I was recently reading a post by Ron Powell

and a post in reaction to it and support of it by Jonathan Wolfman

and I was commenting on Jonathan’s when I realized I had the beginnings of a post. So I took my planned comment, used part of it on his post, and kept the rest to serve as the basis for this post.

Both of the posts above are also available on Open Salon. (This post will appear on both Our Salon and Open Salon, as most of my posts do.)

Ron Powell contends that Black men are not part of America’s social contract or, to be more specific about it, that Black men are subject to the obligations of America’s social contract without having access to the rights and privileges contained in that contract. I might amend that to say “without having automatic access to the rights and privileges…” only because I think some Black men have access some of the time, though I absolutely think that sporadic access is blatantly inadequate. So, is Ron right?

In looking at the reactions I saw to recent cases where unarmed Black males were killed in acts involving at least attempted law enforcement (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner), I noticed an odd common denominator:

In spite of the overwhelming evidence that Blacks as a group suffer from a series of structural disadvantages in the United States, there is a large number of people (and an entire national broadcast network) whose first reaction upon encountering evidence of racism that discernably damages people is to deny it rather than question it. They're not wondering: “Is there racism here?” They're not saying: “If there's racism in the system, we ought to find it and root it out.”  They assume, automatically, that it's bogus. In essence, they are saying (and I'm using the example of a particular person here to represent a wider phenomenon) that because Tawana Brawley lied to Rev. Sharpton decades ago, anything that Sharpton endorses should be considered a lie until proven otherwise. So, step one when noticing racism is, to a large population: “We assume you're lying.” Given what I've seen, let's just say that I don't start from that assumption.

Now, if I report a crime to the police, they're likely to ask me a whole lot of questions but they're unlikely to assume I'm there to pull the wool over their eyes and use them to take advantage of someone else. And maybe that's the problem: Maybe the issue is who gets the benefit of the doubt and who doesn't.

A man not accused of a violent crime (or a major crime of any kind) who does not get violent and does not threaten anyone gets taken down, cuffed, strangled (blatantly against police regulations) while cuffed (so he's not exactly a danger, not that he was to begin with) and while begging for air, left unconscious on the ground while not being tended to by EMT's who are present, and dies, and the strangling cop is not indicted in spite of the fact that all this is on video. And we hear:

  • We need evidence that the cop had a racist history to make any assumptions about race. (Actually, yes, there have been complaints against him before for that.)


  • Garner should have done exactly what the cops said or he had this coming. (Death?? He had Death coming for not being completely submissive in a case involving selling loose cigarettes while unarmed?)


  • Garner did not have a clean record. (Uh, neither did Ofc. Pantaleo, but his record is beside the point - no one, even someone with a record, should be strangled to death under any circumstances, but particularly while cuffed and while not either being violent or threatening violence).


  • Garner died because of his own bad general health and not taking care of himself. (Uh, the coroner ruled it a homicide. Let me repeat that: the coroner ruled it a homicide.)


  • The use of a chokehold was not literally illegal, just against police policy. (Is this your idea of excusing the use of the chokehold?)

Look at this list. I have come across every one of these objections. In all cases, the benefit of the doubt is exactly what Garner doesn't get at any point.

Why not?

Maybe this is what Ron means. There is a population who, from a large part of America's White population, doesn't ever start out with the benefit of the doubt.

If that's what he means, then Yes, he's right.

Views: 69

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 10, 2014 at 12:26pm

What's salient for me is that in each American era the pattern rears up on its beastial legs and kicks again. 

Comment by Poor Woman on December 10, 2014 at 12:28pm

Kosh: As you've probably already ascertained, there is a mess of error code messages now at Open.

Here, at L's, I can no longer "Like" posts

So that leaves me with only one option, and that is to leave a comment and hope you'll swing back by for long enough to note it's here.

I could not agree with you more. NOBODY merely selling cigarettes  illegally deserves to die via choke hold, ever. The fact that he was also cuffed at the time is another reason to never trust completely what law personnel will say and/or believe. Stuff like this used to be a lot more common, way back when. How did we think we've come far enough? As yet, I can only see partial progress.

Peace to you

Comment by koshersalaami on December 10, 2014 at 12:35pm

Thank you both. I've also noticed I can't Like, so I get that I can't be Liked either. I don't know what's going on. Maybe we ought to say something to Lorrianne. 

Comment by nerd cred on December 10, 2014 at 12:36pm

And Garner said he wasn't selling cigarettes, I think a witness did, too, only the cop said he was. Why believe the cop and not him? The cops record was worse than Garners, wasn't it?

Comment by Poor Woman on December 10, 2014 at 12:48pm

We CAN "Like" but differently

Quite by accident, i've discovered there is a way. Now, if I wish to Like apost I've read, I simply need to find it on our front page and click on the heart symbol. You now have a Like from me!

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 10, 2014 at 12:55pm

ty pw!

Comment by Poor Woman on December 10, 2014 at 1:07pm

yw, JW!

Comment by Ron Powell on December 10, 2014 at 1:16pm

"Equal justice under law"; "Innocent until proven guilty"; "Benefit of the doubt"; etcetera ....

When have these legal and social precepts ever applied to black people in America?
Comment by koshersalaami on December 10, 2014 at 1:24pm
Ron, the link to your post is already in my post.
Comment by nerd cred on December 10, 2014 at 6:01pm

A woman called in to the local liberal AM station this afternoon. She sounded elderlyish, she said she was African American.

She said it doesn't bother her at all to see the n-word splashed around.

Whaaaa? Say the white talkers.

She said she was used to abuse, doesn't expect respect from the white world so no big deal.

Over-thinking can stop now.


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