Yes. In this post Matt argues that it's all black people's fault. They just have this inexplicable urge to kill themselves. In order to make this argument, Matt has to ignore all historical and present-day context and treat "the black community" has some isolated unit, existing independently of the rest of society.
I keep hearing that “violence erupted” in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer shot an unarmed black man. This headline is a bit misleading, seeing as how Ferguson is one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden towns in America, so violence is already in a perpetual state of “eruption.”
The facts of this case are still unclear, which, of course, hasn’t stopped anyone from jumping to definitive conclusions on the matter. All we know is that two men allegedly attacked a police officer, and at least one of them ended up dead. The police chief says they assaulted the officer while he was getting out of his car, and that a struggle over the officer’s firearm ensued. Some eye witnesses claim that Mike Brown, the man killed in the altercation, had his hands up and was surrendering when the officer callously gunned him down.
These eye witnesses could be painting an accurate portrait of the incident, or they could be mistaken, or they could be lying. Or, as is almost always the case, there is a bit of all of these factors at work. I don’t know. I’d prefer to let the dust settle and all of the facts come to light before I make any proclamations about the exact nature of the event. This is a radical and unprecedented approach, I realize, but I’ve always been a trailblazer. Matt, that is not your approach at all. If you think you wait until you have some facts before making proclamations, I would recommend going back and reading everything you have written up to this point. Sorry dude. Facts are not your forte. I like to call my strategy “don’t be a reckless, ignorant, hysterical instigator who immediately diagnoses a situation based on whatever overarching political narrative you subscribe to, and then reaffirms those assumptions by quickly ingesting an assortment of Tweets and half-cocked headlines from notoriously ideological news outlets,” or the DBRIHIWIDSBWOPNYSTRTAQIATHCHFNINO method, for short.
Still, there are a few general issues that have sprung forth from the looting and mayhem, and I’d like to address them each individually:
1) Hating all cops because some of them are abusive isn’t any more justifiable than hating all black people because some of them protested an officer involved shooting by burning down their own neighborhood. Okay, so we start with your favorite fallacy: mischaracterizing other people's arguments. Just because any sort of hatred might be directed at "the police" in general does not mean the people in question hate all cops, individually. People who protest against racial biases in the criminal justice system are actually quite good at understanding the systemic, structural nature of these problems. What they hate is the SYSTEM. I know that you are not accustomed to such a way of thinking, Matt. You tend to ignore systems completely and direct your hate toward individuals, like Obama (who apparently operates in a bureaucratic, structural vacuum). And yes, it is possible for a person to acknowledge the systemic nature of a problem while simultaneously experiencing it, physically, mentally, viscerally, in particular encounters with individual representatives of the system - and, moreover, to have these experiences without harboring some generalized-but-individual hate (that is the complexity of the relationship between individual attitudes/experiences and social structures).
I’m as critical as anyone when police officers take advantage of their power. I think some cops are arrogant jerks and I think law enforcement, in general, is becoming overly militarized. I’m also a huge proponent of civil liberties and a passionate defender of the 4th amendment.
That said, a just and civilized society needs laws, and laws need to be enforced, and police officers are entrusted with that noble and necessary task. If a thorough investigation reveals this particular officer to be guilty of murder, by all means arrest and prosecute him. But whether he is or isn’t, only a ridiculous fool would use this incident, or an incident like it, to disparage all police officers everywhere. But a wise person would use this incident to critique a system.
Enter Mark Lamont Hill, who took to Twitter to share this insight:
“A Black man in America is killed every 28 hours by police or vigilantes. THAT, not rioting, is domestic terrorism…”
His numbers might be accurate "but I'm certainly not going to take the time to research this issue" - Matt, but what sort of lunatic or liar would interpret them this way? Your second-favorite fallacy: Everyone who disagrees with me is a lunatic or a li....*sighhhhh* I'm getting tired of this.... Every time a black man is killed by a cop he is the victim of terrorism? So cops either shouldn’t try to stop black men from committing crimes, or they should, but if they meet lethal resistance they should run away or surrender and die? So many wrong things here. Where do I start?
First of all, that is a STAGGERING statistic. The fact that you don't take even a second to research or consider it certainly shows a lack of empathy and interest in other people's experiences.
Second, according to some definitions of terrorism, it is using violence to intimidate. Then, yes, one could consider the systematic use of violence against an entire group of people to be an act of terrorism. But it ultimately doesn't matter how you define a particular word like "terrorism" (which is always defined differently by different people according to their own aims). The point is that it is wrong and unconstitutional. Black people are targets of police activity, violent or not, in numbers that are very disproportionate and not justified in any way by reality. For example:
"Blacks make up 65% of Ferguson's population, yet they accounted for 93% of arrests after traffic stops, 92% of searches and 80% of traffic stops in the city last year, according to a racial profiling report by the Missouri attorney general.
Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely as whites to be stopped by police even though police find contraband for 34% of whites stopped, versus 22% of blacks, said Scott Decker, a criminologist on a team contracted by the attorney general's office to compile the data." -source
Which brings me to point 3 - your worst assumption: that if black people are killed, they must deserve it. They are definitely committing crimes and using lethal force to resist arrest. What was that again about having facts before you say stuff? That incorrect assumption bears many similarities with the "rape myth" - that causes people to ask female rape victims what they were wearing or what they were doing, because certainly they must have done something to "deserve" it.
The fact of the matter is that black people have been subject to systematic violence and murder for all of American history. We had slavery, then lynchings, and police brutality that continues to this very day. Things that are systemic always have a history. There is a lot of historical continuity in systems. If you look at the historical relationship between the criminal justice system and African Americans you will see that continuity, which is the continuity of racism.
Such an enormous dose of idiocy in that statement, but it’s a notion echoed by many people across the country. "I can comfortably say that the statements black people make about their own experiences are idiotic, because I understand their experiences so much better than they do." -Matt The news about Mike Brown’s death prompted a tidal wave of “f**k the police” sentiments from black and white liberals alike.
Meanwhile, let any one of these cop hating cowards find themselves in a precarious spot, and watch how quickly they dial 911.
Criticize bad cops all you want, but police do important work under immense stress and pressure. Why is it that we are supposed to “understand” and empathize with looters and rioters, but we can’t give even the slightest bit of slack to men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to keep peace and order in our society?
Why are we quick to listen to the plight of the carjacker and the drug dealer, so willing to put their behavior in “context,” yet we fail miserably to comprehend the fact that cops — particularly cops in high crime areas — are dealing with domestic abusers, addicts, thieves, murderers, pimps, and the various other dregs of humanity on a daily basis? being taught to dehumanize people who commit crimes in that way - step 1 in creating a problem of police brutality! This might take a toll on your psyche after awhile; perhaps make you jaded, cynical, even bitter. I know it would to me, and I know the police who manage to be decent in spite of it all deserve an immense amount of respect.
Matt, you are completely ignoring the specifics of the situation in Ferguson. The reason people in Ferguson are angry with the police is because of the regular harassment that they endure at the hands of that police force. Is that not a problem? Can we not investigate it? Or must we sweep it under the rug, because we live in a simplistic world where acknowledging specific problems with a police force means that we must hate all police everywhere and see no value in the law enforcement whatsoever?
Plus, I could turn the tables on you. Why is it that you go through great lengths to defend the police, or pretty much anyone in a position of relative power who does something offensive or upsetting, yet you condemn the reactions of some members of an oppressed group of people without feeling any need to understand, acknowledge, or condemn the oppression itself?
It’s childish and absurd to hate all police. Yes, cops might have a contentious rapport with people in the inner city, but that’s because they are law enforcers, and inner cities have more than their fair share of law breakers. So do suburbs and majority-white communities. They are just not targeted in the same proportion and "white collar criminals" are treated differently. When your explanation of "a contentious rapport" is "but that's because they are law enforcers" - then are you suggesting that inappropriate and racially biased actions of the police have nothing to do with it? Black people are just making it all up? Why do we pin this strained relationship squarely on the police and never spread the blame to people who choose to commit crimes? "Why are we not blaming more things on black people?" -Matt
I repeat: many victims of police harassment and violence are not committing crimes. Of course, if you believe that there is something inherently criminal about black people, that may be hard to swallow.
We can hold cops responsible for their mistakes without descending into this sort of juvenile, anarchist madness. Talking about a history of systemic violence directed at an entire group of people is juvenile? Sorry. I'll stick to adult conversations, like why elementary school graduations are stupid. A healthy and rational society respects both the law and those entrusted with upholding it.
I wonder: do the people who seem to oppose the very existence of police officers who are those people? have a plan B option? We get rid of cops… and then what? Have you guys thought this through at all? Yeah, your imaginary opponents sure don't think long term.
The actual protestors are not calling for the abolition of the police force. They are asking for a police force that represents the racial demographics of Ferguson, and less police harassment. So radical!
I didn’t think so.
2) Only one thing causes looting: the greed and selfishness of the people doing the looting.
I’ve seen a lot of people today insist that we ought not concentrate on the folks stealing, vandalizing, and setting fires over in Ferguson. We should instead discuss what “caused” it.
Ok, let’s do that. They are human beings with free will who chose to commit evil because it suits their own ends. That’s what caused it. Period. No need for further analysis.
Stealing from innocent citizens and setting fires to cars and gas stations — these are not political statements. These are acts of savagery.
Looting might not be productive or ultimately helpful. Yet, this is something that is an even broader universal than a human universal. If you are mean and mistreat an animal - say, a cat - it will lash out at you. It might start behaving in destructive ways. Same goes for humans. If you oppress and mistreat them, they tend to react. In the scope of the entire world and human history, looting stores and destroying property is an extremely mild reaction to oppression.
Your reaction to this situation is analogous to seeing a victim of child abuse and saying, "Yeah, sure, she has a black eye and she says her father hits her, but I don't have all the 'facts' yet. I mean, sure I have seen her father lose his temper in other situations, and it is possible that he abuses his daughter, but he seems like a decent guy and we should remember that she can be a difficult child to deal with. Why are you so critical of her father, but make excuses for her misbehavior at school? If she misbehaves at school, that is her problem; child abuse has absolutely nothing to do with it."
Some people have actually tried to compare the Ferguson riots to the Boston Tea Party.
Hmmm. Let’s see. On one hand, we have the Sons of Liberty dumping tea into the Boston Harbor as a specific protest against the Tea Act, while on the other you have a violent mob grabbing handfuls of cheap wine and cigarettes from the local QuickTrip as a protest against something that was not at all related to anything they’re doing.
Keep in mind that the Americans ultimately took up arms and violently fought against the government. Once again, looting is a pretty mild reaction to oppression.
Sorry, I’m just not seeing the resemblance.
Until the investigation is complete, we still don’t know if the shooting was justified. But we don’t need any investigation to know that this certainly wasn’t:
1. A cop kills an unarmed teen. Matt: "Wait, wait, let me get all the facts before making any conclusions. But in the meantime, let me make lots of conclusions about how black people, and not the police, are responsible for their own distress."
2. A kid loots a drug store. Matt: "I do not need any facts or context to unequivocally condemn this act!"
By the way, I can't help but notice that you're making a big deal about the looting, but not the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against protestors, in some cases on their own front lawns.
3) The best solutions to any community’s problems can be found within. I.e. "I HATE CONTEXT. PLEASE STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME THINK ABOUT CONTEXT!"
Just to take one example of an "external" force (I use quotes because, once again, Matt is assuming "the black community" is some discreet, isolated unit): the prison-industrial complex. As a result of our drug laws and the huge racial bias that exists at all levels of the criminal justice system, we are imprisoning an unbelievable proportion of black people. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our prison population comprises about a quarter of the WORLD'S prisoners. That is incredible! Blacks and Latinos are very disproportionately represented in that population, even though drug use is equal in all races (and once again, the prosecution of minor drug offenses and mandatory minimum sentencing is largely responsible for this huge prison population). Also, majority-black cities have the same crime rate as majority-white cities. If anything should tell you that this is not a "black" problem, that should be it! I should mention that this not only affects men. The incarceration rate for women has been growing at a much higher rate than men.
The people in prison are not always guilty of a crime, however. For one thing, there are conspiracy charges. So, say your nephew uses your apartment or your car to make a drug deal without your permission... you can be charged with a crime. Other times, people are pressured to give names of people involved in drug crimes in order to get shorter sentences. If they are innocent and don't know who is involved, they may give false information to save their own butts. So, other innocent people are charged because someone has given their name under pressure. Innocent people are then pressured to plead guilty because they could possibly face very lengthy sentences otherwise (and keep in mind, these people are aware of the racial biases that exist, and don't necessarily expect justice to be on their side).
Furthermore, this is occurring in the context of large-scale prison privatization. Private prison companies have been making lots of money off of our unprecedented incarceration rates. And, they purposefully try to keep recidivism rates high (we have quite high recidivism rates) because... more business for them!
We could also look at this in historical context. We could go back to the years immediately following the eradication of slavery and see how the prison system was used very obviously and intentionally to recreate a black slave labor force, which was leased out to former slave owners. And then we can see the role that police harassment and the targeting of black people has played in maintaining a racial cast system.
Getting caught in the cross-hairs of the prison system has many negative long term consequences that destroy communities. For one thing, it tears apart families. Children grow up without their mothers or fathers. With all of the associated fines and fees and limited employment options that follow, it creates insurmountable financial hardship. That is only compounded when one's access to the social safety net - for example, public housing - is taken away. Then of course, there are the many psychological effects of spending time in a prison.
I know it’s frustrating when annoying right wingers like myself always rain on the cop-hating, death-to-whitey parade to point out how black kids are, by and large, under attack from other black kids, and the black community is in a tragic state of self-destruction. No, it's not frustrating. It is uninformed, unsupported by facts, neglectful of many important realities (see above, about the prison-industrial complex), and very, very racist.
But we wouldn’t need to do that if the Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin kinds of incidents weren’t immediately seized upon to prove a universal narrative of black victimhood. No Matt. See, when something bad and unconstitutional happens with great frequency, we call that a "problem." And when we see individual instances of the problem, we discuss it so that we can make things better.
You want to simply discuss Mike Brown? Fine. Wait until the facts are in and the smoke has cleared (literally) and we can talk about Mike Brown. But liberals aren’t interested in making this a narrow and specific conversation. They want to make Mike Brown into another casualty of White America’s war on black teens. It is kind of amusing that a person who regularly takes emails written by ranting weirdos and holds them as representative of something larger (the true nature of liberals) is so put off by people trying to address a larger issue with what is a legitimately representative event.
It’s in response to that kind of nonsense that one must introduce a few other items for consideration. If this is to become a debate about the plight of black Americans (and I’m not the one who turned it into that) then the debate will be utterly useless if it doesn’t begin and end with the sad reality that 70 percent of black kids are born to unwed mothers.
Over 60 percent of black children grow up in homes without fathers. Yes, because many of the fathers are locked away, by means of a racially-biased justice process, in our for-profit prisons.
Black people are killed by other black people much more frequently than by cops. And white people are killed by other white people much more frequently than by cops. What does any of this have to do with whether cops killing people of a certain race in disproportionate and staggering numbers is a problem that must be addressed?
Black babies are murdered in the womb at such a pace that now, in cities like New York, a black child has a better chance at being aborted than born.
Everyone knows these statistics. They come as no surprise to anyone. Yet, still, we always hear about how the black community is being held down and oppressed, as if black men don’t willfully choose to abandon their children, and black parents haven’t decided themselves to exterminate an entire generation of their own. Racist.
The real problems are ignored, the people who mention them shunned, and instead we wait for an officer to kill a black teenager look again at the statistics; no one has to wait so we can pretend that such incidents are the primary reason why the black community struggles in this nation.
And, even worse, pathetic white sycophants play along, too afraid to speak up and say, “hey, if black fathers simply stayed home and raised their own children, a lot of these issues would go away.”
But their silence is rooted in indifference, not kindness. They don’t care about black Americans, they care about proving a point.
The pattern will continue and nothing will get better, until we learn to be honest about things.
Hopefully that day comes soon, but I’m not holding my breath.
[Update: Just for reference, here is an example of a more responsible conservative response to this situation.]