh, well it is absolutely about something close to that. I would instead phrase it to read, “we still don’t live in country where people of different races are treated close to equally, and white people (myself included) are tremendously uncomfortable even talking about that.” Indeed, I think the Stanford study pretty solidly backs that opinion up.

        And if that’s what you led with — or really, if you had even led with the last thing you said that I just quoted — I wouldn’t have rolled my eyes, and I’d have had more confidence that you actually bothered to read the OP before deciding what I was saying. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t.

        Unlike Pat, I actually did like it better when you just responded to every post regardless of topic with “b-b-b-but…. racism!” Simpler times, the Duck years.

        But the new ebonics thing is a nice touch.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I guess my question is… what do we do about it?

    One of the most powerful experiences I had with regards to really seeing… seeing and feeling and experiencing… my white privilege on full display happened after a night out drinking in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC (many of you have probably heard me tell this story so bear with me). My friends and I… all 20-something light-skinned* males… came pouring out of the bar at closing time along with a whole slew of people. What is important to know about Adams Morgan (at least then) was that it had a racially and culturally diverse array of bars/clubs/restaurants, but they were still largely segregated. You had the ritzy black club, the hoity white bar, the dive white bar, etc. And all these people and groups spill out into a heavily congested and narrow street.

    For whatever reason on this night, I was relatively sober by the end. So I had a much better sense of what was going on than I normally would have. My friends — again all light-skinned* 20-somethings — took to “solving” the congestion issue and proceeded to direct traffic. In the middle of the road. Piss drunk. With most vehicles being pissed off taxi-drivers carting home drunks. The cops caught on and calmly approached: “Move along guys. We don’t want anybody getting hurt.”
    “That could have gone worse,” I though, happy that it didn’t.

    Then I looked over and saw three black guys — probably about my age — leaning against a telephone pole and eating some pizza. A cop approached them: “What the hell are you doing? Move it along! Do you want to get arrested??? I SAID MOVE IT!”

    Now… different cops. Maybe had their roles been reversed we would have gotten the berating and the other guys would have gotten the friendly treatment. This is too small a sample to say for sure. But putting it in conversation with all the data I’ve read on such things and… wow… I realized that, yes, technically it could have gone worse for us but that it was very unlikely to do so… especially so long as I was on a street with young black men.”

    I went home furious. Maybe more, maybe less furious than the black dudes… but furious nonetheless. Unfortunately, I never quite figured out what to do about it. Insist the cops berate my friends and I? Challenge the cops as to what they are doing to the other guys?

    I’m not saying there is nothing to be done. I’m saying I haven’t quite figured out what to do, at either a personal, group, or institutional level.

    * I say light-skinned because one of the guys is half-Mexican but is generally perceived to be white.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      God, your DC stories are so much nicer than most I’ve heard.
      [In all fairness, you seem to have less of an instinct for getting into trouble.]Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      “what do we do about it?”

      Recognize control structures bend to the desires of humans. Therefore only build them with dry wood and straw in a land of pyromaniacs.Report

    • Avatar Zac in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      @kazzy “Unfortunately, I never quite figured out what to do about it. Insist the cops berate my friends and I? Challenge the cops as to what they are doing to the other guys?”

      The second one. That’s what you should have done. It’s what we should all be doing, when we see things like this.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Zac
        Ignored
        says:

        A lady I know on the bus routinely threatens to call the mayor when she sees “diverse treatment”… (she’s in city government… by the time she’s in the mix, they’re about ready to call the cops).Report

  11. Avatar trizzlor
    Ignored
    says:

    your two choices are: get people to stop otherizing (lemme know when you get some workable ideas on that score) or get people to realize that the consequences of the policies and procedures that they implement don’t just fall on the “others”.

    Historically, trying to convince the in-power majority that they’re also effected doesn’t seem to work, and may not even be very true. With segregation, for example, the argument that “a government that discriminates against minorities will discriminate against you white people” was not the primary or even secondary message of reformers – as far as I understand. Rather, the message was typically “look at these extremely sympathetic victims” and “look at these prominent white people – clergy, politicians, celebrities – agreeing with us”. In other words, direct attempts to get people to stop otherizing.

    Do you think that, instead, focusing on the random white guy being hurt by discrimination would have been more effective? Or do you think that the discrimination is so subtle and/or compartmentalized now that the first approach no longer works?Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to trizzlor
      Ignored
      says:

      That depends upon what sort of discrimination you’re talking about, I suppose.

      You talk about decriminalizing drugs because the drug war puts too many black kids behind bars, like the article says, people probably don’t care. You talk about decriminalizing drugs because here’s a kid that looks like your kid who got shot accidentally just for going to a party at what turned out to be a drug dealer’s house, maybe they care.

      On the other hand, there’s lots of consequences of institutional racism that don’t reflect themselves well in public policy problems. Loss of opportunity, for example. Tackling those problems is harder.

      I don’t think the same sort of approaches will work in all cases.Report

  12. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    I knew a guy who was a Mormon and his mission when he was a teenager was to go to Argentina and spend a couple years.
    This was in the mid 1970’s.

    I asked him how it was, to be in so horrible a place during the dirty war. He told me that he didn’t even know anything about it until he got back here. He was never arrested, no one he knew was arrested, and he generally never saw any repression.

    This isn’t unusual, actually. The thing we often forget is, life under a dictatorship or police state isn’t that bad, for the majority of people. Keep your nose clean, stay within the lines, and you are good to go most of the time.

    Of course its a world different, for the Other People. The ethnic minority, the other religion, the other class that is the recipient of society’s fury.

    I think of this, only because Ferguson seems different to me. Usually its black protestors being tear gassed, black people rioting, and its easy to accept the argument of the police.

    Its unusual for white people- especially white upper class reporter type people- to be on the receiving end of the brutality.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s a tree I’ve been missing the forest for: Ferguson is a dress rehearsal.

    I don’t know when the real show will start… but it’ll look a lot like this one only with a lot more energy.Report

    • Avatar EB in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      This is sort of the point–the show has been going on for a long, long time.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I kind of hope that Ferguson is a dress rehearsal, only the people who will be putting on the feature won’t be the cops. In Ferguson, a camel’s back was broken, but there are camels with severely bowed backs in black communities throughout the country.

      I suppose one of the reasons I’m glad that there are things about Ferguson that are making white people pay attention is that there is a better chance that when camels’ backs continue to break, and they will, white people will recognize the pattern that black people have been all too aware of for decades, and they’ll push for real change too.Report

  14. Avatar notme
    Ignored
    says:

    Thank goodness we waited for all the facts and didn’t rush to judgement. So we now know that the problem is white people as usual.Report

    • Avatar Lenoxus in reply to notme
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s one thing to downplay the racism of the actual shooting as “bad apples” and not reflective of either the police or of white America in general. But to dismiss the label of racism as a “rush to judgement” is dumbfounding. It was extremely obviously the result of one kind of racism or another.

      The frequency of this reaction partly suggests how far we have to go on this — apparently, that’s where so many white Americans put their sympathies first. “But for the grace of God I could have been the one to pull the trigger.” Or maybe it’s just a reflexive dismissal of racism accusations in general, I dunno. Regardless, it still stuns me (I know it shouldn’t) that people don’t just disown blatant racist murderers.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to notme
      Ignored
      says:

      Thank goodness we waited for all the facts and didn’t rush to judgement.

      The snarkiness in that comment has to be intentional.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to notme
      Ignored
      says:

      Really, @notme , what additional information do you need at this point before you can render judgment?Report

  15. Avatar Wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    TL;DR, but am I a bad guy if I laughed at loud at this line in the OP?

    “and try to swallow the bile forcing its way out of my bowels.”Report

  16. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    Along with the “what do we do about it” question there’s also the question, “how do we talk about it?” or more precisely, “how do I talk about it?” If I start talking about *my* racism or *whites’* racism, then all of the sudden it’s about me now and not about racism.

    More important, If I elaborate precisely the ways that I make racist choices or indulge racist thoughts, I’m not only putting my racism out there, I’m also performing racism. Or I reduce it to platitudes such as, “I know I’m wrong to believe this/act this way/etc., but there’s a little racist in all of us, and tsk-tsk to those who called in to the Villanucci show.”

    I’m really not trying to be like the one or two commenters here who just don’t get it. And I’m not trying to be a proto-“racial realist.” But the fact is that if we really had that discussion, and if I really were honest and open, then I would sound like one and probably because there’s similarity between me and those one or two commenters.

    Part of what I’m trying to say is that one reason I like to focus on the police, and systemic racism, and militarization, and abridging freedom of assembly and speech, is that it’s relatively easier. And in theory, something could be done about them or at least we could take steps to make them less cutting.

    And again I’m not entirely sure what I, if I were honest, would come out saying if the topic really were about white racism. I don’t mean this to be just the liberal’s “even I can be racist, too” mantra. It’s all deeper and more visceral than that.

    I hope I’m making sense.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Gabriel Conroy
      Ignored
      says:

      @gabriel-conroy “If I start talking about *my* racism or *whites’* racism, then all of the sudden it’s about me now and not about racism.”

      I’m not sure that’s the way we should look at it. (Though I agree it might well be the way we do.)

      I know I said this more bluntly a while back, but I think part of the problem we have with the problem of racism in this country — and which I think the left shares no small share of responsibility — is that we tend to divide everyone up into Evil Racists and Pure People Like Me. (Among other things, this division is, I believe, the seed from which the whole “liberals are the real racists” is grown.) And while I think it gets us to a good place of agreeing that racism is a bad thing*, it puts us in the position where everything we do and believe is by definition non-racist, because racism is only what those different from me engage in.

      And so I actually think it would be good to have those conversations.

      But it’s only good if we all have them. Otherwise I think you just get these confessionals where one guy steps forward and says, “Hey, I am now realizing I have always thought X, and it’s wrong” and everyone else just says, “Good for you! Now you are as morally advanced as we are” and everybody feels really good about themselves despite the fact that nothing has changed. Which of course gets us absolutely nowhere.

      *Which I assume is one of the gifts the mixed bag of modernism has brought, but I confess I do not know for certain. Does anyone want to pitch an argument for how racism was taboo until, I dunno, liberalism or the enlightenment or something?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks, @tod-kelly , for the response. I’m still not quite sure how we do it, but you’re right. (And I liked your post on bigotry, too.)Report

      • Avatar Lenoxus in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I think “prejudice” has been considered a bad thing for quite a while, perhaps even pre-enlightenment, and part of the shift was that racism came to be included in the sphere of prejudice.

        Sometimes major positive changes arise from a philosophy without that philosophy ever enjoying explicit popularity. For example, even as feminism made major achievements over the course of the twentieth century, “feminist” remained more a word of snarling than praise. Maybe that’s partly because its definition is restricted to whatever hasn’t already become mainstream — a 2014 politician who believes women should be allowed to vote isn’t “feminist”. In a similar but inverse way, “racism” only applies to yesterday’s misdeeds, never today’s.

        That said, the very fact that any sort of change happened with respect to race in this country has always fascinated me, because racism seems like it can insularly justify itself forever. (“Well of course those people would disagree with us.”) How and why did segregation become shameful? Yes, ]modern America is quite segregated (as Kazzy described in the anecdote about bars), but what I’m wondering is why modern politicians and others don’t simply verbalize the same justifications as they did sixty years ago. (After all, those justifications didn’t become less true over time; they were always bullcrap.) Even the sea changes I see myself in real time (the big one being gay marriage) somewhat bewilder me on similar grounds — to put it in terms of a popular idiom, how was America reasoned out of what it never got reasoned into?Report

  17. Avatar John Howard Griffin
    Ignored
    says:

    Hello, Mr. Kelly. Other OG ladies, gents.

    (my death has been greatly exaggerated)

    For some reason, I came by today and read this. And, for some reason, I wanted you to know that.Report

  18. Avatar Stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    Good post Tod.

    I take it you’re no longer the only person in America who still maintains we don’t know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, USA?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater
      Ignored
      says:

      No, I am still that guy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Gettin closer? Mebbe?

        Sometimes when you stand to close to things it’s hard to see just what the hell you’re looking at.

        There’s also the reluctance to be identified with a side and all that. I get it. Not sayin it’s what you’re goin thru.

        For my part, there is no evidence which consistent with what we already know could possible be provided which would change my mind that a cop killing an unarmed on the street is OK. Because that kid was unarmed and retreating. Don’t know about you Tod, but I’ve had it up to my temples with all this police state bullshit.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Two to the head, four to the body.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        I can’t speak for Tod and I should also say I haven’t been paying a lot of attention. For example, it very well may have already been established and stipulated by all sides that Mr. Brown was retreating, but I, not having paid much attention, haven’t learned that yet.

        I can say that when the story first broke, I made certain assumptions about what went down. And then some of those assumptions challenged that view. Perhaps I bought too much into the phenomenon Vikram talked about in his “perfect victims” post. At any rate, there may be a lot that “we”–that is, people who have followed the issue more closely–know, but there’s a lot I don’t know.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        GC,

        I’ll ask you (and you can answer for Tod!): what would constitute a justification – a cultural exoneration – of a cop killing a kid who may have assaulted the police officer (supposing that’s what happened!), who didn’t have a gun, who wasn’t stopped because he had an outstanding, and who was shot while fleeing from the initial incident?

        I mean, you tell me? I’ve gone thru it and I can’t find a single g****am thing.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        “Gettin closer? Mebbe?”

        Not quite.

        In my mind, I still think that there are three things that are worth examining with the Ferguson story:

        1. The actual shooting, and the events that immediately precipitated it.

        2. The subsequent decisions and actions by the Ferguson police initially, and later by other St. Louis County and Missouri officials, as well as the history/atmosphere in Ferguson that made it such a tinderbox waiting to go up.

        3. The reactions of the rest of the country and the national media, good and bad.

        At this point I feel that we know more than enough about #2 to make some pretty hard and harsh judgements. And as I just wrote in the OP, I think that we know enough about #3 to begin to see larger patterns that some (like me) might find disturbing.

        But I still maintain that #1 is largely a mystery, thanks in no small part to the police. This of course makes me more suspicious of whatever is going to eventually come out of an “internal investigation,” but doesn’t make it any less a mystery. Sure, I now believe that the Ferguson police department is *at best* corrupt, violent and reactionary — but that and a non-murderous police shooting can both exist at the same time.

        Especially after reading Jamelle’s piece on Slate, I feel like everything was ripe for this explosion. The shooting could have been self defense, an honest mistake, or an extreme over reaction borne of pure unadulterated racism, and I still expect everything would have gone down exactly as it has since.

        If I were a betting man, of course, I’d clearly put my money on the shooting being unjustified. But until there’s some kind of non-media-circus driven evidence, I still say it’s foolish to say we all really know what happened. After all, wasn’t it just a day or two ago that we all “knew” that Brown was shot in the back?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        But until there’s some kind of non-media-circus driven evidence

        Well, better get comfortable for a long wait. Oh, waitaminute! We have the coroner’s report.

        On second thought, we just better wait till that cop is deposed so we can hear “both sides of the story”.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        I’m not trying to justify anything. I just don’t know what’s been stipulated to or established as credible. For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to your assessment of what happened. What I’ve been told so far that’s happened is really bad. I’ve just been burned before on other issues when I’ve assumed too much too quickly.

        You’ve obviously paid more attention to this–and again, I probably should have, too, but I haven’t–so you might have a better grip on the facts. And for what it’s worth, if the victim was indeed fleeing before or while the officer fired the first shot, then that’s really bad and like you I have trouble finding any justification.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        We do? That’s news to me. Was it just released this evening?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, better get comfortable for a long wait. Oh, waitaminute! We have the coroner’s report.

        On second thought, we just better wait till that cop is deposed so we can hear “both sides of the story”.

        When I think of knee-jerk apologists for racist police who shoot innocent people, I don’t think of Tod. If he says he doesn’t know or has come to a conclusion yet, maybe that’s his honest assessment of the evidence he’s seen so far.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        GC,

        *That*, or Tod has a tendency to refrain from taking a first order view of things because it’s so much more interesting to merely make judgments about other people.

        I mean, for Chrissake, an unarmed kid (person!) is dead because a cop shot him. Why do we give so much deference to cops killing folks when they’re supposed to be held to a higher standard than the Zimmerman’s of the world? In my mind, there is an extraordinary burden of evidence which copdom must meet when shooting people down, much higher than a normal civilian.Report

      • Avatar Mal Blue in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m with @gabriel-conroy on question whether we know that Brown was retreating.

        One of the two things I was waiting for the report on was whether he was shot from in front or behind. If from behind, that makes it a pretty unambiguous situation. But they were from the front, from what I understood. Which at least leaves the “retreating” as ambiguous.

        The other question was about whether there were drugs in Brown’s system. Pot doesn’t count, so that’s something that helps the anti-Wilson narrative.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        It seems to me that when Tod said this:

        At this point I feel that we know more than enough about #2 to make some pretty hard and harsh judgements. And as I just wrote in the OP, I think that we know enough about #3 to begin to see larger patterns that some (like me) might find disturbing.

        But I still maintain that #1 is largely a mystery, thanks in no small part to the police. This of course makes me more suspicious of whatever is going to eventually come out of an “internal investigation,” but doesn’t make it any less a mystery. Sure, I now believe that the Ferguson police department is *at best* corrupt, violent and reactionary — but that and a non-murderous police shooting can both exist at the same time.

        He was being pretty judgmental about the police.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        “Tod has a tendency to refrain from taking a first order view of things because it’s so much more interesting to merely make judgments about other people.”

        Huh.

        Did not see that coming.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        What was the last big argument we had about? You adopting a meta view.

        Shouldn’t be a surprise, really.

        Also, I find it incredible frustrating that you – of all people – won’t actually make a judgment about what the hell happened on Ferguson. Instead, you resort to a meta analysis which itself contains the core premise of an actual judgment about this stuff, one which you refrain from making.

        I just can’t unnderstan why.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        GC,

        THe handling of the aftermath of the shooting is an easy target. Christ, it was lockdownpolicestateoccupiedterritorydomesticcounterinsurgency at it’s finest. Only a f***ing rube would say that an military occupation of a domestic territory was justified.

        What Tod won’t make a judgment on is whether a cop is justified in shootin an unarmed kid. And I’d like to know what sort of mitigating evidence would suffice to say he wasn’t. No one has presented any that passes muster for me. Even Mal Blue’s uncertainty that the victim wasn’t retreating. Why should that matter? A cop has an arsenal of weapons and training to subdue people short of killing them in the head twice and the body four times.

        I mean, sure, let’s go with the idea that the cop was assaulted and the kid didn’t retreat. If *that cops* only recourse in a situation like that is to shoot that person dead, then I’d say we have a cop problem on our hands.

        Which is my f***ing point.

        Sorry for the invective, but I’m slightly pissed off about this.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        “Shouldn’t be a surprise, really.”

        No, you misunderstand. In a thread where you are saying I’m not being quick enough to judge people, I was just surprised to find you criticizing me for being too judgmental of people.

        “Also, I find it incredible frustrating that you – of all people – won’t actually make a judgment about what the hell happened on Ferguson.”

        But that’s where you’re wrong — I AM making a judgement about Ferguson. Indeed, I am making a huge, sweeping judgement about the town, the county, it’s leaders, it’s police, and it’s recent and long term history. My condemnation of the white power structure there — including the police force — is neither wanted nor needed, but I condemn them all nonetheless.

        But that still doesn’t mean that I know exactly what happened when Michael Brown was shot.

        And BTW, from a judgement point of view, I say the fact that we don’t know exactly what happened does not excuse those who treated the Michael Browns of Ferguson as dogs to be slapped down for being people who looked like Michael Brown — and that especially includes the Ferguson police department.

        But despite all of that, the fact of the matter is that I still don’t know exactly what happened the day Michael Brown was shot, and neither do you.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Stillwater,

        I”m going to try to rephrase your point in a way that I think is more defensible, at least from someone of my vantage point. In the process of doing so, I will end up changing what you’re arguing slightly, and I apologize, but I’m trying to see this issue from your perspective.

        You seem to be saying the following:

        1. Even if there is a lot about the shooting we don’t know, there is a lot we do know, and almost all of it points to a police officer’s unnecessary, and therefore unjustified, shooting of an unarmed person.

        2. The sad, recent (as in, last 50 years, and actually more) history of systemic targeting by members of the police against minorities–including beatings, arrests on flimsy pretexts, and outright killing and murders–suggests that the Ferguson case is likely no different.

        3. Meanwhile, Tod (and I, and a few others) are instead hem, hemming the theory of knowledge, demanding a degree of absolute certitude that will probably never be realized.

        4. Meanwhile, further, there is a police officer who, so far (from what I understand) who engaged in what was most likely an unjustified killing and who is on paid “administrative leave” and who hasn’t been charged yet and possibly might never be charged.

        5. So, while people like me dither about the finer, and to some extent unknowable, points of what actually happened, the cop remains unaccountable. And we should direct our outrage or other efforts accordingly.

        If those correspond at least roughly to what you’re arguing (again, I realize I might be changing it somewhat), then my only real point of disagreement is with #5, and that’s only a partial disagreement. I disagree because I don’t know what my outrage is worth, especially on an internet thread. Also, if the cop is charged and the case goes to trial, he will enjoy a pretty robust defense, and the finer points Tod and I are worried about will be very important. Also again, if it is the case that the facts are radically different from what they seemed to be at first and if the circumstances of the shooting somehow make for an extenuating circumstance, then there is the interest of having a just outcome.

        I say I disagree “partially” because there is probably more that can be done. I could write Mr. Holder to encourage him to launch a civil rights investigation, I could join a public protest, and I could probably do other things, too. And even if there are, as incredible as it may seem (and I haven’t read the coroner’s report nor am I sure I would have the expertise to understand it) extenuating circumstances, there is still something wrong about the way power is allocated so that police aren’t held to the higher standard when they shoot and kill civilians. Even if the cop could somehow be morally exonerated, that problem would remain and the outcome is still not entirely just.

        I suggest it’s at point #5, with which I disagree only partially, that is our (yours and mine) most substantial point of disagreement.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod:

        Chris and others here have stated they know what happened and want to wallow in white liberal guilt without all the facts.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Trolls gonna troll.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        GC,

        You nailed – in rough outline. But then you wrote

        I disagree because I don’t know what my outrage is worth, especially on an internet thread.

        I don’t understand this. What fucking difference does it make what your outrage is worth. YOu’re either outraged or not, no? How can a person take a pragmatic view of their outrage, unless their “outrage” is purely for strategic purposes? In which case it ain’t real outrage?

        Look, Tod’s post was full of all sorts of politically and self-servingly motivated outrage, just like Vik’s earlier post was all about how “other people” will view the perfect victims and what that entails politically, but look: either your seriously pissed off about what’s happening in Ferguson, or your not. Claiming that you’re not outraged because you don’t think expressing that outrage will lead to anything is a huge mistake. Like a category mistake. I mean, if your outraged about this stuff, you don’t have to lace your comments with nearly as many cursewords as I do, but if it’s a real sentiment then you’re better off expressing it. One way or another. All this “I’ll just wait for the facts to come in” is just a bunch of political posturing for real character, in my book.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        OK, I know I’m going to regret asking this but…

        My outrage at the events in Ferguson is self-serving how, exactly?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        All this “I’ll just wait for the facts to come in” is just a bunch of political posturing for real character, in my book

        Yeah, maybe you’re right. Have a nice evening.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        They protect you from having an actual opinion about it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Go back and read the OP, and then read every single thing I have said in the combox.

        I have no opinion about any of this?

        Seriously Still, sometimes I think you’re the mirror image of JH — it doesn’t really matter what I write, because you’ve decided well before I have written it what it is what I’m saying.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Chris:

        In various threads you said the Brown case was a murder and an execution. Wasn’t the one thread because you were disgusted and ashamed? Are you really going to say that it isn’t importance to get all the facts before you make a judgement?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod,

        When I asked you if you were no longer the only person in America who doesn’t know what’s happening in Ferguson, you said “no, I’m still that guy”.

        If you don’t claim any views about what’s happening, the how am I supposed to give you credit for having views on what’s happening?

        But if you think you’re the only one at this site who I disagree with as a matter of course, try looking up my comments to Vikram. He plays the same game as you do. It’s all meta, all the time.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        But Still, you’re taking that quote from me waaaay out of context.

        What I was referring to was this: Everyone everywhere on the internet* was insisting that they know the exact chain of events that led to Michael Brown being shot:

        “He was grabbing the gun throughout the car door window! It couldn’t have happened any other way!”

        “No, he was fleeing and the cop ran after him and shot him in the back! Science proves it!”

        Etc, etc.

        My comment from the other day was saying, somewhat flippantly, that I felt like the only person I know online or in real life who didn’t claim to know exactly what happened when an unarmed man was taken too early.

        One of the points I have been making (not where you are quoting me, but from earlier) was that it’s foolish to hang everything on a detail that no one really knew was true or not (e.g.: “we know for a fact he was totally shot in the back”) because it could very well be wrong (e.g.: “we know for a fact he was totally shot in the back”) , and then suddenly the case for why something should be done with the Ferguson police is weakened.

        * Before the militarization of the police angle pushed out the troubling racism part, that is.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod,

        Ok, fair enough and all that. I’ve calmed down (a bit).

        Look, I don’t give a rats ass what other people in the country think about this incident. Was he retreating, was he assaulting an officer, did he have an outstanding, did he have priors, did he just rob a convenience store. All that stuff might be important to a lot of people who aren’t me, and who think that the “perfection of the victim” or for that matter the “perfection of the shooter” matters. I don’t.

        The facts on the ground – indisputable, as far as I know – is that an unarmed kid was shot in the head four times and in the body twice by a cop. At the risk of repeating myself, I just don’t understand why anyone would attempt a defense of that cops actions, or even refrain from judgment about that incident given what we know. THe fact is a cop shot someone who was unarmed, didn’t pose an imminent threat to society at large, and didn’t have warrant which he was being served. And that person is dead.

        Add in all the extra shit about racism (which you cited) and the militarization of the police (which you cited) and the picture – the meta analysis, if you will – gets ugly real quick. And if you’ve read any of my comments about this stuff, then you know I take those issues seriously. I think they are part of the story.

        But none of that changes that fact that a cop’s duty or authorization extends so far as to shoot an unarmed kid in the head twice. I just don’t understand the apologetics (which you’ve been critical of) nor the agnosticism (which I think you’re guilty of).Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        The facts on the ground – indisputable, as far as I know – is that an unarmed kid was shot in the head four times and in the body twice by a cop. At the risk of repeating myself, I just don’t understand why anyone would attempt a defense of that cops actions, or even refrain from judgment about that incident given what we know.

        Do you really think that there is no possible scenario in which a cop shooting an unarmed kid would be justifiable? That seems unlikely. I can think of several without trying very hard.

        I think that your outrage about the incident itself is warranted, because even if the actual shooting falls into the category of justifiable it seems like an incident that would have never gotten to that point if the cop were better at his job. Your outrage over Tod’s position, however, doesn’t make much sense. You are implying that there is some sort of moral imperative to cast judgment on a situation about which we do not have complete, and maybe not sufficient, knowledge. In fact, any moral imperative ought to run in the exact opposite way.

        There are times when refusing to cast judgment is a form of posturing. There are people who say that we ought not jump to conclusions about the cop, but who have no problem characterizing the aftermath as ‘those black people are looting again.’ It is pretty obvious who those people are ( @notme, for instance) and should it be pretty obvious as well who those people are not.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        an unarmed kid was shot in the head four times and in the body twice by a cop.

        Muddying the waters a bit — a bit — is the seeming fact that the kid had in fact just committed a crime. The officer who shot him did not know that fact, but the kid might have acted differently than he would have had he been cosmically innocent of wrongdoing. So there’s a scintilla of reason to speculate that the cop thought something was amiss and needed to keep his guard up.

        Fair enough, let’s afford the cop the benefit of the doubt and the full scope of his rights under the law — something that he did not afford Michael Brown.

        Four shots to the body and arm, and two shots at the top of his head. No GSR on Mr. Brown at all, indicating the shots were from a distance of more than about six feet. Perhaps the officer went into autopilot mode and emptied his clip (some variety of training teaches using all the available ammo). Most plausible explanation for this seems to be a combination of recoil (when I shoot quickly, the gun moves a bit in my hands, changing the bullet’s destination by a degree or so, which on the range can be compensated for but it’s easy to see how real life may be different) and the head shots came later, as he was collapsing.

        What we don’t have is a statement (from anybody), nor video or photographic evidence, suggesting that Brown was somehow a physical threat to anyone in the moments before he was shot to death. I presume we will eventually get such a statement from the officer, and I assume further that the statement will be effectively uncorroborated. Conflicting witness statements claim that Brown was in a pose of surrender when he got shot.

        And that’s the evidence, with whatever question marks might still remain, portrayed in the light most reasonably favorable to the shooter. This seems to me to amount to substantial evidence, more than a preponderance, that Brown was not a credible safety threat at the time he was shot to death. Which makes the shooting wrongful.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko (Also @mad-rocket-scientist and anyone else with knowledge of guns)

        Is there any way to determine the order in which the shots were fired? Are the bullets marked in such a way? If not, is this possible? I’d doubt there is a completely fool-proof way — unless they bullets are marked uniquely as they are fired, the cop could always rearrange them in the clip or whatever — but that level of forethought and prescience would be absurd.

        I’m not speaking of for all guns mind you… just cops’ duty weapons. If there is an officer involved shooting, we should have as many tools at our disposal as possible to recreate the sequence of events. If the first shot hit Brown in the head, that seems meaningful.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy,
        What does it signify though?
        1) Person was not steady on firing — I know someone who was that far off in urban combat situations (DC). Now, he’s an acknowledged “bad shot,” but still…
        2) Person had enough time to try for a “not very sure” shot…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kim

        Again, I’ll leave it to those who know more to me, but I’d venture to guess that a head shot (or TWO head shots) would fell a person. Four more bullets pumped into him would have me questioning why the trigger was squeezed that many more times on a downed man.

        Also, should we learn (in this case or future cases) that certain bullets entered from the rear of the body and certain entered from the front, order would be crucial. If the first shots hit the back, odds are the victim was in retreat. The front-entering bullets are likely the result of contorting of the body in response to the earlier shots. Or the inverse might be true. But we can’t know if we don’t know the sequence of the shots (which may be unknowable… which is why I asked).Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        You read enough crisis lit, you get a different view of these sorts of cases when they happen.

        There are plenty of perplexing but entirely non-malicious explanations for all sorts of individual events. People literally don’t remember things the way they happened. You can take a witness that was under stress and put them in a room and talk to them for an hour, and then you can come out and show them a video of the event they just described, and you will find that they’re flabbergasted at what they are seeing.

        Of course, it’s possible to go into a room and lead them with the right questions to come out and take a look at that video and have them explain exactly what appears to be happening in a very particular incarnation, as well.

        Sometimes this stuff happens because the witness has bad memory recall and the interviewer asked leading questions. Sometimes this stuff happens because the witness had bad memory recall and they transposed all sorts of other stuff into what they think is their long term memory. There’s all kinds of cognitive and neuropsych lit that backs up all sorts of crazy possibilities.

        I don’t really trust eyewitness accounts to be more than marginally accurate, unless they’re done by really expert interrogators who don’t have an agenda (typically, this does not include either police or the media).

        Even when they’re done really well, you still need to square them with the physical evidence, but you have to do that with an air to skepticism about the narrative that you’ve already adopted.

        I’ve seen all sorts of analysis of the autopsy report, for example, and a bunch of folks all look at the same physical evidence and they seize upon the parts of it that square with the narrative that they were already predisposed to accept as true, and explain away the irregularities.

        Which is fine, to the extent that you’re keeping your brain firmly on “this is what I think probably happened” as opposed to “well, the evidence clearly shows that the only possible interpretation is (foo)”.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        Short answer – No.

        Longer answer – Bullets fired in rapid sequence will impact a body & not leave any clear evidence of timing. Given enough time between impacts, the body will experience physiological responses that a doctor or medical examiner could use to estimate the timing, but that delta T between shots has to be a few minutes at least (I think). If two bullets impact close together, it is sometimes possible to determine which one hit first & second, but that is all you can learn (i.e. if 6 shots are fired & two hit close to each other, we might know which hit first & which hit second, but not what their order was relative to the 6 that were fired).

        If there is other evidence, such as audio or video, or even a fairly accurate description of events such as who was doing what & when, ballistic trajectories can refine that picture quite a bit, or at least provide evidence that someone was mistaken/lying.

        As for a hardware solution, nothing practical exists. There is no way to stamp a bullet as it is fired in a fashion sufficient to ensure it’s ID will survive impact at the end of it’s flight. We can stamp casings somewhat reliably, but that is only useful in connecting a casing to a specific gun. I mean, we could devise such a way to stamp a bullet, but that will add mass & complexity to a firearm, make it harder to carry & giving it more failure modes, which, when you need a gun, is not something you want happening.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        So, if we want to be able to sort out bullet ordering in the future, we need to either severely reduce their rate of fire or make their guns significantly less reliable.

        Could we do both?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy For what it’s worth, there doesn’t actually seem to be too much in dispute at this point, forensically speaking, about whether he was shot in the back. He wasn’t, at least according to the Baden partial autopsy, although there is some question as to what direction he was facing for the fatal shot to the crown of his head. That doesn’t really matter though, because there is also no dispute that the officer fired at least two shots (which missed) while Brown was running away:

        As Officer Wilson got out of his car, the men were running away. The officer fired his weapon but did not hit anyone, according to law enforcement officials.

        Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/us/shooting-accounts-differ-as-holder-schedules-visit.html

        There also seems to be a consensus that at least one shot – likely one of the shots that struck Brown in the shoulder – was fired during the struggle at the door of the police car, after which Brown started trying to run, although there is a dispute as to who initiated that struggle.

        What happened after Brown stopped running is what’s in dispute. The officer claims that at this point, Brown turned around, lowered his arms, and began to charge at the officer, presumably to initiate another round of physical confrontation. The witnesses claim that Brown just turned with his arms (slightly) raised in an attempt to surrender, and the officer continued shooting as he was walking towards Brown. Even still, there’s a consensus that Brown had stopped running and had turned around.

        The officer’s story, however, seems completely and utterly implausible, not only on the question of whether Brown initiated the confrontation at the police car, but most significantly and clearly on the question of whether Brown was surrendering or charging when he turned around. The officer’s claims not only contradict several eyewitnesses, but also require us to believe that, after being shot once during the physical struggle, this young man with no known history of mental illness (a) consciously decided to run away (which is most certainly the case); but then (b) in the midst of continuing to be shot at while running away and with a bullet wound in his shoulder, decided that he should turn around and physically assault with his one good arm the very person who had just shot him and was still firing at him.

        In the alternative, we are asked to believe only that he realized the indisputable facts that the officer was still shooting at him and that the officer could almost certainly outrun him (especially with Brown’s shoulder wound) such that continuing to run would have been a good way of ensuring that the officer continued to shoot at him (and eventually would hit him again). If we assume he knew these two indisputable facts, his only logical response at that point would have been to stop, turn around, and surrender.

        I’m willing to concede that the officer could have, in the heat of the moment, perceived Brown stopping and turning around as signalling a desire to resume physical contact. I would not call this perception “reasonable,” though. What’s more, that the officer was indisputably shooting at a fleeing suspect should be the end of the story – that alone is unacceptable, and it makes it frankly impossible to believe that the only reason for firing the fatal final 5 shots was his belief that Brown was coming back to charge him. Brown was not believed to have been armed (indeed, the officer’s claim that Brown was reaching for his gun during the struggle strongly suggests that the officer knew that Brown was unarmed) or to have presented a danger to the community, so once the struggle at the police car ended, there was no reason to use deadly force.

        Simply put, there’s no reason to believe Wilson would have stopped firing at Brown if Brown had kept running, and there’s no reason to believe that those shots would have been any less fatal. There’s thus no reason to distinguish the fatal five shots from the earlier two shots that missed, regardless of whether Wilson can reasonably claim that he thought Brown was getting ready to charge him.Report

      • Avatar Mal Blue in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @mark-thompson That’s a great round-up of the information there is some consensus on. I wish I had read it earlier as – if there is agreement on everything you say there – it removes most of the ambiguity of my view on the situation. I haven’t had time to look as closely as I would like, but most of what I have seen seems to lean heavily on assumptions without specifying where consensus begins and where speculation ends.

        Thanks a ton.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        …the officer could have, in the heat of the moment, perceived Brown stopping and turning around as signalling a desire to resume physical contact. I would not call this perception “reasonable,” though. What’s more, that the officer was indisputably shooting at a fleeing suspect should be the end of the story … .

        That’s precisely where I land on that issue. And I think we’ve got enough detail that even assuming the officer’s own statement (which we don’t have yet) is as self-serving as is reasonably plausible, we still aren’t in a situation where there is a reasonable fear for the safety of a human being and therefore a justifiable use of lethal force.

        Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the officer, as we would in a homicide prosecution, we may not get a conviction; there’s a reasonable chance at reasonable doubt. Which is why he probably shouldn’t even be charged with homicide — a “not guilty” verdict would be hugely damaging to an already gravely wounded community.

        But in a civil case, where the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence, I have a hard time imagining a defense verdict. Cops shouldn’t shoot arrestees who aren’t resisting arrest, and it’s way more likely than not that a reasonable police officer would have concluded Brown was not resisting arrest and, in fact, surrendering.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, not sure why cops think it is OK to shoot at a fleeing suspect. That’s only legal in TV & movies.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        CNN is now reporting that the broken orbital bone story is false, citing a source close to the investigation. Says x-rays were negative.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        …I’d venture to guess that a head shot (or TWO head shots) would fell a person. Four more bullets pumped into him would have me questioning why the trigger was squeezed that many more times…

        One of the questions I’d want to know the answer to if I were having to conduct an investigation is how many rounds were fired. Six, with all striking Mr. Brown? Or perhaps the officer fired off an entire much larger magazine (handguns in common police use seem to have capacities in the 10-to-14 round range; I haven’t seen any reports of what standard issue is for the Ferguson PD), with a bunch of bullets going elsewhere? Six-for-six shooting vs six-for-14 must mean something, although I’m certainly not qualified to do that interpretation.Report

  19. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    I visited Portland once in January 2011 on a three day trip during winter break from law school. The first thing I noticed about the city was that there was a startling lack of minorities except Asians perhaps. I saw very few Black or Latino(a) people while there. Demographically I think the Northwest as the smallest percentage of Black Americans though. Yet there was still a big story at the time about how there were issues with the cops shooting black Portlandians. One of my friends from undergrad also mentioned it and said something like “Our cops can’t stop shooting black people” in a frustrated tone?

    I question the demographics of Vanalucci’s audience and whether they are mainly from Portland or not. What station is he on? Does that station usually swing conservative? I find that conservatives in very blue areas often get more so because they are frustrated by being surrounded by a lot of liberals. The Chronicle website is filled with commentary by frustrated conservatives.Report

  20. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    and how we allow the incarceration of blacks because “they just commit more crimes” despite constant evidence that they don’t just seems like yesterday’s news.

    Drug use is the exception to the rule, Tod. In the US, more homicides are committed by black offenders than by white (including Hispanic) offenders, despite the fact that there are six to seven times as many whites.

    Look, I don’t think the government should be putting anyone in jail for possessing any amount of any drug. But even if the government released all of the 20% or so of prisoners who are in there solely for drug-related offenses—as they should—blacks would still be hugely overrepresented among prisoners, because people who commit violent and property crimes really are disproportionately black.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      See also tables 840 and 846 here. Note that those are percentages of all (e.g.) robberies committed by black and white offenders. For equal representation, the numbers for whites would have to be six to seven times greater.

      These are based on victim reports, not arrests.Report

    • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      This is a variation of Roger’s argument about inequality- You’re trying to prove that somehow black people are not treated badly, or explain away data points as statistical anomalies.

      Except all you have are links and statistics; What they have is empirical evidence, and the searing experience of growing up black in America.

      I’m just imagining some black guy reading this thread, and thinking “Man, that Brandon guy has a good point! Maybe all my friends and relatives are full of it! That does it, I’m voting Republican tomorrow!”Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        Be careful, because that argument can cut both ways. A white person can just as easily say, ‘yeah, I’ve seen the statistics about black people being arrested and imprisoned for crimes that white people get away with, but I know how these black people live. These so-called non-violent drug offenders really are dangerous in ways that white pot-smoking teens are not.’

        Everyone can dismiss statistics with their own lived experience, but that doesn’t mean that their own lived experience is more accurate in any objective way.

        Further, we shouldn’t be scared of statistics just because they appear to affirm something in which we do not wish to believe. This is a case where it is much more effective to engage with the empirical research and question the underlying assumptions than it is to simply dismiss them.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        What lived experience do white people have that undercuts black peoples experience with cops?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        It is amazing how poorly people understand, evaluate, and use statistics.

        “African-Americans make up a disproportionate share of the prison population relative to their percentage of the general population.”
        This is a fact. There is no use arguing with that fact in isolation.

        “African-Americans commit a disproportionate amount of crime in America relative to their percentage of the general population.”
        This is really easy to infer from the above fact but is not demonstrably true, at least not based on that fact alone. Even if we look at arrests and conviction rate, we cannot infer the actual frequency of behaviors because of so many reasons. Yet people jump to this place.

        “African-Americans are more criminal than whites.”
        This is unproveable and unknowable, at least based on our current capabilities. It also suffers from all sorts of definitional issues. Yet people go here often.

        “Most African-Americans are criminals.”
        False. Absolutely false. For any definition of “criminal”. This is often based on the ‘fact’ that most of the prison population is black (and I put ‘fact’ in quotes there because I’ve seen varying numbers depending on exactly how you slice the data, but suffice it to say it generally hovers in the range of 50%). But even assuming that ‘fact’, to infer this is just plain stupidity. That is the equivalent of saying, “It rained on more Mondays this year than on Tuesday. That must mean that most Mondays are rainy.” Unfortunately, people often jump to this line of thinking. It is not surprising — in fact, it is expected — when my four-year-olds do this. But full-grown adults? Really?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        Not sure why you are bringing me into this conversation. I have no dog in this fight.

        If you find problems with my data on inequality, you have had plenty of opportunities to address it in those threads.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwa

        Depends on the person, but that’s not the point of my comment. You ought not dismiss empirical evidence just because it seems to contradict yours or other people’s lived experience. Better to engage with the numbers, see what they really say, and find out if there even is a contradiction.

        @kazzy

        Even if we look at arrests and conviction rate, we cannot infer the actual frequency of behaviors because of so many reasons. Yet people jump to this place.

        Yes. I try to be fairly analytic in forming my opinions, but I have resigned myself to the fact that many people just don’t care. They have a world view and they assimilate evidence in support of that world view on a selective basis. So, some people simply have a default view of blacks and other minorities as being subject to some form or other of pathological deficiency. And they assimilate the individual data points that affirm that view and selectively dismiss the ones that do not.

        Of course, if we are being honest, we all do this to some extent. Almost all of us others some group of people, whether it be based on ethnicity, sex, social class, political opinion, clique affiliation. Human beings are efficiency maximizers and its just easier to default to stereotypes. The real measure, for me at least, is how stubbornly someone holds onto their stereotypes when presented with evidence to the contrary.Report

      • @kazzy I’m actually starting to wonder if casting aspersions on those types of inferences isn’t standing in the way of us having the type of meta-conversation longed-for by the OP and by many, many others. By that I mean that, even if we go by reported crimes, as opposed to arrests, as Brandon suggests (and as we should because of obvious reasons), it’s still hard to avoid the conclusion that black people are significantly more likely to commit violent crimes. But that doesn’t and mustn’t end the inquiry; instead, it should be a launching point, because the answer to the follow-up question “why” is almost certainly the core of the problem with race in this country. Yes, acknowledging that allows the Steve Sailers of the world to start spewing their bullshit about genetics and shit like that. But those people can, should, and will be ignored by the overwhelming majority of people.

        What we are left with, then, are systemic problems, and specifically systemic racism, and the social and psychological effects of that systemic racism. Drug use may be constant across races, but I’m not breaking ground by suggesting that membership in drug gangs is probably not even close to constant across races. But why? I’m speculating, but perhaps because drug dealing is lucrative as hell, and because culturally we’ve made it almost impossible for most black people to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” what with our prejudices against black names, white flight/de facto segregation (which makes it impossible for many black people to build the social capital and professional networks necessary to get good jobs), and tendency to arrest and prosecute black people disproportionately for non-violent, petty offenses, to say nothing about the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and there’s surely a bunch of other stuff I’m missing. So drug dealing is lucrative and doesn’t require the social capital available in white America. It’s not coincidentally also a black market. Lucrative black markets have pretty much always been synonymous with “staggering amounts of violence,” especially when those lucrative markets provide the most realistic avenue for escape from poverty – while black markets in drugs exist pretty much everywhere in the world, it seems like they’re at their most violent in places with the greatest inequalities. (Looking at Gapminder world, there actually seems to be a really strong correlation between homicide rates and inequality).

        Unfortunately, if this analysis is correct (and I lack standing to say that it is), the temptation is to say “well, just end the war on drugs then.” Which we totally should do for its own sake, but which still doesn’t address the underlying problem – even if it succeeds in reducing violence, it doesn’t do much else, and may even just create a vacuum to be filled by some other black market.

        Nonetheless, it at least gets us talking about violence as an effect of systemic racism.

        On a side note, as I think about this more, racial issues are one area where, despite my skepticism about inequality-as-a-problem-in-itself, inequality really does cause problems of its own rather than just being a symptom of underlying poverty. By that I mean that one effect of inequality that I’ve long found worthwhile (despite my skepticism about other issues supposedly tied to inequality) is that it undermine social cohesion and acts to prevent upper class people from coming into contact with lower class people. When that lower class is disproportionately from one race (and the upper class disproportionately from another race) thanks to a legacy of explicit discrimination and ongoing practice of subconscious racism, inequality makes those problems even more intractable, as lack of meaningful access prevents people from that race from building social capital even with people in the upper class who are otherwise seeking to push back against the systemic and historical legacies of racism.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        Mark,
        Juveniles who are black use fewer illegal drugs (including alcohol) than whites do. The rates are not equal, and haven’t been since they started doing the studies.

        Next, every neighborhood has drugdealers. Poverty combined with drugs (and other addictive substances) leads to… some crime. More crime is business disputes “gone wrong” (xyz shoots abc).

        Most gangs are mostly sane and don’t do too much craziness. (The random one that sent kids out to bloody a knife as a gang initiation, or the crazy Crips in a specific Pittsburgh neighborhood are the extreme exceptions).Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        Mark Thompson, even if such a discussion ends the way that many of us want with White Americans basically accepting that the problems faced by African-Americans is due primarily to the long history of white racism; does not mean that we will reach the same conclusion on whats to be done. Some will just say end the drug war and that will be that. They will do this because any comprehensive solution will run into the political problems that go against other issues relating to inequality in the United States.Report

      • @kim If black people are less likely to use illegal drugs rather than no more likely, my point is only enhanced. And while every neighborhood surely has drug dealers, there is presumably a difference in scale and purpose, hence my point about the role of inequality in the second paragraph. And yes, quite a bit of violent crime seems to be what you are referring to as “business disputes ‘gone wrong'” – that’s kind of my entire point about the effect of black markets when combined with poverty/inequality, especially a poverty/inequality that is fueled by systemic racism.Report

      • @leeesq Absolutely – see my third paragraph. But some will want to go deeper (especially, I would assume, some of those many who are especially averse to ending the Drug War). I have no idea what the solution is, or even if there is a workable political solution in the long run. But getting to that discussion in and of itself is important and a significant improvement over where we’re at – we can’t solve a problem at all if we can’t discuss one of its worst effects.

        The worst case scenario, it seems to me, is that some of the effects get dealt with, but the underlying cause does not. But we’re already failing to address the underlying cause, so what is the harm in trying by, in part, acknowledging the problem? I jump to add that the problem here is not that the black community is unwilling to discuss or acknowledge this issue, as TNC pointed out the other day: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/black-people-are-not-ignoring-black-on-black-crime/378629/

        I submit that the problem, instead, is that white people – liberals, conservatives, libertarian, whatever, up to and including myself – have difficulties understanding or accepting the effects and mechanisms of systemic racism.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        @j-r
        Are you seriously trying to tell black people not to dismiss statistics showing that they aren’t the victim of white oppression, simply because of their actual experience of it?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        Mark, your right in that a big part of the problem is that white people refuse to acknowledge systematic racism. What I see as another problem is that the solution to systematic racism is both political and societal in nature and getting the political solution is going to be difficult to say the least in current American politics.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq

        I am curious. What do you think that the solution is?

        From my perspective, part of what makes these issues so difficult is that there simply is no political solution. Systemic racism is partly about the system, but it’s also about the racism. That is to say, it is about deep-seeded psychological tendencies that have a myriad of ways of expressing themselves, from the benign to the most horrid. You can change the system, but the racism will find other ways.

        Certainly, there are political means that could help to protect people from the effects of racism, but s lot of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. Not sure that there is all that much in the way of obvious, widely-agreed upon policy choices that get us where we want to be.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
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        says:

        PS – I am referring to policies that would specifically address racial issues. Ending the Drug War or stopping the death penalty, for instance, aren’t specifically racial policy issues; although, they would likely improve the lives of lots of minorities instantaneously.Report

      • @j-r

        Systemic racism is partly about the system, but it’s also about the racism. That is to say, it is about deep-seeded psychological tendencies that have a myriad of ways of expressing themselves, from the benign to the most horrid. You can change the system, but the racism will find other ways.

        This may be going off on a slight tangent, but it seems to me that if you take the existence of racism as a given (which I do) both in the macro (I think *everybody’s” at least a little bit racist/bigoted/Othering/tribal sometimes) and the “micro” (in the US, due to historical factors and relative population sizes, racism is often going to express itself as “white people making life difficult for non-whites”), then oftentimes all this discussion of fixing “the system” (such as stopping the drug war, or police abuses, etc. – things that will help *everybody*, but especially minorities), sans direct reference to the “racism” part, is almost about the best we can do, politically.

        The other change is, for lack of a better word, “spiritual” (or philosophical; or simply a matter of waiting for enough possessors of old mindsets to die off).

        When engineers are trying to build a solid bridge to get everybody to the other side of the river, they don’t sit around bemoaning “gravity”; gravity’s just an invisible, omnipresent, implacable background force that they always know must be accounted for in their bridge’s design, when they are choosing the best materials and structure.

        If they’ve done their job well, that bridge will stand and all will be able to cross it safely, despite this inexorable force constantly acting to bring it down.

        I know the analogy doesn’t totally hold, since gravity has no agency and people do when it comes to racism, but maybe what I mean still comes through.Report

      • @glyph

        I think my quibble with this is that when engineers work on a bridge, everyone involved accepts that gravity exists and has consequences.

        Part of the problem with racism in 21st century America is an astounding number of people truly do believe that it doesn’t exist, at least not in any tangible way that has any kind of measurable consequences. And an even larger number believe that it does exist, but that it only exists in places where they are not.

        This seems like part of what has to change before the engineers can start building any kind of effective bridge.Report

      • @leeesq No doubt. I’m not even sure what a political or social solution would look like. Since this is a white people problem, though, only white people are in a position to implement such a solution in the long run. The trouble is that on the issue of race, white people tend to fall into three camps, one represented by the Steve Sailers of the world, and one- about which more in a second – represented by people like @kazzy. But the overwhelming majority of white people fall into the third category, that of people who sincerely abhor racism but refuse to take responsibility for its effects. This group has two subgroups – mainstream white Republicans and mainstream white Democrats – who like to take turns blaming each other for the problems of black America while also “morally hectoring” black America for those problems that they can’t really pin on the other political party.

        For this group, Black America’s problems, in other words, are the fault of either the “real racists” in the other party or the fault of Black America itself, but in no circumstance are they the fault of their own subgroup.

        Which is where the group represented by @kazzy (and, I like to think, a lot of others of us here, but @kazzy is the most conscious of us) needs to be able to come in, and to come in effectively. The trouble is that in the sensitivity to anything that may be construed as racist, this group winds up being ineffective and thus probably fails to paint a picture for that largest group as to how racism is systemic and what those systemic effects are. Where that dominant group morally hectors Black America for its unique problems, blaming those problems on the effects of an alleged “culture of poverty,” this last group denies that the problems exist at all. Which is unfortunate, because the issue isn’t whether or not the problem exists, but rather the moral hectoring for the problem and the refusal to recognize how the actions of people who genuinely don’t think they’re being racist have the effect of reinforcing racism.Report

      • @tod-kelly – I get what you’re saying, but to go back to the fracas with @jim-heffman and the OP (who, you eventually conceded, did have part of the gist of your piece, though he obviously disagreed – and as a side note, what the frack was that ebonics crap?!) – I actually felt sort of sad.

        I don’t really always understand what Jim’s politics or views are (other than a stubborn contrarianism and a persistent abrasiveness), but my prior impression in these Ferguson threads, until this post, was that he was largely on the same page as most everyone here; which was pretty unusual in my experience (given the aforementioned contrarianism and abrasiveness), and sort of heart-warming.

        Without necessarily wanting to put words in his mouth, my impression of his views so far had been:

        A.) A kid in Ferguson appears to have been shot to death for no (or next to no) reason, and that is some BULLSHIT.
        B.) The cops in Ferguson appear to be out of control, what with the tankin’ and tear-gassin’ and such, and that is some BULLSHIT.
        C.) Cops in general appear to be out of control, and that is some BULLSHIT.

        Now, we want to argue about whether or not he (or white America in general) has correctly identified or ranked all the root causes of the current crisis in Ferguson; which to me seems kind of pointless (I think @guy made a similar point).

        As though our basement is flooding, and we are standing here arguing about whether it’s because Sally left the faucet on, or because Billy broke that brittle old pipe; when what we should all be doing, is agreeing that THE FREAKING BASEMENT IS FLOODING, and you go get a damn bucket, and I’ll turn off the valve.

        A problem can have more than one cause or prescription; maybe instead of fighting over which one is the real problem, we’re a big enough nation to try to tackle them both, and to strike while the iron is hot and seemingly-everybody – liberals, conservatives, libertarians – senses that *something* is badly wrong.

        Or we can wait until everyone wants to do the right thing, and also for the right (in our opinion) reason.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        Since this is a white people problem, though, only white people are in a position to implement such a solution in the long run.

        If by racism, then I guess that I kind of sort of agree with you, but this cannot just be about racism. This may sound harsh, but there is not much less interesting than a bunch of white people sitting around talking about racism. And that is true whether it’s a bunch of conservative whites talking about how racism is not a problem anymore or a bunch of progressive whites hand-wringing about their collective guilt. It accomplishes nothing.

        The more interesting conversation is about how to empower people to deal with the effects of racism. And that is a conversation that most definitely ought to involve more than white people.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        Perhaps dismissing talking about racism as some sort of collective guilt thing that is useless is part of the problem. If you want solutions you need to know the problem. If saying this is The Problem is the start then you have to talk about the problem. That is sort of how you get people focused on doing something. But if you dismiss the wrong kind of people talking about racism, then how the heck do you even ever start talking about solutions.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph

        I think you could improve your analogy this way:

        When engineers are trying to build a solid bridge to get everybody to the other side of the river, they don’t sit around bemoaning “bureaucratic/political shortsightedness”; that’s just an invisible, omnipresent, implacable reality that they always know must be accounted for in their bridge’s design, when they are choosing the best materials and structure.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwa
        Except all you have are … statistics; What they have is empirical evidence,

        Come again?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        I didn’t say that it was useless. I said that It was not interesting.

        I do not object to conversations about racism, by the way. I am here having one after all. My objection is to the idea that these conversations ought to be an excercise in white people getting together to contemplate their collective guilt. Racism as America’s original sin is a useful metaphor, but it is just that: a metaphor.

        There is no theology and no sacrament that leads to our racial salvation. In fact, I would go so far as to see that the whole idea of collective guilt is flawed; it is a category error. We would be better off without it.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r, since we are dealing some very old demons in American society and human psychology than I’m not sure if there is a solution. There are several political solutions we can do to make the lives of minorities better like ending the war on drugs, the death penalty, and the militarization of police plus respecting the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment. Stop rolling back on the programs passed during the Great Society that help minorities and other poor people would be a good thing to. Whites might find affirmative action annoying but it has sincerely helped a lot of minorities get educational opportunities that would have normally been denied to them.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude)
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq

        So this is why I’ve said that I don’t find the idea of white folks sitting around talking about racism all that interesting. At the end of that conversation, even if it is a successful conversation in making people aware of the historical reality of racism and white supremacy, most participants are still going to walk away convinced that their ideological priors are the answer.

        Progressives are going to say that what we need is more progressive policies to help correct past injustices and give people a leg up. And conservatives are going to walk away saying that we need more conservative reforms to help foster self-sufficiency.

        Granted, a better-educated population is always a worthy end unto itself, but there is a certain conceit to thinking that if everyone knew the history better they would be automatically agree with you.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      Brandon,
      There’s substantial underreporting of homicides in rural areas… particularly when they’re motivated crimes. Way easier to report someone as “gone missing” and not bother digging up the body, particularly when the shooter is paying your paycheck.Report

    • Avatar dexter in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      “People who commit violent and property crimes really are disproportionately black” and poor. If you happen to own a bank and steal several hundred billion you are fined ten cents on the dollar and then you jump in your Lear and go to Aspen to tell the world how very precious and needed you are.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      Even if the above is true, there is still no reason to treat African-American teenage boys who do stupid teenage stuff with more strictness than White teenage boys that do stupid stuff. Either you treat both the same gravity or the same leniency. There must be consistent application in how laws are enforced for everybody regardless of race.Report

  21. Avatar Jeremiah
    Ignored
    says:

    Maybe a better question to be asking (instead of are you/me/us racist) is, why have most law enforcement and criminal justice systems in America lost the faith and trust of the black community?

    Exceptions exist, but its fair to say that for most of the black community nationwide, law enforcement and the justice system is viewed with suspicion and dread.

    Why? There aren’t any good answers, other than they have plenty of justification.Report

  22. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    @stillwater Down here!!!

    I agree with much of what you say — and I think my instincts are actually the same as yours. However, I try to fight those instincts.

    (I’ll make this quick argument and then sadly I might have to wait till tomorrow to see your response cause tI’m heading out soon.)

    Over the past several years, I’ve changed my thinking on racism in this country a lot. Part of that has to do with the Great Obama Freak Out, part of it has to do with the fact that being online more often I have a greater range of vision outside of my own little world than I used to, and part of it has been the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the books he’s pointed me toward. And one of the things I have come to believe is that the problem in Ferguson is more deep-seated than some racist cop.

    And so here’s my concern:

    If we make this all about one bad cop — or one bad police force — then we fire the cop and the police chief, and really nothing changes. We’re never going to, say, put the cop in jail, because of all of the (as you say) meta stuff. And we’re going to be fine with replacing that chief with someone that’s basically the exact same, again because of the meta stuff. And we’ll never begin to look at every other town in America and say, “we should probably take a look and see if this might be another Ferguson,” again because of all the meta stuff.

    The reason I talk about the meta stuff when it comes to Ferguson isn’t because I’m trying to be clever, or Salon-like, or be “balanced.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite: It’s because I’m furious and heartbroken and nauseous and outraged — and because I have come to believe that until we decide to address the meta that Fergusons are going to continue to happen to different degrees throughout this country, in Red states and Blue. Christ, TPM was reporting today that a black Highway Patrolman was reported as having given “gang signs” on TV, and it wasn’t until later that it turned out it was a fraternity sign. And it wasn’t Fox that was reporting on the gang signs, it was CNN!

    I want us to focus on the meta not because I have no opinion, but because I have a very strong opinion about how deeply this rot goes in our society.

    The cop who shot shot Michael Brown is most likely someone who should *never* have been allowed to “protect” black neighborhoods; the police force that trained and acclimated him might well be complicit in the murder of a young unarmed boy. These things are atrocities, and we should never lose sight of the fact that they are. But neither should we lose sight of the fact that the cop and his brethren are symptoms of a larger sickness that’s keeping an entire segment of our society down under heel.

    Or that’s the way I’ve come to see it anyway.Report

    • Avatar David in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      Long-time lurker breaking silence to comment – really interesting back and forth with good points on both sides, glad to see this debate. I would also concur on what seems to be the point of agreement between you (outrage over the situation) and Tod’s clarification (that outrage won’t change if we find out he was only shot twice, or other details shift – because it’s fundamentally about the wider situation enabling Mike Brown’s horrific death, not the specifics of how that happened), and also Stillwater’s point that outrage shouldn’t be strategic, just felt, else it’s not really outrage. Thank you both for hashing this out in a public forum!Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      The fatal shooting of Kajieme Powell in St. Louis offers a good example of the problem we’re dealing with. Having watched the video (which I don’t recommend, it is difficult to see), here’s what I think we know about that case:

      1) In all likelihood this will be ruled a justified use of deadly force, because it was technically by the book.

      2) The cops lied about what happened. They said that he was 3 feet away and holding the knife in an overhand manner. He was 10 or more feet away, and holding both his arms by his side, with a pocket knife.

      3) The police showed up ready to shoot: a man stole 2 cokes and some donuts, and was displaying no weapons. They screeched to a stop, and jumped out of the car with their guns drawn. They didn’t wait for backup, neither officer had a taser out, and they didn’t try to backup or de-escalate the situation before exposing themselves to the suspect.

      By contrast, there is a video (also very difficult to watch) of Toronto police fatally shooting a mentally unstable man with a large (what appears to be a kitchen) knife from a few years ago. There are things they could have done differently, but they tried to de-escalate the situation, and when they were unable to, and he continued to threaten them, they backed off. The man with the knife continued to approach them, ultimately running at two officers who’d backed into a car and were therefore unable to get away from him. At that point, another officer, on the side of the car, shot the suspect.

      So, in one case, you have officers doing everything they can to avoid shooting someone who was directly threatening them, and only doing so when officers became trapped between a barrier and the man with a large knife.. In the other, you have officers showing up primed to shoot someone who wasn’t threatening them or anyone else in such a way that they could not have gotten out of the situation.

      Contrast this further with what happened to Tod’s son and his friends. Or as I quipped yesterday, if I’d stolen two Cokes and some donuts, the cops would have shown up, gotten out of the car nonchalantly, and asked me what the hell I was thinking.

      The cops should not have shot Powell, even if it is a justified use of deadly force according to police procedure. They definitely shouldn’t have lied about it afterwards (particularly since they knew there was video). But mostly they shouldn’t have shot him. The way they’re trained, and the way they see certain people and certain neighborhoods, has to change, so that more people like Powell don’t end up dead when the situation could have been handled much differently.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        This compounds, too, given the notion that our first line of help for those with mental health problems is typically the cops. When family members cannot get help for a mentally-ill person until the person invokes police action of some sort, we are putting those ill people at risk of exactly this type of response.

        Also, the are other people about when this man was shot; he was not the only person at risk.Report

  23. Avatar Wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    Back when Ferguson authorities wouldn’t release the officer’s name because of death threats I remembered a parallel story I’d seen on Facebook. Couldn’t find a link about it at the time but found this just now. Of course he “only” shot a dogReport

  24. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/08/armed-police?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email

    “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero.” The Economist with a “reminder that civilians — innocent or guilty — are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country.”

    So what makes us different?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      More guns. more threats, less mental health in general.
      In Japan, the policeman’s major function is giving directions.
      Yes, he may stop crimes or direct traffic occasionally… but mostly
      he gives directions (Japanese street grid is crazy complicated/weird).Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      The article offers a “why”… namely to say we have more guns and “racial strife”. But I don’t think it is nearly that simple. And even if so… why do we have more guns (forget the legal permissiveness… what about our cultures leads to such high rates of ownership?)? Why do we have more racial strife?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, there’s the “good” answer for why we need more guns…
        Ruralia (when the nearest trooper is two hours away, some self-defense is necessary).

        and then there’s the bad answer:
        Little control on guns being sold by scam artists, and rural poverty, means people are selling guns to criminals. And the ATF is a bitch to call in (calling in the Secret Service turned out to be easier. fucking gunrunners smuggling guns to other countries).

        I REALLY am not sure we have more racial strife. We certainly have a system that incentivizes “bringing trouble down” on racial minorities. That’s certainly a problem. But other countries have that too…Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      My guess is that what makes us different is that the United States was largely settled by relatively small bands of people who lived cut off from centrally-enforced authority. Private gun ownership became normalized and, in some cases, a necessity. There are still Americans who shoot a significant portion of their diet.

      Contrast that to Europe, where most of the continent was settled long before the proliferation of firearms was a technological possibility, where the nobility long ago claimed a monopoly on the use of force, and where a common person could be legally prosecuted for hunting on some nobleman’s land.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        In the UK, the right to own fire arms was a class marker for centuries. Only men who were considered to be gentleman were considered fit to be gun owners. This class distinction in gun ownership never existed in the United States. I think that the regional distinctions in how guns are perceived has to do with how areas were settled. Arguments for gun control are strongest in the North East, which were settled as organized communities rather than lone farm steads and central authority was strong relatively early on. In the South, settlement was more dispersed and less organized. Government was less democratic but also more removed from most people’s lives compared to the Northern colonies.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Ruralia is certainly more of a concern in America than Britain, sure.

        In Europe, the reason Robin Hood was so good at archery was because it was the only allowable commoner’s sport. I doubt the nobility could actually claim a monopoly on force… (though enforcing “no commoner hits a nobleman” would be childishly easy).Report

  25. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    @michael-cain @kazzy

    …I’d venture to guess that a head shot (or TWO head shots) would fell a person. Four more bullets pumped into him would have me questioning why the trigger was squeezed that many more times…

    One of the questions I’d want to know the answer to if I were having to conduct an investigation is how many rounds were fired. Six, with all striking Mr. Brown? Or perhaps the officer fired off an entire much larger magazine (handguns in common police use seem to have capacities in the 10-to-14 round range; I haven’t seen any reports of what standard issue is for the Ferguson PD), with a bunch of bullets going elsewhere? Six-for-six shooting vs six-for-14 must mean something, although I’m certainly not qualified to do that interpretation.

    Kazzy – this is where your timing question is critical. Give me a semi-auto handgun & I can empty the whole magazine (10-14 shots) in less than 5 seconds. Even if I am aiming carefully, I can run it dry in under 30 seconds & be reasonably certain the majority of my shots are on target (unless my target is moving fast or dodging). Put me (or most anyone else) under stress & fear, and even if I am aiming, I’ll miss more often & I’ll likely pull the trigger faster than I normally would.

    Now, I am a practiced shooter. We have no idea what kind of proficiency the officer in question has with a firearm, outside of the basic quals he had to do at the range, so if he emptied his gun & hit 6 out of 14, that is actually average for police in a shooting.

    Also, stress & fear means tunnel vision. He may have emptied his gun in a few seconds, but his brain had yet to catch-up & recognize that he had placed hits & that one was fatal. This can be aggravated by the fact that a guy as big as Brown can absorb quite a bit of damage before his body starts to shut down (remember, Hollywood in general always gets gun fights, et al wrong wrong wrongity wrong). Even head shots are not a guaranteed stopper, depending on the path of the bullet (although head & heart hits tend to be the most effective, for obvious reasons). There have been cases of people who have been hit in the head, but due to various factors, the bullet glanced off & left them with nothing more than a cut.

    So (& I am assuming for the sake of argument that the officer was justified in shooting), it is quite possible to fire 14 rounds & hit with 6 & have 5 of them be non-fatal & non-debilitating.Report

  26. Avatar Will H.
    Ignored
    says:

    we’re by and large OK with gunning down African Americans for the pettiest of reasons.

    Because lynchings were too hands-on for the digitized crewe.
    Much cleaner to have a gov’t agency do the deed.*

    ___________

    * No, I’m not quite done being sarcastic yet . . .Report

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