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“Cop Killers Serve No Cause”: It’s Getting To The Point Where No Lives Matter

How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 21, 2016

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Law Enforcement, Police Brutality, Police Shootings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Drifting, Angry America”: America Has Gone Mad And There’s No Place To Hide

“What sort of people are we, we Americans? … Today, we are the most frightening people on this planet.” — Historian Arthur Schlesinger

As these words are written, I am on a cruise ship pulling into the harbor of the Greek island of Crete. All around me, the morning sparkles. The water is placid, the sky is clear and pale blue, our ship is embraced by gently sloping hills dotted with houses and shops.

And I just turned on the television.

And I just heard about Dallas.

I have made it a point to keep the news at something of a distance these last two weeks of travel, filling my days instead with shell craters on a beach in Normandy, a shopping square in Barcelona, the ghostly remains of Pompeii. So while I know that two African-American men were killed by police under dubious circumstances in Louisiana and Minnesota a couple days ago, I haven’t seen the videos, haven’t checked too deeply into the circumstances.

I’m off the clock now. I wanted to keep the horror at arm’s length.

But distance is an illusion, isn’t it? That’s what I just learned when I made the mistake of turning on the television.

Indeed, sitting here in this picturesque place on this peaceful morning far away, it feels as if I can see the madness of my country even more clearly than usual.

Two more black men shot down for no good reason in a country that still insists — with righteous indignation, yet — upon equating black men with danger.

That’s madness.

Last night, I called my sons and grandson to tell them I love them, explain to them yet again that they terrorize people simply by being and plead with them to be careful. I am required to fear what might happen to my children when they encounter those who are supposed to serve and protect them.

That’s madness.

Eleven police officers shot by sniper fire, five fatally, while guarding a peaceful demonstration against police brutality.

That’s madness.

The usual loud voices of acrimony and confusion are already using this act of despicable evil to delegitimize legitimate protest by conflating it with terrorism, asking us to believe that speaking out against bad cops is the same as shooting cops indiscriminately.

That is madness.

And then, there was this coda: A black man, a “person of interest” turns himself in to police after carrying an AR-15 rifle through the protest in downtown Dallas.

An AR-15.

Through downtown Dallas.

As police are dealing with an active shooter.

Apparently, the guy was not guilty of a crime, but he is certainly guilty of the worst judgment imaginable — and lucky to be alive. But then, in carrying that war weapon on a city street, he was only exercising his legal right under Texas law. The NRA calls that freedom.

But make no mistake: It, too, is madness.

America has gone mad before.

The quote at the top is from one such period, 1968. Hundreds of urban riots had wracked the country, the war in Vietnam was uselessly grinding up lives, recent years had seen the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Now, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had just been murdered within two months of one another.

And many people were wondering, as Arthur Schlesinger was, about America and its character, about what kind of country — and people — we were. Said New York Mayor John Lindsay, “This is a drifting, angry America that needs to find its way again.”

His words, like Schlesinger’s, feel freshly relevant to this era, almost 50 years down the line.

There is a sickness afoot in our country, my friends, a putrefaction of the soul, a rottenness in the spirit. Consider our politics. Consider the way we talk about one another — and to one another. Consider those two dead black men. Consider those five massacred cops.

Deny it if you can. I sure can’t. Something is wrong with us. And I don’t mind telling you that I fear for my country.

On the night Martin Luther King died, two months almost to the day before he himself would be shot down in a hotel kitchen, Bobby Kennedy faced a grief-stricken, largely African-American crowd in Indianapolis and with extemporaneous eloquence, prescribed a cure for the sickness he saw.

“My favorite poet,” he told them, “was Aeschylus. And he once wrote, ‘And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.’ What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer in our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

Those words feel hopelessly idealistic, impossibly innocent and yet, wise, grace-filled and … right for the raw pain of this moment I commend them to all our wounded spirits on this shining morning from a peaceful place that, as it turns out, is not nearly far enough away.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Americans, Black Men, Gun Violence, Police Shootings | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Do Cops See Guns That Aren’t There?”: Our Perception Is Driven By Our Biases

It happens with disturbing regularity. Police shoot someone who is unarmed, all too often a black male. And as the officer recounts their version of what happened, they frequently repeat the same phrase: “I thought he was armed.”

It’s impossible to say exactly what the officer perceived and the visual information their brain used to determine a person was armed. Far from acting like reliable, high-definition cameras, our vision is actually rather imperfect, transmitting only bits and pieces of the whole picture and leaving the rest for our brain to fill in. And in high-stress situations, says a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, our brains prioritize the processing of coarse features rather than the fine details that would enable someone to tell the difference between a real gun and a cellphone, can of soda, or even a toy gun.

“How stressed we are affects how we perceive,” said Karin Roelofs, a neuropsychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and senior author of the new study.

All students in Introductory Psychology classes learn about the fight-or-flight response and how, when an animal perceives a threat, it prepares to take a stand or run away. There’s also a third option, in which the animal freezes in place. It’s the deer-in-headlights phenomenon and serves to protect the animal from predators that often hunt by detecting movement. In dangerous situations, humans will freeze, too, our nervous systems governed by the same hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Animals use the time while “frozen” to take in information about their surroundings and make the decision whether to fight or run.

Scientists generally believed that freezing behavior heightened sensory perception, but no one had actually measured this in the lab. What Roelofs and her team wanted to know was how feeling threatened and the subsequent freezing behavior altered visual perception in humans. She recruited 34 healthy young adults to complete a task that asked them to judge whether a series of lines were horizontal or vertical. Some of the options contained a few, large lines, which simulated coarse information, whereas others contained many thinner lines to simulate fine detail.

But there was a catch. Roelofs also intermittently displayed a red or a green dot. Occasionally, the red dot was followed by a mild electric shock that was unpleasant but not painful or dangerous. The sight of the red dot elicited freezing behavior. When Roelofs and colleagues measured how well the subjects did, they found that the stressed and fearful conditions improved their abilities on the low-detail images but hampered their judgement on the high-detail images.

“The brain is always making predictions about what we see. It’s generally more important to know if something’s there than what it is,” Roelofs said.

These and other studies help to underline the close links between emotion and perception.

The brain has certain templates that help us predict what to expect, says Aprajita Mohanty, a psychologist at Stony Brook University. If you’re driving on snow, you instinctively look out for icy patches. If you see a black person, years of growing up in a prejudiced culture may make you assume they are armed and dangerous. “Your brain is never really walking into a situation blind,” she said.

However, Roelofs cautions that her study took place under controlled lab conditions, which makes it difficult to say exactly how these results might apply to the real world, where tense situations often require split-second decisions. Other studies provide some detail that provides clues about how the brain makes rapid decisions while under stress, such as when a cop pulls a gun on a civilian.

Racial bias is everywhere in America, and police are no more immune than anyone else. Social neuroscientist Daniel Amodio of New York University has spent his career studying how thoughts and emotions, including stereotypes, affect perception and behavior.

One of his studies asked a racially diverse group of individuals from different countries around the world to play a computer game in which they were the police officer and had to decide whether the person on screen was armed and whether to shoot them. Regardless of the ethnicity of the participant, the Americans were far more likely to shoot African Americans, regardless of whether or not they were armed.

When Amodio and his team tracked the eye movements of the participants to see what they were looking at, he found that people always looked at the face of the person on the screen before they shifted their gaze to the object they were carrying. The problem was that they had made the decision about whether or not to shoot before they turned their attention to the object to determine whether it was a gun or something non-threatening. Other of his social neuroscience studies show that people often show decreased neural processing of faces from different racial or ethnic groups, meaning that people see them as being, in some ways, less human.

“If you’re under stress and need to act quickly, you tend to rely on mental shortcuts” such as prejudice and stereotypes, Amodio said. “If someone is amped up and afraid because there might be a shooter and they see a kid, like with what happened with Tamir Rice, they say that when I drove up, I saw a man who looked to be armed. In the split second it took for the officer to drive up and shoot, it’s quite possible that all of these instincts lead to that decision.”

This isn’t to say that the appropriate response to these shootings is a defense of “my brain made me do it.” Rather, the goal of his work, Amodio says, is to try to counter these prejudices and understand how people make these snap decisions to provide better training to police officers. Racial bias plays a key role because it’s the raw material from which the brain fills in our perceptual gaps.

“We need to raise awareness of how bias might affect what police officers see,” Amodio says.

To Mohanty, our perception is driven by our biases. “There is no such thing as true perception,” she said. “Modifying our beliefs can change how we perceive.

 

By: Carrie Arnold, The Daily Beast, January 22, 2015

 

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Black Men, Police Shootings, Racial Bias | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Do We Humanize White Guys Who Kill People?”: We Live In A World Made For And Shaped Around White Men

On Friday, November 27, a 57-year-old white man named Robert Louis Dear allegedly injured nine people and killed three in a shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Among those shot were four police officers, one of whom died. As several media outlets and many on social media noted, Dear was given the opportunity to surrender peacefully, just like convicted mass shooter James Holmes, and alleged Charleston mass shooter Dylann Roof, both of whom are white, and very much unlike the black men, many of them unarmed and not engaged in criminal activity, who nonetheless have been shot and killed by law enforcement in just the past couple of years: Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, John Crawford III, Freddie Gray, Rumain Brisbon, Walter Scott, Eric Harris …

By Monday, reporters had begun to gather information on Dear’s past, including allegations of assault, rape, animal cruelty, and being a peeping tom. A Washington Post story detailed at least eight episodes in which Dear “had disputes or physical altercations with neighbors or other residents.” Yet the headline of the Post story practically conveyed a kind of tenderness, with its description of Dear as “adrift and alienated.” An early version of a New York Times report went further, leading with a description of the shooter as “a gentle loner who occasionally unleashed violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.” The Times, which has since produced some of the best and most thorough reporting on Dear, soon changed the careless wording of its initial story.

But what the earliest attitudes toward a man who allegedly sprayed bullets into 12 people — people who were parents, cops, friends, husbands, wives, Iraq War veterans — show us is the reflexive sympathy, interest, and dignity that we as a nation, our law enforcement and our media, are capable of extending even to those who commit monstrous acts.

Provided that those monstrous actors are white men.

It is, of course, correct and just that Colorado Springs officers made such efforts to take Robert Dear alive. It’s also perfectly humane to acknowledge that individuals are capable of containing troubling contradictions: that even criminally aggressive people may be lonely. But the notion that we might understand a person with the capacity for violence to also have the capacity for gentleness is downright laughable set against the contemporary backdrop of state violence committed against black men. An ability to consider Robert Louis Dear as a complex and compelling figure, one whose motivations might be worthy of our curiosity, highlights our lack of curiosity about, and certainly our lack of compassion for, all kinds of nonwhite, non-male figures who might themselves be adrift or alienated.

Robert Louis Dear’s alleged murder spree happened, after all, in the same week that protesters marched in response to the release of video that showed Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black teenager, walking down the middle of a Chicago street, at a slow pace and a solid distance from police, nevertheless getting shot to death by those cops. McDonald was spared so little sympathetic acknowledgment that, as is plain on the video, he lay dying without a single officer approaching him to offer help or comfort. His life, his nature, his very humanity was accorded so little value that it took over a year for his death, by 16 bullets, to be treated as a murder by authorities. Here is what I have read about Laquan McDonald: He had PCP in his system and was carrying a three-inch knife at the time of his killing.

It’s a stark contrast that plays out all around us, the horrifying product of a culture, of a media, and of social, economic, and political structures that teach us to value white men more than any other kind of human beings. White men are our norm; we are told practically from birth, via the books we’re read and the television we watch and the history we learn, that their existence stands in for human existence. White men’s contradictions, priorities, and personalities are sifted, sorted, nudged at, explored, described. They’re the figures that drive our fictions and our facts. We are shown regularly their strengths, their failings, their flaws, their complexities, the full range of their humanity. Other kinds of people may exist around them, as subsidiary characters, but the status of these others is secondary, their internal dimensions compressed and more swiftly caricatured.

To be sure, white men may be charged, tried and convicted; they may be regarded as brutish criminals. But they can be simultaneously understood as human beings, driven by conflicting emotions, able — even in their criminality — to have experienced loss and confusion and anger and love, emotions we do not imaginatively afford America’s poor and black, the men and women who often find their way into our news cycles simply by having the audacity to live in a world that was not built for and around them.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Recall earlier this summer, when Roof, the 21-year-old white man charged with killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, was arrested after fleeing the scene. Cops described him at the time of capture as “very quiet, very calm … not problematic.” Roof told the cops he was hungry, so they bought him lunch at Burger King.

Which, I hasten to add, is the humane and correct way to treat a prisoner. But it’s not the way most people who have run-ins with law enforcement are treated.

In the same month that Roof quietly ate his Burger King after killing nine people, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton attended a Texas pool party and got into a fight after some white kids reportedly told a black girl to “go back … to Section 8” housing. When white cop Eric Casebolt arrived on the scene, he slammed Becton to the pavement, grabbing her violently by her braids. Later reports helped us understand that Casebolt had been particularly stressed that day, having already attended to two suicide calls. But Becton, the black teenager, was described by Fox News host Megyn Kelly as “no saint,” for having not obeyed the officer. There was little curiosity about Becton’s experience of having been held roughly by her hair while wearing only a bathing suit, just the pressing question about white-male psychology: What could this one-dimensional black girl have done to make the multidimensional white man react in the way that he did?

It goes on and on: After 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, the New York Times famously asserted that the teenager was “no angel.” After 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray died from spinal injuries after having been arrested, dragged roughly into a van, and driven around the city without a seatbelt by Baltimore police, CNN described him, stunningly, as “the son of an illiterate heroin addict” and “a symbol of the black community’s distrust of the police.” Curiosity about this man extended only to his relationship to things Americans recognize as deviant — illiteracy and addiction — and to his usefulness as a symbol, not as a full human being whose life was lost and mourned by family or friends. When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by cops while playing with a toy gun, he and his family were regarded as so far from discernibly human that when his 14-year-old sister ran to help him as he bled, cops forced her to the ground, cuffed her, and placed her in a police car.

And these are not, of course, unusual examples. In a 2014 study that has now been cited often, researchers found that police officers were more likely to dehumanize black boys and men, to see them as older and more dangerous than they are, and to confer on white young men a presumption of innocence. These dynamics persist well beyond instances of violence, as we struggle to find the humanity in some kinds of people, while easily dismissing others.

We learned an awful lot about the childhood of white Colorado-movie-theater shooter James Holmes, in part because he was arrested and brought to trial. During that trial, we learned that Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70 during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, called his mother “Goober” and his father “Bobbo” as a child. One (very compelling) Los Angeles Times story about Holmes’s devastated parents evoked their horror at watching the trial of “their awkward little boy turned murderous man.”

This kind of reporting is not bad; it is crucial that we explore the psychological development of human beings who turn violent, as well as those who are felled by and affected by violence. The urge to tell their stories, to try to make sense of their paths is natural.

What’s wrong is our failure to give equal time, energy, emotional and narrative consideration to the experiences of those figures who are not white and male. Why might Dajerria Becton not have listened to the cop? What had her morning been like? Besides being the son of an illiterate heroin addict, who was Freddie Gray? A CNN story attempting to answer that question made sure to note his long rap sheet before getting to a few confirming details about a brother lost to street violence and the lead poisoning he and his siblings suffered as children. It did not address the possibilities that Gray might have felt alienated, adrift, that he might have been gentle, stressed, or hungry.

Race, in combination with class, is especially powerful at removing certain kinds of people from the scope of our empathy and interest, but gender can perform the same trick. Recall the time that the New York Times covered the gang rape of an 11-year-old Texas girl by a group of teenaged boys, and reflected the wonder of residents at how “their young men [could] have been drawn into such an act,” also taking care to quote some neighbors fretting about how the accused boys would “have to live with this for the rest of their lives.” The 11-year-old girl was depicted as having invited these young men to go astray: She wore makeup and dressed older than her age. “Where was her mother?” some local residents wondered about another subsidiary female, whose indirect actions surely also got these boys into trouble.

In the abortion debate, too, women are simply not central to some American estimations of humanity, so much so that feminists have long posed the rhetorical question: Are Women Human? Take Marco Rubio speaking about how “you’ll recognize [a fetus] as a human being” at five months gestation, while not recognizing women who have been raped or experienced incest as human enough to be allowed to access abortion services. At least he hasn’t gone as far as some of his Republican colleagues, who have shown little shame in recent years about comparing women to cows, pigs, and chickens or to caterpillars.

It’s not that white men themselves are always the ones placing higher value on the white-male experience. It’s that all of us — women and people of color and every sort of non-white-male variant — work and read and think and talk within a system that measures worth on a white-male scale. This is how, as of this summer, more than a third of 2015’s top-grossing films had not managed to pass the Bechdel test, which means that they did not include more than two female characters with names, talking to each other about something other than men. It’s actually a pretty low bar for acknowledging humanity in female characters, and more than a third of this year’s hit movies did not clear it.

This is what writer Claire Vaye Watkins was getting at in her recent, widely read essay in the literary magazine Tin House. In it, she writes about writer and Rumpus editor Stephen Elliott, whom she hosted when she was an MFA student. She describes her horror at discovering that after his visit, Elliott had publicly described one of her male peers by his full name, acknowledging his writing, his forthcoming book, his teaching career, and his children, all while referring to Watkins — also a writer, with an agent and book in the works — only by her first name, as a student with “a big, comfortable bed” who had turned down his advances.

As Watkins notes in her essay, “professional sexism via artistic infantalization is a bummer … distinct and apart from those violent expressions of misogyny widely agreed upon as horrific: domestic violence, sex slavery, rape.” But, she went on, “sexist negation, a refusal to acknowledge a female writer as a writer, as a peer, as a person, is of a piece with sexual entitlement … more than of a piece, it is practically a prerequisite … You cannot beat the mother of your children, or rape your childhood friend while she’s unconscious, or walk up to a sorority outside Santa Barbara and start shooting without first convincing yourself and allowing our culture to convince you that those women are less than human.”

This point, made so sharply by Watkins, is a serious argument for why — even in this season of gibbering about over-the-top political correctness — we must acknowledge the real costs of small injuries perpetrated by institutions and pop culture, simply by continuing to put white men at life’s fulcrum. This is why even the stuff that feels worlds away from police violence and abortion-clinic shootings matters. It’s why it matters when a white male actor talks over a successful black female filmmaker, explaining diversity to her. It’s why it matters when a newspaper prints an obituary of a pioneering female rocket scientist that kicks off with the fact that she made a “mean beef stroganoff,” followed her husband, and was a great mom to her son, all before mentioning that she had also “invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.”

It matters because it shows us all the ways in which we live in a world made for and shaped around white men. And in aggregate, when the statues are of white men, the buildings and cities and bridges and schools are named after white men, the companies are run by white men and the movie stars are white men and the television shows are about white men and the celebrated authors are white men, the only humanity that is presented as comprehensible — the kind that succeeds and fails, that comprises strength and weakness, that feels love and anger and alienation and fear, that embodies nuance and contradiction, that can be heroic and villainous, abusive and gentle — is the humanity of white men. The repercussions of this kind of thinking? Well, maybe they explain some of what we see on the evening news.

 

By: Rebecca Traister, New York Magazine, December 2, 2015

December 10, 2015 Posted by | Black Men, Law Enforcement, Police Shootings, White Men | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Official Reports Usually Side With Police Officers”: Sorry, But It’s Going To Take A Hell Of A Lot More Than An “Official Report”

One day in April of 1880, a cadet named Johnson Whittaker was found unconscious in his room at West Point.

Whittaker, who was African American, had been gagged and beaten, tied to his bed and slashed on the face and hands. He said three white cadets had assaulted him. West Point investigated. Its official conclusion was that Whittaker did these things to himself.

He didn’t, should that need saying, but I offer the story by way of framing a reply to some readers. They wanted my response to news that outside investigators have concluded a Cleveland police officer acted responsibly last year when he shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black kid who had been playing with a toy gun. Specifically, the local DA released two separate reports Saturday from two experts on police use of force. Both said Officer Timothy Loehmann’s decision to open fire on the boy was reasonable.

As one reader put it: “What say you???”

I say a few things, actually. In the first place, I say this is not an exoneration. That question is still up to the grand jury, though it’s fair to suspect these reports might be a means of preparing the ground for a similar finding from that panel.

In the second place, I say these reports sought to answer a relatively narrow question: Was Loehmann justified in shooting once the police car had skidded to a stop within a few feet of the boy? They left aside the larger question of the tactical wisdom of pulling up so close to someone you believed to be armed and dangerous in the first place.

And in the third place, I say this:

Forgive me if I am not impressed by an official report. The experience of being African American has taught me to be skeptical of official reports. As an official matter, after all, Johnson Whittaker beat, bound, gagged and slashed himself. As an official matter, no one knows who lynched thousands of black men and women in the Jim Crow era, even though the perpetrators took pictures with their handiwork. As an official matter, the officers who nearly killed Rodney King while he crawled on the ground committed no crime. As an official matter, George Zimmerman is innocent of murder. For that matter, O.J. Simpson is, too.

I am all too aware of the moral and cognitive trapdoor you dance upon when you give yourself permission to pick and choose which “official” findings to believe. And yes, you’re right: I’d be much less skeptical of officialdom had these reports condemned Officer Loehmann.

What can I say? A lifetime of color-coded, thumb-on-the-scale American “justice” has left me little option but to sift and fend for myself where “official” findings are concerned. Indeed, the only reason I was willing to give credence to a report exonerating Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown is that it came from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, i.e., a Justice Department that gave at least the impression of caring about the civil rights of black people.

Sadly, most prosecutors don’t give that impression. And that failure colors these findings irrevocably.

Last November, two police officers responded to a call of someone brandishing a gun in a park. Rather than position themselves at a safe distance and try to establish contact, as would have seemed prudent, they screeched onto the scene like Batman and came out shooting. Tamir Rice, a boy who had been playing with a toy firearm, lay dying for four long minutes without either officer offering first aid. When his 14-year-old sister ran up and tried to help her little brother, they shoved her down and handcuffed her.

And I’m supposed to believe they acted reasonably because an official report says they did?

Sorry, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than that.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, October 14, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Police Brutality, Police Shootings, Tamir Rice | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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