People who support the cops in this case, almost universally get key facts wrong, AND they make justifications for the shooting that-well, aren't good reasons someone should be killed.
Why do people get so many facts wrong? The media hasn't done a good job of reporting all of the facts of the case clearly, the case is a bit complicated, and people who think this incident is justified are probably more likely to believe most things police do are justified anyway (particularly when those things are only happening to people of color). Not surprisingly, the things that were omitted or under reported in the case lean towards a cop friendly, if murky, view of events and I don't think that is a coincidence.
In my view, most of these stupid arguments are thinly veiled covers for racist beliefs. The racist beliefs I speak of have a line of logic that connects Blackness (or Browness) to criminality. There is the conservative version of this logic: They're all criminals anyway, if one of 'em gets killed by accident, thats what happens when you send in the good guys to tame the savages. Then there is it's liberal cousin: In high crime areas the police simply have to be more aggressive and these incidents, though unfortunate, are part of the price we (read: People of color) pay for making the city safe for everyone (read: Not People of color).
Just to be clear, I think that for the first time in my life, MOST white people have found a case of police brutality that shocks the senses enough to think excessive force was used in this case. However, because there are black officers in the case, some have expressed the feeling that it simply cannot be about race. This view, a widely held misconception about the nature of racism, has manifested itself often enough that I will have to devote another post (or blog!) to address this properly.
Here are the major stupid arguments.
Stupid argument 1: What were they (Sean Bell & co.) doing at a bad Bar, loaded with criminals, drugs, and prostitutes?
Response: Uh, having fun at a bachelor party, which may have included getting a blowjob or worse *gasp* intercourse? Lets put it like this, if paying for a blowjob were grounds enough to be murdered (by the police no less), Eliot Spitzer would be dead and a sizeable portion of the rethuglican party wouldn't be around either, albeit for blowjobs given to male prostitutes, but who's counting? The people who make SA1, couldnt possibly believe this, I think these arguments are thrown out to cover for their racist belief in dangerous black men, and the need to tame them at all costs. "They shouldn't have been there in the first place" is not a justifiable reason for people to be shot and murdered and anyone with good sense knows it.
Stupid argument 2: Some variation of "the police have a difficult and dangerous job" and that when they kill people we should accept it because their job is so hard.
Response: If they cannot handle the responsibility that comes with walking around with a gun, stepping into conflicts, and risking their lives, DONT FUCKING SIGN UP!!!! Its quite simple, there is no draft, and none of these men or women were forced into this profession. The fact that you have a difficult job with tough life-or-death decisions to make, is something you choose when you join the academy. Growing up in a poor community is very tough too. Its tough not to fall victim to the allure of gangs, drugs, or various other criminal lifestyles, YET, the police don't take that into consideration when policing those neighborhoods, and the courts dont take it into consideration when sentencing those who fell victim to the gravitational pull of the streets. Your job is tough, but you chose it, if you dont like it, choose something else; (if only it were so easy for the ghetto child his/her way out). Don't do your job haphazardly and expect sympathy because its difficult. I acknowledge the job is hard, but I dont accept the difficulty of your job as an excuse to take away my life. And lets be clear, I am Sean Bell in so many ways that this shit enrages me and frightens me at the same time.
Stupid Argument 3: But they thought they saw someone reach for a gun thats why they fired.
Response: Funny how that always happens isn't it? Let me tell you a story about fear. When I was 12, I rode the train scared to death because at the time a youth gang called 'the Decepticons' were running wild in the city, and the horror stories were swirling like vultures over the death of my innocence. In my pre-teen mind they were the equivalent of a South American death squad (funded by the USA of course). Against this backdrop a real tough looking dude walks onto the train, I look at his hand go in his bag and come out with a gun. As it turns out, it was a $5 dollar umbrella, not a gun, but I almost died of a heart attack before I realized it. Fear can make you see things that aren't there. I was 12, and I was shook. If you are a cop whose fear causes you to assume that every black man's gesture is a possible move for a weapon, you pose a threat to public safety and have no business walking around with a gun. It is ok to be afraid of people and situations, but it is not ok to kill people because you are afraid and if you are that afraid then policing was a bad career move for you and is downright hazardous for people who look like me.
Respone 2: Now I'm wondering what exactly does a reach for a gun look like? How is it different from a reach for a cell phone, or a wallet? Do the police undergo special reach training where they can interpret the various objects that a person is reaching for before the object is revealed? Obviously there is no way to tell what someone is reaching for, so when the police say they thought someone was reaching for a gun, they are imagining things, they are adding variables into an equation that are not there. You should not be able to kill someone because you think they are reaching for something that is not there. This reaching for a gun argument needs to be put to rest. Unless you can see a gun, or someone tells you they are reaching for a gun, or you KNOW someone has a gun, you have absolutely no way to tell if someone is reaching for a gun or not. More importantly, in this case, I do not believe anyone was reaching for anything. We know there was no gun, not "no gun was found" as all of the papers say, there was NO FUCKING GUN! I believe it was an excuse made up after the fact, to justify the shooting. This reaching for a gun argument is the police version of the favored excuse among homicide defendants 'the gun just went off'.
The police are supposed to risk their lives to save ours, not risk our lives to save yours. That means that even if he was reaching for something, you already have a gun drawn and aimed, you have the drop, and that should give you enough time to determine if what said person was reaching for was a gun or not. Dont police train for this type of thing?!?! Yes they do, but as I said, there was no gun and no plausible explanation for why anyone would be reaching for anything .
Stupid Argument 4: All of the victims had prior criminal convictions.
Response: Its difficult for me to address such an asinine argument without getting upset. What exactly does what someone did in the past, have to do with why they were shot? First, the police did not know any of this about the victims unless they were wearing their rap sheets on their heads. Second, the people who make these kinds of arguments seek to blame the victims and lessen the value of their humanity, something that most Americans do automatically when the victims are young black males anyway. This is one of many arguments that stupid people use to blame the victims for being shot. Ironically, these same people are outraged when someone makes the connection between 9/11 and U.S. foreign policy of the last 30 years; and that aint even blaming the victim, thats connecting the dots.
Incorrect Argument 1 (IA1): They were killed for driving the car at a cop using it as a deadly weapon.
Response: This argument isn't stupid it is wrong. The police have explicitly NOT used this defense precisely because they are trained NOT to fire at moving cars. Therefore, IA1 is factually incorrect on 2 levels, shooting at this car in this case would not have been a legal justification and the police never claimed to have fired because the car was moving. Again, they claimed one of the passengers was reaching for a gun that he didn't have.
I'm sure stupid people are thinking of other stupid and factually incorrect arguments to support their indifference to the loss of black life, so I have to stop here; but not before showing the irony of stupid logic:
1. Its OK, for the police to shoot and kill because they think a black guy is reaching for a gun.
2. Its not OK, for some black guys to be afraid and try to drive off when they see another black guy who actually HAS a gun.
Labels: police brutality, racism, Sean Bell, Stupid People