20 September 2020

Focusing on the wrong issue (PART 2) (Part 1 of a series on race based on emails to my family)


What is the goal of a protest?
Why is the ultimate purpose behind that goal, beyond the immediate demands?
What is the world envisioned as an end goal?
Is it attainable?
What impact would it actually have for the short term goals to be realized?
Not just directly, but indirectly.  If intercommunity violence murders black men at a rate between 1500 to 9000 times more than cops do, what would the realistic outcome of removing all police from those communities be?  What does the murder rate look like in countries where the government has completely lost control and gangs and warlords are the defacto rulers?

What impact does the method of attempting change actually have?
How much of the conflict between black people and police is a result of the expectations each hold, the assumptions and prejudices on both sides, the narratives that outweigh direct experience and cause people to believe the other to be “other”? 
How much is that narrative reinforced, for both sides, by the publicizing of these rare events and the riots that follow?  How much more likely is a random interaction to turn into a bad situation, a dangerous confrontation, as a result of reinforcing that narrative?

What alternatives might do a better job of reaching the end goal?

In the past the desired immediate outcome in these sorts of protests was "justice".
In this situation we accept the definition of “justice” most often used by conservatives: punishment.

In a conversation at work about the protests, and police procedures, and related things, I mentioned some people argue for the abolition of prisons and defunding of all police. One of my boat crew mates, a (large, dark skinned, thick bearded) black man who works both as a cop and a prison guard said that his reply to people who say things like that is:
“Cops who murder black people committed a crime, right?  What do you want to do with them?”

The usual reason for protests is because a particular instance of a police killing was clearly (or likely) unjustified - and the officer either was not arrested, or was acquitted. The issue was officers who are out of control or cross a line being able to get away with it, consequence free, and the implicit sanctioning by the system if they aren't held accountable.
That is not at all what happened in this case. 

The actual details of what happened are unquestionably murder, unquestionably a completely unjustifiable use of force, against a completely non-violent suspect, for no apparent reason.  But the officer was not granted the usual immunity. He wasn’t put on paid leave pending an investigation. The officer was fired the next day, and was arrested and charged with murder 3 days later.  While local (peaceful) protests began the next day (after the firing, but before the arrest), the riots and violence (as well as the spread of protests nationwide and to other countries) didn’t begin until after the officer was arrested and charged, and continued even after the other 3 officers present were arrested and charged as accomplices.

Black people are killed in violent crime on the order of 4600 times more often than by cops. If the honest concern is that black lives matter, the proportion of outrage and action HAS to be 4600 times larger in attempting to enact social change in ways to reduce violent crime than the level of outrage and action to reduce police brutality.
If it is not an a rate of 4600 times as high, if there aren’t 4600 marches against civilian murder for each one against the police, then the claimed reason for the effort is a dishonest rationalization.
The rationalization is that cops should be held to a higher standard.  But that 4600 ratio means they ARE held to a higher standard. They are already murdering 4,600 times less than everyone else, even though they walk around with guns all day, deliberately approaching potentially violent people, despite interacting with people who hate them and assume they are the enemy before a word is spoken.


Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Is the intent of the protest to ensure that the number of incidents becomes zero, ever?
Since the arrest of the bad cop did not end the protests, apparently the protest must be that any cop ever is a bad cop, which means there will not ever be an outcome that people are happy with. 

Now that the narrative is established, any incident, however rare, is going to be portrayed as, and believed to be, a trend. Because the narrative is accepted as a given, it doesn’t matter if a shooting is an accident, or if equal more white people get shot by police than black, or if the “unarmed” victim punched the officer repeatedly in the face and tried to grab the officer’s gun, or if police shootings of unarmed black people only happens once every several years.  Every instance of an officer shooting an unarmed black person, however rare and in whatever circumstances, will be “proof” that it’s still a rampant epidemic and that cops believe they can murder Black people because society thinks their lives don’t matter. 
As soon as we are no longer focused on the consequences for the officer nor the policies in place, but instead are focused on whether any individual breaks those policies, we are no longer talking about systemic or institutional issues; we're just looking at individual actions, indivisible psychology, individual people.
You are not going to eliminate all individual bias, not ever. People will be biased against immigrants, people with tattoos, the mentally ill, ugly people, asocial people, people who drive souped up home modded race cars, drug addicts, anyone who can be categorized as different or other - not to mention anyone associated in some way with a demographic that tends to commit more crime than the average.

However, there's nothing inherent in having more pigment in the skin that puts people within any of those categories.  It’s only a combination of culture and poverty that makes it true at this moment in history, in this country, that dark skin and African roots has a statistical correlation with crime.

It would be absolutely possible to virtually eliminate the majority of racial bias. It has happened plenty of times in the past, with overtly discriminated against groups fully integrating into society to the point where they no longer seem like a minority group in the first place.  This has occurred many places and many times in history, including in
America - but it has never happened because people rallied and protested and demanded that humans stop thinking in generalities and making associations. 
In every case a formerly discriminated-against group became accepted, it was because the outsiders assimilated over time, and the statistics that the negative stereotypes were based on stopped being true. Eventually the dominant culture caught up it's assumptions to match the new reality. 


The statistical disproportionality in whatever negative trait gets turned into a stereotype and then a prejudice has to stop being true first
And once that happens, the change in attitudes will happen without any protests.


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