15 January 2009

A little perspective

  • Jan 15, 2009

A little perspective

[This was written just after the controversy and rioting following the New Years shooting on a train station platform of an unarmed black man, Oscar Grant, by a transit police officer.  Grant was being held face down on the ground at that point, resisting arrest, but posing no threat.  The officer said later that he meant to use his taser, and supposedly the department had recently had everyone move the taser from the gun side of the belt to the opposite (ironically, to avoid the exact mistake it ended up causing).]

Total number of fatal shootings by Oakland Police in 2008: 5

Of those, number which inspired a wrongful death suit: 2
(both of whom had been resisting arrest, one of whom may have been armed)

Number of potentially unjustified fatal shootings by BART Police: 3
Not just this year.  Ever.  Since BART opened in 1972.

Number of homicides (not by police) in Oakland in 2008: 123

Again:  One Hundred and Twenty Three.

I'm not saying that police going around shooting people is ok. 
I'm not saying being in fist fights on the train is grounds for getting shot.
I'm not saying that cops shouldn't be held to higher standards.  They should be expected to be professional, and to have a very small margin of error.  We are trusting them with our safety, with our very lives. 

If the person Oscar had been fighting had been the one to shoot him, it would have been on the news for one day.  There would have been no protests.  We wouldn't be thinking about it. 
But his family still would be.
Young black men shooting young black men is a far larger problem than cops shooting young black men, yet we seem to take it for granted.

Again, this is not to say don't protest in this particular case, which was obviously over the line, obviously unjustified.

But when we claim it is a pattern, claim it is representative of something larger when in fact it isn't; when we use it as an excuse to condemn all police because we really just have an adolescent resentment of authority, all we are really doing is increasing the polarity,increasing the mutual distrust between the police and the community,which in turn increases the likelihood of things like this happening.

If you have someone who starts out hating and distrusting all cops,and he gets detained for whatever reason, he is a lot more likely to yell and curse, to be resistive, to fight back, and all of these things, understandably, are going to put the officer on guard.  When they have to deal with people like that on a regular basis, they are going to become more and more likely to be aggressive right from the beginning, and to take fewer chances with their own safety.

There are larger social and historical issues involved, surrounding the legacy of slavery, poverty is inherited just like wealth is, our education system is deplorable, and as a society we value maximum production of wealth over equitable distribution.

None of these things is in any way an excuse for individual behavior.

Are young black males stopped disproportionately?  Of course we are.  It might have something to do with committing a disproportionate amount of crime.  My advice, if you feel like you are being harassed: Don't get into fist fights.  Don't smoke pot or drink alcohol in public.  Don't sell drugs.  Don't drive like a fucking jack-ass.  Don't evade the fare or play amplified music on the train. Don't shoplift. Basically, in general, don't be obnoxious.

Chris Rock explains this very well: 

How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you ask a question, I will answer it.

NEW: Blogger finally put in a system to be notified of responses to your comments! Just check the box to the right, below, before you hit "publish"