Everything in Baltimore Is All Totally the Police’s Fault, Not Mine

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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65 Responses

  1. Rose Woodhouse says:

    Right, so I’ve been irritated at incredibly self-righteous tweets. Like so many other signaling behaviors, I worry that it scratches one’s moral itch. Then one feels that one no longer has anything to do.

    I don’t want to speak for Angry Tweeters (TM), but I don’t think they’d disagree with what you’ve said here. That is, that it’s not only the police, but wider societal forces demanding such from the police.Report

    • Kim in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      I’m willing to advocate for the moral obligation to call in the FBI, but I doubt most people are actually connected or clever enough to create a solid case — and even if they were, that they would manage to get the Correct People Out.Report

    • Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      Interestingly, Twitter was instrumental in building the Ferguson protest movement. I knew about the Mike Brown murder while his body was still lying on the street, and of the protests that night, days before most of the media started showing up. The leaders of that movement, specifically the Black Lives Matter group(s), some of whom are in Baltimore now, became leaders largely through Twitter. I don’t mean to imply that this means someone like myself, not being in Baltimore, and having never set foot in Ferguson, but tweeting (or mostly retweeting, this time around) a lot of stuff about what’s happening there and about police violence generally, is actually doing something about it, but it does mean that in 2015, Twitter is important in such movements.

      That said, while I see a lot of blame heaped onto cops, I see a lot of blame also heaped onto local and state, and in some cases even national leaders. In Ferguson, the mayor, the city manager, the states attorney, Democratic State Representative Jeff Roorda, and Democratic Governor Jay Nixon were all frequent targets of criticism and anger for months, and in Baltimore, the mayor has received a lot of criticism (though a lot of it has been about how she’s handled, and talked about the protests), and even the president has not come out of it unscathed (again, mostly for the words he used to describe some protesters).

      The politicians who’ve emerged from Ferguson looking better than before, e.g. Antonio French, have done so because they’ve been critical of the police and other political leaders, and they’ve been on the ground at protests (though even French, who became something of a Twitter hero, has not endeared himself to the Black Lives Matter activists, who’ve criticized him for his criticisms of protest tactics). If what’s happening now is going to lead to change, it’s going to be because there are more people who take French’s route, rather than Roorda’s.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        You’re doing something about it. a small something, but still a something.
        And hey, if one of your friends decides to grab a camera and shoot video of the cops next time… well, then you’ve done a bigger small something.

        (I still maintain that creative engagement of the issues is probably better than simple reforwarding… both because it keeps ideas fresh, and because you’re bound to be more attached to a movement if you create stuff for it).Report

        • Chris in reply to Kim says:

          Oh I ain’t doin’ shit. I know this. I suppose I rationalize my inaction by saying that my activist days are long over. I’m old and have a kid who’s about the age when the activist gene might kick in (he’s already becoming more politically aware by the day).Report

          • Zac in reply to Chris says:

            Whoa, hunh…I always assumed you were my age.Report

            • Chris in reply to Zac says:

              I’m deeply immature, but I’m 39 in physical years. My son is 17.

              I’m also cantankerous, and something of a anachronism, so I combine my immaturity with a grumpy old man situated at some point in the 1920s.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

                I’m only 3 years younger than you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got like -(a decade) on you in immaturity.

                My body feels every one of its years but mentally I can’t seem to kick feeling 24.Report

          • zic in reply to Chris says:

            Just passing along some advice I heard from Bill McKibben one day on the radio:

            Old folk should be the ones out protesting; we can get arrested without it ruining our lives. When we depend on our youngsters to do it, we place the additional burden of a record on them, and can really screw up their lives.

            Just sayin’Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kim says:

          Personally, I think that Tonka trucks are virtually worthless when there’s serious carting work to be done.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Chris says:

        Right, I should clarify: Twitter is a really effective way to create a different narrative on events, very quickly. In my own small corner of the universe, it’s been huge in creating a cohesive and sustained argument against sexism in predominantly male academic fields. It blows my mind how quickly things have changed, and Twitter is instrumental.

        It has been the major source of a significant backlash against the too-easy dismissal of rioters (uprisers) as thugs. A position which would never even get an airing is, through tweets and retweets, getting a major following. With one of my classes, I watched Do the Right Thing. That movie was so controversial at the time. And my take-away from it is that Spike Lee is unsure whether rioting is justified as a response to police brutality or whether non-violent resistance should be pursued. That he’s not sure what the right thing is to do. That was a radical statement in 1989. Yet many on my Twitter feed goes much further than that, asserting that they are justified, or that anyone who is not oppressed should not dictate the means of resistance.

        I think Twitter can very quickly organize a group into a reasonably coherent position and convince those who are on the fence. You can joke about 140 characters, but I’ve been persuaded to different and more activist views by hearing people out on Twitter (which of course, often involves a link to a post our essay).

        So anyhow. As much as I can get annoyed at self- righteous tweets and worry about moral itch-scratching, I think @chris is right about it’s power.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

          I truly admire your impulses to clarify.
          I don’t tweet. In fact, I like to mock it. That pretty much sums up my relationship with Twitter.
          But I see the utility of it as an organizing tool, a means of coordination. More range than a walkie-talkie.
          But I see a lot of it (i.e., by far the bulk) as bs that should never have been said.
          But then I remember seeing a recent poll about the type of news people follow, and from what sources, and I was aghast that “Entertainment” topped the list of news items. I don’t see what so-and-so celebrity is doing as “News,” though I’d say that if Rob Halford got a new band together, I’d want to know about it– not as “News,” but more as trade stuff (though not the same category as if Lincoln came out with a new welding rod for 9-Cr steel).Report

      • veronica d in reply to Chris says:

        @chris — +1 on all your points. It’s the old, “Unless your activism looks exactly like what I want it to look like (which is never quite defined) I’m going to mock you!”

        Which, whatevs. I’ve seen a lot on this across the Twitter/Tubmlr/Facebook-sphere, and much is nonsense, the same white-kiddie-radical stuff you expect to see. Fine. But so what? I’ve also seen people make good points, even if pithy, and I happily retweeted those.

        Am I jumping in my car to drive down to Baltimore and fight corruption?

        Of course not. I’ve got my own shit to deal with, and I doubt that need a loudmouth white tranny to join their parade. But yeah, I’m looking and listening and speaking up some.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Chris says:

        Antonio French was on the ground way before Ferguson.
        That guy’s for real.Report

        • Chris in reply to Will H. says:

          Yeah, he is for real, and I’m sure he’s been around for a while, but he went from local to international overnight, as in one actual night. I remember him asking how he could get verified on Twitter, because the number of followers and responses was overwhelming him and verification comes with some extra tools.

          Also, watching him go after the out of town anarchists agitating for violence was awesome.Report

  2. North says:

    You can’t spell twitter without spelling twit.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    So long as we don’t have to change the status quo, I’m willing to go to any length at necessary reforms.Report

  4. j r says:

    In fact, assuming you’re not African American (and if you are, does it really matter to we white people what your opinion is?)

    I ask myself this question a lot. And the best answer that I can come up with is, “it’s complicated,” accompanied by a shrug.Report

  5. Oscar Gordon says:

    The thing about Twitter & other social media, despite how utterly lame & inane it can be at times, is that it can create public awareness in ways we just couldn’t before.

    Prior to the internet & social media, Freddie Grey would likely have just been a local tragedy, now it’s a national outrage. Which is probably a good thing.

    Of course, it’s a double edged sword, one that can further fuel the sensationalist flames of media reporting on alarming crimes that are rare (but no one bothers to provide that bit of statistical context).Report

  6. Oscar Gordon says:

    Related: Popehat explains the Police Officer Bill of RightsReport

    • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I agree with all of those. Everyone should get these protections.

      And if we cannot extend these protections to everyone due to overhead issues, then we probably have too many people being arrested. Let’s get rid of all of the victimless crime laws and then see if we can extend these protections to all.

      If we can’t then we have a problem.Report

      • Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

        I agree..but you see others don’t. I give you the example of the comments in this thread:


        Where North says: “They don’t think they’re going to get drunk/high/etc and plow into a car loaded with kids right up until the moment they do it.” to justify drunk driving laws punishing folks who haven’t committed an actual crime of harm to someone.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

          I’m down with the whole “we have limited resources so we have to choose which priorities we have” thing. Totally.

          I think we need to have different priorities because the priorities we have got us here and I don’t want to be here.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

            Now, while I agree with this part:
            I agree with all of those. Everyone should get these protections.

            And if we cannot extend these protections to everyone due to overhead issues, then we probably have too many people being arrested.

            I can’t agree with this part:

            i>Let’s get rid of all of the victimless crime laws and then see if we can extend these protections to all.

            But I see this is the operational part:
            we need to have different priorities

            This might take awhile.
            I’ll post it on the bottom.Report

  7. Michael Cain says:

    Clearly, the problem is that we’ve done a bad job of abandoning the rotted old center cities, since we’re still trying to police them. Time to put up some sort of barriers a la Escape from New York and pull the police entirely.Report

  8. Will H. says:

    Receiving the same protections:
    Some of those are already recognized law. The problem goes back to recognized rights and enforceable rights; more specifically, the enforcement mechanism.
    So, if a cop happens to violate someone’s rights, they get to file a civil suit, which is most likely to get dismissed for suing a police officer. Of course, the courts call it something different because they like to pretend there’s some kind of law actually involved, but it’s really about the identity of the parties (or of counsel).
    If a cop happens to violate someone’s rights and they wrongfully receive a criminal conviction, there’s a appellate process, which has every interest in finding no material irregularities. Were any irregularities found to be material, there might be liability.
    Something of a long way of saying the system is rigged. (Go figure)
    The real problem here is discretion. There is another aspect to this, that discretionary acts are not subject to mandamus.
    But the solution lies in removing discretion from prosecutors (maybe even charging those in complicity with a criminal offense), and from judges. Both of those involve serious paring back of immunities.
    Now, that’s doable, because the available immunities are derived from the common law rather than from statute (the common law immunities are actually at the discretion of the executive, so there is another avenue of approach). Statutory law trumps the common law, and so the solution need necessarily come from the legislature.

    Victimless crimes:
    A couple of different ways of looking at this.
    One is that nobody is hurt, which isn’t true in all cases.
    The other is about offenses against the public order.
    Test question here (but I’m not telling you which test):
    Say you’re out in the middle of nowhere, driving along without another vehicle in sight. You come up on a stop sign. Do you stop, or ignore it?

    Different priorities:
    The world is a creepy place. Fortunately, it is the people mainly that make it so, and they are relatively easy to do away with.
    I look around and I see that the vast majority of Americans care not one whit about having any manner of rights. It’s not about being cognitive misers. It’s not about lack of adequate information. It’s more about straight-up not giving a sh!t than anything else.
    I find that creepy.
    I find that far more creepy than the thought that someone might try to break into my car while I’m in the mall. I can take active measures to protect myself against that, lessen the risk.
    So, really, which one of them’s rights should I care about, other than my own?
    If they have already sold themselves out, why should I take it upon myself to go against their wishes?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Will H. says:

      Say you’re out in the middle of nowhere, driving along without another vehicle in sight. You come up on a stop sign. Do you stop, or ignore it?

      Me? I stop. Because there might be a cop hiding or a camera or something. (I also drive like a grandpa, to the consternation of my passengers.)

      But when I was playing GTA3 for the first time, I stopped at a red light and waited and then asked myself “WHY IN THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING” and just drove through it.

      And I wept because it was in that moment that I truly understood that God was dead.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

        it was in that moment that I truly understood that God was dead.
        Yes, definitely.
        But He gets resurrected after you beat the boss to get to level three.
        That one requires a lot of prayer.

        The test is obviously out-dated, as hidden cameras and sneaky cops are not a part of the answer . . .
        Until now!!Report

      • Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d slow down….Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Will H. says:

      So, really, which one of them’s rights should I care about, other than my own?

      This is why I am glad that I got the operation. I don’t mind going down with the ship. It was a good run. Hey, we even legalized pot!

      I’m glad I won’t throw my kids to the wolves. Plus I won’t have to worry about trying to explain to them that they shouldn’t smoke pot.Report

    • Damon in reply to Will H. says:


      I’m in the same boat, although, I actually recognize that when those folks don’t care, I’m the one that looses in the immediate term, because I actually do care. They will too, one day, when the fist of the state is in their face.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Damon says:

        @damon :
        I care up to a point.
        But there’s only so much I can do with this much caring.
        I too am a cognitive miser, living the life of cognitive misery.
        Sometimes, I just have to say, “Ok, if that’s the way you want it . . .,” and then pitch in on their self-destruction.
        I’m only trying to help.Report

        • Damon in reply to Will H. says:

          Indeed. I like that term, “cognitive miser”, because I’m similar. I care, but realize that, in many many cases, nothing will change, I can have no impact on change, and the effort is pointless…for now…

          So I wait…Report

  9. Stillwater says:


    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, I just think the argument that white people have in some sense created and sustained the current institutional injustices black people experience as a matter of course sorta requires white folks to agree that black people experience institutional injustices as a matter of course. I mean, they have to agree with that premise before they’ll agree that they (we!) are part of the problem, yes?Report

    • RTod in reply to Stillwater says:

      Yes, exactly.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to RTod says:

        Heh. Well, I’m glad we could come to an agreement on this thorny issue.Report

        • zic in reply to Stillwater says:

          Thank you for settling that, @stillwater

          It had been perturbing me, too, and I couldn’t figure out how to make the point gracefully.

          @rtod Do you know anything about how to train a dog? You basically ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior, because the dog wants attention, and does the stuff that rewards it with your attention.*

          Puppy Training Philosophy (PTP) is a really good lens through which to think things through, mostly because it helps you (or me, anyway,) consider what result do I want, and what action can I take that’s most likely to move me closer to that result I want.

          Amazingly, people who haven’t studied PTP often don’t make this simple connection, and they just yell at the dog to come and not to bark and not to jump on the neighbors and not to pull on the leash, which of course encourages the dog to not come and to bark and to jump on the neighbors and just about pull you right out of your boots as you and the dog go walking down the street.

          I appreciate what you’re doing here, but it does feel a bit like those folk who are out there standing in their socks yelling at their dogs.

          So here’s my question: what can a white person who gives a shit about the lives of people do? Don’t just tell us what’s useless; that’s yelling at the dog. Tell us what’s useful, that’s giving us a cookie after we heel.

          * I realize people aren’t dogs, and even more importantly, lots of people don’t, as groups, behave like a single dog, let alone a pack of dogs.Report

          • zic in reply to zic says:

            It’s also interesting that in 4 days, we’ve gone from this to this.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

            With all due respect, @zic (and to be sure, much much respect is due), this is exactly what I’m talking about.

            If I had made this a post about the hypocrisy of conservatives on race (or their reluctance for change that would bring more equity), neither you, V’Dire, Chris, or anyone else would have had a problem with whatever I said. But I widen my sights just enough to include liberals and the left, and suddenly my pointing out that same hypocrisy and reluctance is met with a lot of “good is the enemy of great” and “let me explain to you how to talk to people if you want them to listen.”

            Which, really, is kind of the entire point of the post, which wasn’t really about Twitter at all, but rather this: that it isn’t just some group of people over there that we aren’t a part of that’s responsible for Baltimore, Ferguson, and all the day-to-day crap that might justifiably (but never does) lead to violence that happen all the time everywhere and everyday in this country. It’s all of us. *We* choose to let things stand as is.

            Above, @stillwater said, we “all have to agree with that premise before they’ll agree that they (we!) are part of the problem, yes?” I have come to believe in the undeniable, crystal-clear truth in that statement. And further, that unless we ever do it won’t really matter what federal or state laws we pass or how many times we pick a Zadie Smith novel for next’s month book club. We — collectively, all of us, Left and Right together — will find ways to circumvent our own public efforts to make things better. We always do. It’s no accident that I chose very consciously to use the word “we” and not “you” or “them” in the OP, because I am not wanting to shield myself from the same blame I am directing to everyone else.

            You ask if I could give you some examples of things white people might do that might make a difference. I actually have some thoughts on that, although I’m sure that — much like Howard Schultz’s — they are probably quite justifiably mockable. And that’s OK, I’m willing to be mocked. But to paraphrase the God of Twelve Step Programs (and, again, @stillwater ) nothing at all can be done until we all admit we are part of the problem, not witnesses to others who are.

            We are still a very, very long way away from making that step, which is why I keep banging on this door.Report

            • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              @rtod so I take back my first comment. Because while I think most Angry Tweeters are all too happy to say whites in general all contribute, I think that if they did admit they themselves contribute, it would be an insincere and pro forma confession. I don’t *know* if that’s true, and I can’t make windows into men’s souls. But that’s my guess.

              Here’s a way in which I’m part of the problem. I’m moving at the end of June, and haven’t yet found a place. One of my major focuses is finding a good school district. And I’m sure I’m not alone, including among those who are making angry tweets.

              This is not necessarily specifically a race problem, since our first choice neighborhood I’m looking at is highly integrated. My seven year old is currently in a majority minority school and I’m happy to have him in it – but it’s a really good, reasonably well-resourced one. (It’s my kid with disabilities who would end up in the meh school now, and we’re zoned for a very bad junior high.) It seems to me, though, a serious class problem. People who can leave neighborhoods with problems, do leave neighborhoods with problems. Thus, some people who might have more time/energy/resources to demand change decide to move instead. And the problems continue.

              As Frederick Douglass and MLK, jr both pointed out, people do not give up privilege willingly, ever. They must be prodded into it. And many who would prod remove themselves from the situation so that they don’t have to.

              I believe this, and yet I’m still going to look for school districts. I justify this by saying I have to prioritize my own children, and there’s only so much agitating I could do on my own – and only so much efficacy one person can have. And it may even be justifiable looking at one individual case. But when everyone’s doing it, it seems less justifiable.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

                Rose Woodhouse: I believe this, and yet I’m still going to look for school districts. I justify this by saying I have to prioritize my own children, and there’s only so much agitating I could do on my own – and only so much efficacy one person can have. And it may even be justifiable looking at one individual case. But when everyone’s doing it, it seems less justifiable.

                There is no shame in taking care of you & your own first. The world is not served by reducing your ability to affect change. If moving to a better school district will alleviate some of your day to day stress when it comes to how well your children are cared for & educated, then you have more time & energy to focus on making things better elsewhere. The trap is not the move, it’s the routine & complacency that follow the move that many fall into. And even that is not always a horrible thing.

                For example, here in WA, the state is going to have make some hard choices regarding how public schools are funded because the courts said so. I suspect one of those choices is going to be that all the PS money is going into a giant state pool that will then be equally distributed to all districts. If that comes to pass, I know that there will be a lot of parents that will be upset by this, and worried that their schools will become poorer for it. Except that we have pretty strong evidence that money isn’t much of a determiner of success, at least not compared to parental involvement, so I suspect that there won’t be much degradation of quality at the good schools in WA, since the parents are involved, and will probably be pretty active in holding bake sales & such to help make up any shortfalls (likewise, moving money to really bad schools won’t help much either; I suspect it’ll be the median schools, the ones that could be much better, but need a bit more to get there, that will improve the most).

                Which is a long way of saying sometimes you can do good just by not getting in the way, and encouraging others to not get in the way.Report

            • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Just to be clear, I wasn’t criticizing your post at any point in this thread. Hell, I agree with it, even about myself, as I think I said more than once above. I was just making a general point about Twitter, because it gets a lot of heat here (I don’t think Rose was doing that, but I did use her comment as a launching point).

              You won’t get any heat from me for criticizing liberals. Just ask Saul.Report

            • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:


              It gets awfully easy to know, this isn’t a problem for me, the obvious solution is personally expensive to me (as @rose-woodhouse shows,) so the natural reaction is don’t move, don’t do anything; just shout for somebody else to do something.

              But there is good stuff to do. don’t tweet and retweet the offensive fox commentary, tweet and retweet the amazing piece TNC just posted,

              When I was going to school, I thought about every little article that I wore when I walked out the house. I thought about who I was walking with. I thought about how many of them there were. I thought about what neighborhoods they were from. I thought about which route I was going to take to school. Once I got to school I thought about what I was going to do during the lunch hour—was I actually going to have lunch or was I going to go sit in the library. When school was dismissed I thought about what time I was going to leave school. I thought about whether I should stay after-school for class. I thought about whether I should take the bus up to my grandmother’s house. I thought about which way I should go home if I was going to go home. Every one of those choices was about the avoidance of violence, about the protection of my body. And so I don’t want to come off as if I’m sympathizing or saying that it is necessarily okay, to inflict violence just out of anger, no matter how legitimate that anger is.

              But I have a problem when you begin the clock with the violence on Tuesday. Because the fact of the matter is that the lives of black people in this city, the lives of black people in this country have been violent for a long time. Violence is how enslavement actually happened. People will think of enslavement as like a summer camp, where you just have to work, where you just go and someone gives you food and lodging, but enslavement is violence, it is torture. Torture is how it was made possible. You can’t imagine enslavement without stripping away people’s kids and putting them up for sale. And the way you did that was, you threatened people with violence. Jim Crow was enforced through violence. That was the way things that got done. You didn’t politely ask somebody not to show up and vote. You stood in front of voting booths with guns, that’s what you did. And the state backed this; it was state-backed violence.

              Violence is not even in our past. Violence continues today. I was reading a stat that the neighborhood where the “riots” popped-off earlier this week is in fact the most incarcerated portion of the state of Maryland. And this is not surprising. We live in a country where the incarceration rate is 750 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor is allegedly undemocratic Russia at 400 or 500 per 100,000. China has roughly a billion more people than America; America incarcerates 800,000 more people than China. And as bad as that national incarceration rate is, the incarceration rate for black men is somewhere around 4,000 per 100,000. So if you think the incarceration rate for America is bad, for black America it’s somewhere where there is no real historical parallel.

              This whole be sarcastic about white people talking pisses me off, in no part because all people have a right to talk, and in some major part because white people can, in fact, mic what the people on center stage are saying. The call and repeat of hymns and sermons and OWS are at our service, the internet’s a hard place to hear voices without that passing it along.

              But I also don’t see why we’re not finding and setting up crowd-sourced funding to pay for legal aid to folks like the kid who turned himself in after breaking the window on a cop car, and got slapped with $500,000 bail, and take an interest in these people receiving fair justice, not police-state plunder as we saw revealed in the Ferguson Report.

              Reward the puppy for good behavior. The only requirement is figuring out what good behavior is, and mostly, its seems to make sure the people who’s lives are troubled get heard, and maybe, get some credit for taking steps to solve their own problems. A little support and faith and good credit to nurture their agency.Report

    • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

      Even if all white folk agree with the statement that “agree that black people experience institutional injustices as a matter of course” doesn’t necessarily mean that they will agree to the next part, ” that white people have in some sense created and sustained the current institutional injustices black people experience as a matter of course”, and even then will be motivated to fix things.

      It’s a VERY long road from 1 to 2 and an even longer road to 3. Frankly, you’re going to have to do a lot of explaining to show me, for example, how I contributed to 2.Report

      • Kim in reply to Damon says:

        “that white people have in some sense created and sustained the current institutional injustices black people experience as a matter of course”

        I can cite contemporary court cases if you want… (having to do with mortgage lending, and systemic discrimination against black people.)Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kim says:

          I think you’re missing his point.
          Frankly, an awful lot of people on the Left do this, because they’re so outcome-minded they care little for process.

          I’ll spell this out for you:
          Which one of those court cases you care to show him was he a party to?

          Mow, if you’re going to step into the field of collective responsibility, and attach generational shifts to one single person (on and on again for every single person), then the same has to apply elsewhere.
          That is, if each and every white person is equally responsible for lack of equity in Black America, then what about all the blacks other than Rosa Parks who did, in fact, give up their bus seats?
          Are they not “contributors” to this generational black oppression?
          Are they not equally culpable?

          Here is where I differ completely from Tod (and Still):
          I’m fine with saying, “Here we are now. Let’s fix it!”
          I care not one whit whose fault it is or who’s to blame.
          I see such inquiries at counter-productive, needless micro-introspection, robbing precious energy from productive efforts.
          Well, other than it may mobilize some who actually care to find fault and place blame.
          To me, knowing there’s a problem is enough.

          Further, I believe the benefit of a more just society is self-evident– it doesn’t need to be explained.
          The “What’s in it for me?” part is adequately answered by, “A more just society.”

          Maybe I’m too accustomed to the concept that I am a tribe of one, that I can’t expect for people to give heed or yield consideration.
          But really, unless you buy into the notion of accumulated collective generational responsibility, then you lose people right out of the gate whenever this is given as a basis for mobilization when trying to convey that to people with more of a mind toward personal responsibility.

          I really don’t care what the Borg did three thousand years ago.
          I know I don’t care to be held responsible for their actions.
          I suspect I’m not alone in that.

          But that’s what you’re trying to reason with here:
          A person who doesn’t buy into the basic premise.

          It’s just that I happen to believe your basic premise is wholly unnecessary.Report

  10. Kazzy says:

    Thanks for reminding us how much better you are than us, Tod.

    Okay… Being less obnoxious… I don’t want to say you’re attacking a strawman because people out there are making this argument… Or seem to be if you limit yourself to reading what they post on social media. But most folls recognize there are real structural issues at play.

    Just today I was thinking, “What am I doing about what’s happening in B’more? And elsewhere?” Not much, I realized. But what could I be doing? Protesting would seem insufficient. I identified two parhs: support politicians and legislation that actually addressed the underlying issues AND instill in my kids (biological abd otherwise) an understanding of these issues so that they might grow up and contribute to some pretty major cultural/societal shifts.

    Unfortunately, none of that fits in a Tweet and wouldn’t be worth the digital paper it was written on unless/until I actually do it. So… Yea… This just feels like a bit more signaling to me.Report

  11. zic says:

    OT alumni Jamelle Bouie has something to say about who’s caused Baltimore’s unrest.

    Sounds so like TNC’s take on reparations.Report

    • j r in reply to zic says:

      Good article and good comparison. As such, I have the same set of problems with the JB article that I have with TNC’s reparations case.

      Both include an argument split into two parts:

      1. Much of the present situation of black America is not due to failure to achieve or even benign neglect, but to a system of white supremacy that actively thwarted the individual and collective efforts of blacks in America.

      2. Since these problems are caused by collective and coordinated social actions, only collective and coordinated social actions can solve them. Or as Bouie himself says:

      The simple fact is that major progress in Baltimore—and other, similar cities—requires major investment and major reform from state and federal government. It requires patience, investment, and a national commitment to ending scourges of generational poverty—not just ameliorating them.

      I wholeheartedly agree with the first point, but as one might guess, I don’t buy the second. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the insistence that only holistic, coordinated social action can work is part of the reason that these problems persist to the extent that they do.

      Likewise, I’ve gone on record here as saying that the whole white people need to have an honest conversation about race thing is incredibly boring to me. That’s not to say that there is no value in it. There’s always value in knowing the truth, if only for your own personal development. The whole notion, however, that white people becoming more progressive in their outlook on racism is somehow a necessary or sufficient condition to helping black people mired in systemic poverty or injustice is deeply flawed.Report

      • zic in reply to j r says:

        I’m not sure that race needs to drive much of the discussion, @j-r and when it does, I think it’s often a reason to not do stuff like this.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        The Quest for Increased Profit has achieved more gains in black standard of living than “honest conversations about race”.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        A lot of White Americans were able to escape poverty and enter into the middle classes because of holistic, coordinated social actions. The collective goodies created during the aftermath of World War II to reward returning GIs, set up suburbia, and educate the Baby Boomers were holistic, coordinated social actions that aided White Americans at the expense of African-Americans in many ways. Without these programs, many more whites would be less well off economically and would be still living in the cities rather than suburbia. African-Americans and Hispanic Americans were specifically left in the cities and neglected.

        Many White Americans are still ideologically driven to deny African-Americans any slice of federal goodies if possible. The Medicaid expansion part of the ACA helps people of color more than white Americans. By denying Medicaid expansion, many states are making the poverty faced by many people of color worse. The crusade against the ACA on the right is another way that many people are trying to keep federal goodies for themselves but deny it to those they do not like. Most of the opponents of the ACA are Medicare recipients. They are already getting their single-payer healthcare but seek to deny other people subsidized health insurance.

        I think it is clear that a lot of White Americans are going to do anything in their power to stymie African-American socio-economic advancement at any cost. They will apply harsher punishments and do everything possible to prevent them from receiving social services. It is FYIGM at a national level.Report

        • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:


          That’s all great and it’s all to a certain extent absolutely true, but as the financial services companies are legally compelled to remind you, “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.”

          Just because lots of white folks, and some black folks, were able to move up the economic ladder thanks to a whole host of centrally-directed, post-WW2 economic policies does not mean that those same centrally-directed, top down policies are going to work in a late 20th century/21st century world. Things change, which means that the solutions have to as well.

          If anything, what’s happened is that black folks end up catching the tail end of any wealth creating phenomenon (public sector employment, credit expansion and the housing boom, expanding college enrollment) and get left with a set of benefits not nearly as robust as what they once are plus a set of ever-expanding liabilities.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


        “2. Since these problems are caused by collective and coordinated social actions, only collective and coordinated social actions can solve them.”

        Do you disagree with this statement in isolation? Or the types of collective and coordinated social actions Bouie calls for?

        Cuz I’d argue that taking steps to ensure that black folks are ensured due process, addressing school funding disparities, and ending the drug war qualify as “collective and coordinated social actions” and would help address (though not necessarily solve) the issues identified in 1).

        I mean, to me it seems that the way to address white supremacy is to dismantle white supremacy. In some cases, this means stripping whites of power. In others, it means empowering non-whites. But “empowering” and “enriching” are not necessarily one in the same.Report

  12. Hey, I’m a baby boomer. Everything that’s wrong in the world is my fault.Report

  13. Guy says:

    Thank you. I’ve gotten a little bit sick of everyone not in Baltimore expressing their Deep Feels about what’s been going on here, even when I agree with them. Especially, actually, because it sets off my somewhat hyperactive BS detectors. In general, if you aren’t directly involved in a situation, you have nothing to say, whichever “side” you’d put yourself on. Of course, if someone asks you to speak up, you become involved. Then, and only then, you have cause to develop and propagate an opinion on events not otherwise concerning you.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Guy says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: I don’t believe so.
      In fact, I’m going to go out on another limb here, and say that this argument is total crap.

      But I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that this is a total cop-out, because that’s just too obvious.

      As long as nobody says a damn thing, we’ll all be ok.
      Thank goodness!!
      I’m going to get started on that right away . . .
      (here in just a minute . . . )Report

      • Guy in reply to Will H. says:

        I suppose I did omit one thing here: there are some cases where something can be done (often this thing is giving money to people who are in a better position to act, but that’s not nothing). In such a case, feel free to act. But that’s the thing: you have to act. Telling all your friends that those people over there suck is not action. It’s preening.

        “Look at how awful I think those people are!” is very much distinct from “What do you think about this thing that happened?” It is also distinct from “Remember that this other stuff happened, too, before you dismiss that group.” I’m only interested in condemning the first, which is the one I read Todd to be skewering in the OP. It’s something that you have to notice, but it is there in the posts of the Angry Tweeters and others like them. You can see it clearly in those not in Baltimore who post uncited rants about how terrible the cops (all cops, everywhere) are, or how there never were any protesters, only rioters. I and the anti-cop poster have sympathy for the same set of people, but I have none for the poster themselves. No cookies for tribalism.

        “As long as we all keep talking, the voices of our oppressed friends will be heard.”Report

        • Will H. in reply to Guy says:

          Telling all your friends that those people over there suck is not action. It’s preening.
          I can see that.

          And thank you for not being offended by my previous comment.
          I am aware that sometimes I may come off stronger than intended.Report