I’ve spent a lot of time on Open Salon and some on Our Salon talking about racism since the failure in Ferguson to indict but especially since the failure to indict in Eric Garner’s killing in Staten Island. There has been an unusual amount of dialogue coming from an unusual number of directions about racism. This may be the best series of discussions on the topic I’ve ever seen on OS, and that includes the discussions following the Trayvon Martin killing.
There are some very different threads. I'm going to post separately on two of them, so in that respect this post is Part One.
The most extreme thread reminds me of a flippant theory I’ve had for years about Ann Coulter.
My theory, and please remember that it isn’t serious, is that her original intention was to do pretty much what Stephen Colbert does – comedy by pretending to be a conservative. (And, by the way, if I were by some strange chance to prove to be right, she will be remembered as an almost unparalleled comic genius.) I figured she started out as a sort of cross between Colbert and Andy Kaufman, being realistic in some ways but past realistic in others, and that her audience would catch on if she exaggerated enough to make catching on unavoidable. And so, she'd write book titles about how liberals were guilty of treason and stuff. But she ran into a couple of obstacles. One is that the people who treated her as serious were both giving her a good living and being nice to her, picking her up at the airport and buying her books and befriending her, and she began to regret playing them for fools. The second thing, the one that's germane here, is that she found she couldn't exaggerate enough for them to catch on - as much as she escalated, they believed. She couldn’t get over the top. She could write a book about how we should round up liberals, chop us into bite-sized pieces and start a cottage industry to save our economy consisting of selling those pieces as cat food, and people would say Amen! There was never a Too Much, and that trapped her into being a conservative pundit.
That's how I feel about getting people to acknowledge racism lately. The events keep escalating, each wilder than the last, and you figure:
OK, they have to finally admit racism on This One. I mean, seriously, How Could You Not?
We start in Ferguson where an unarmed Black teenager gets shot to death. In spite of the fact that there are conflicting reports, the local DA goes out of his way to convene a grand jury in order Not to indict. We can tell this because when he addressed the public, he sounded like a defense attorney for the police. Regardless of what happened on the street, the grand jury process was clearly abused – you convene those when you think you have the grounds to indict. If you don’t, don’t convene one.
But there were still ambiguities. It seems there are always ambiguities. There were people who claimed ambiguities in the Beavercreek case, where a father with his kids in a store is fooling around with a toy gun near the toy gun bin, talking to his wife on the phone, and a cop comes in and shoots him. Not too many ambiguities here, but the possibility exists that cops thinking the gun was real could shoot him in the name of public safety, not that anyone can point at cases like that that have happened to White people in America, because data indicate that with White suspects there is less of a police tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, which is one of our major issues.
But then came the Eric Garner case. This one was slam-dunk. An unarmed man accused of a minor non-violent crime does not get violent and does not threaten violence. He is wrestled to the ground, cuffed, then, using a chokehold that is blatantly against police policy, slowly strangled, saying over and over that he can’t breathe, passing out, left unconscious on the ground by police and EMT’s, then he dies, at which point the coroner rules his death a homicide,
the entire thing is on video,
the cop in question has been subject to complaints about racist treatment before,
and the local grand jury still doesn’t indict.
Can I finally get an Amen?
No, I can’t.
The cop didn’t say anything racist on the scene, and the suspect had the unbelievable temerity to jerk his hands away and shout “Leave me alone!” when the cops tried to cuff him, so He Had It Coming.
Lezlie recently posted an article and video about an arrest in Bloomfield, NJ. In this case, the Black suspect is not killed, the cops actually are indicted, though the suspect almost spent several years in jail, saved when his attorney managed to get previously withheld police video of the event. Here is the link:
If you go to this link, just ask yourself one question:
What did the suspect do wrong in order to bring this on himself?
In this case, unlike in the others, the problem was on the police level but not in the DA’s office. That’s why the suspect is free now. In many of the cases we’ve seen recently, the problem is in both.
But at what point are those who deny racism going to say: “OK, you’re right, we’re seeing it and we should address it directly?” What would it take? At what point are events actually going to go over the top, past the point of denial?
I'm figuring in about six months if current trends continue we're going to have a case where a fifteen year old Black honor student is going to be gunned down in his classroom for picking up a dangerous looking pencil by a cop sporting an "I Am A Racist" button on his uniform. The DA and the grand jury are going to convene in Klan robes except for one guy who has a swastika tatooed on his cheek. And guys on Fox are going to be saying:
"The swastika is actually an Indian symbol. How do we know he meant Nazi?"
Our mistake is in assuming that denial is based on evidence. I don't think denial has anything to do with evidence, I think it has to do with policy.
We keep upping the ante, and it doesn't matter. It's never enough. Garner should have been over the top.
The problem is that there is no “over the top” because there is no top.
Denial isn't based on evidence at all. Evidence, where available, is just an excuse. As long as that’s true, we’re misdiagnosing the problem.