Thursday, June 11, 2015

to "protect and serve" you must always give those inside your tribe full benefit of the doubt...,


salon |  people continue to deploy the “one bad apple spoils a bunch” analogy as though the predicate of the sentence is of no consequence. Spoils. The analogy is less about the singular bad apple and more about its multiplicative bad effects on those it keeps company with. I agree that David Casebolt was particularly out of control. I agree that the other officers saw that and got him to stop waving his gun. They did not keep him from kneeling on top of the girl or berating and intimidating the other youth. This means that in a scenario where multiple children were being unfairly treated, the presence of multiple officers did not offer them substantial protection in the face one officer becoming entirely rogue.

Those officers did not demand that their colleague take a breather while they got the situation under control. They let him go on and on, half-cocked and ridiculous. The material impact of that was a bunch of children feeling unsafe and traumatized by those sworn to protect them.

The 15-year-old white kid who recorded this incident on his smartphone made it clear that what he saw was a bunch of police mistreating his Black friends, while leaving him alone entirely. For the white people who need to hear it, yes, his presence indicates that “not all white people” are racist. Clearly his parents are doing a good job raising an anti-racist teen. But if the white people who need to hear such things hope to float their consciences to safety on the back of this one kid, the ride might be bumpy. Again we don’t combat racism just by raising our children to have anti-racist attitudes. We also have to confront the systematic residential segregation and privatization that makes pools inaccessible to children who don’t have the privilege of living in suburbs.

Few white people have stood up and called out the white adult women who harassed a fellow neighbor having a pool party with her friends, and with her mother’s permission. But many white people have watched the video and concluded that the officer’s treatment of the 14-year-old girl was justified. The gender dynamics in this moment are interesting. There is no universe in which a police officer would drag a young white girl in a two-piece bathing suit by her hair, demand she put her face on the ground, and then kneel for several minutes on top of her adolescent body. If such a thing occurred, it would elicit massive moral outrage on the part of white people (and Black people, too).

But Black girls are never deemed feminine enough for their sexual and adolescent vulnerability to register for white people. They are frequently viewed as aggressors by both police and regular citizens alike, even for doing very adolescent things like mouthing off to those in authority. This is the reason why education scholars suggest that Black girls are suspended from school six times as often as white girls, because even simple adolescent forms of testing boundaries are perceived as far more aggressive based on race.

And let me be clear: Citizens have the right to “mouth off” to police. We have the right to question how we are being treated, why we are being arrested, why we are even being approached. Far too many police deploy accusations of disturbing the peace or obstructing justice to quiet citizens who question them within legal bounds. As long as we don’t threaten or enact physical harm on police officers, we can “mouth off” all we want. We don’t have to be polite to police officers, and they clearly have very little interest in being polite to us. And for those who keep demanding that we act civilly, the point is, “incivility” is not a crime.

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To continue to tell Black people — as many white folks and respectable black folk on the social media threads I participated in have said — that if these children “would have just done what the officers said, none of this would have happened,” is to be deeply invested in exercises of racial ignorance. Proper behavior has never, ever protected Black people from police.

Most of these children came to a pool party with an invite, got harassed and physically assaulted by white residents who didn’t want them to be there, and then mistreated by the police. The ones who didn’t have an invite came because perhaps it was a rare opportunity to get in a clean, safe swimming pool in the heat of a Texas summer. Good policing could have dealt with this matter sans violence and without incident.

But that didn’t happen here.

Instead, the police mistreated these teens (including those who had been invited) because they started by giving the white residents the benefit of the doubt, even though good credible evidence suggests that white racial aggression spurred this incident in the first place. But Black children and Black people are never given the benefit of the doubt. We are policed first, and only ever apologized to later, if at all.

White people in the aggregate value the “safety” of their private, segregated, residential spaces far more than they value a system of policing that protects and values all lives equally.