I can’t watch the videos of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I can’t. I’ve seen too many of these kinds of things, I’ve warned for years and years that we have a culture of police worship that encourages ever more bold and aggressive actions by officers at every level, that our laws are badly slanted in favor of justifying even the most outrageous police actions, and that we are heading for a reckoning. See my take on the Caesar Goodson acquittal just a couple of weeks ago. I concluded with this question: “How many more people of color should have to die before we decide that enough is enough?”
Answer: at least two. And if you think that’s all there will be, come see me about some prime Nebraska real estate I’m looking to unload.
I just can’t face the details of this stuff anymore. It’s like kabuki murder porn, all set pieces with preordained outcomes. The rap sheet of the dead guy. The fact that he was armed, even if in both Louisiana and Minnesota that was totally fucking legal. I apparently missed the secret code language of the Second Amendment that provides gun rights for white people only. Must have forgotten to bring the lemon juice to decode that – I’m sure even though he’s dead, Antonin Scalia could provide a lengthy analysis of why this is so. It’s infuriating, and wrong, and sad, and devastating to watch the families of the dead try to cope with this kind of “justice.”
So when my favoritest blogger evah (FBE) Charlie Pierce decided to preach him a mighty powerful sermon today on the subject that pounded the nails of justice deep into the boardsof hypocrisy and racism, I’m just gonna have to steal it wholesale. I grabbed a chunk, but please go read the whole thing. I’ve said it before, but here it is again: when I grow up I want to be Charlie Pierce.
Here’s why All Lives Matter is a dodge.
In most cases, it has been used by white people who are perfectly willing to admit that all their lives matter while, simultaneously, breaking a lot of rock to support and excuse (largely white) police officers who have been shown to be quick on the trigger to shoot black people who are selling CDs on the street, or breaking neck of black people who sell loosies on the sidewalk.
By using this dodge, they avail themselves of the privilege of their own cultural paranoia and of the protection against imaginary predators that their cultural paranoia concocts for them. This cultural paranoia, of course, is what keeps Wayne LaPierre in the luxury to which he has become accustomed, and it is also the reason that Philando Castile was killed for doing precisely what LaPierre has advised all his audiences to do since the day Adam Lanza shot up an elementary school classroom in Newtown, Connecticut.
Too much All Lives Matter rhetoric has argued, sub rosa, that the police should be licensed to use any means necessary to eliminate the imaginary terrors against which most “decent people” arm themselves. Too much All Lives Matter rhetoric has been shot through with excusing even the most egregious and deadly police misconduct because of the “dangerous job” that police have in controlling not only actual criminals, but the spectral predators in the common mind.
And, worst of all, it blinds the country to the obvious fact that neither Dylan Noble nor Philando Castile should have been shot, but that they were shot because the police in this country are in too many cases out of control, and that the police in this country are in too many cases getting further out of control the more people they kill and the more criticism they get for having done so. You can’t weep for Dylan Noble and look for excuses for Darren Wilson. You can’t be outraged at what happened in Fresno and cheer the acquittals in Baltimore. And this is a damn shame because we have a crisis in American policing that needs addressing, and that needs addressing fast.
As Radley Balko never ceases to remind us, American police forces are now militarized in mind and in materiel. Police officers are trained to an edge that is far too close to believing their fellow citizens to be enemies. Because of obvious cultural and racial biases, this belief is stronger in the case of some of their fellow citizens than it is in others. As technology has become more readily available, those beliefs no longer make a prima facie case for the defense of random police violence.
And while that technology is far from a panacea, it allows us all to know what is being done in this country in our name by the uniformed representatives of what we all ought to demand—equal justice under the law, not frontier justice masked by casual deceit as thick as body armor, not death by the passive voice or euphemism in which mistakes are made and officer-involved shootings simply occur. This technology is why we all know that none of the three of them, not Alton Sterling, nor Philando Castile nor Dylan Noble should be dead at all.
But technology is a mute witness. The rest of the work needs all our voices.
That’s all I got for now. I’d ask again how much more of this we’re going to tolerate, but I know the answer already. Too much, too many lives, are going to sacrificed at the altar of our out of control police forces in this country. It will take a long time to change this culture, but until we start, we can’t begin to hope that we will ever succeed.