‘African American Witnesses’ and the social tragedy of Ferguson

Monday night an American city burned.

Celebration: “Protestors” parade in the parking lot of a burning auto parts store in Ferguson following the grand jury decision. Hopefully the fellow on the left was able to get a tasteful selfy.

There were many, many repellent images and ideas to come out of the fires of Ferguson,

 

Looters at the Ferguson Meat and Liquor, a store decorated with images seemingly in solidarity with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement.

But perhaps the most repellent, and the one that looms the largest over the post-riot dialogue is the invocation of “African American witnesses”;

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly correctly diagnoses the malignancy of rabble-rowsers such as Al Sharpton but she overlooks what I think is the more significant (and more ominous) development, the invocation of “African American witnesses” by both reporters and prosecutor. That this phrase is even used is an indictment of the current interracial climate of the United States: a tacit admission that at this point in time there is a presumption that the oath of truthfulness a witness takes holds less sway over them then racial solidarity. It’s another way of saying that there is so little trust in the system and the police that African Americans will not trust the sworn testimony of random eyewitnesses, if those witnesses are the wrong skin color.

If that strikes you as no big deal, I invite you to reverse the races at issue and to imagine the scene had a reporter asked “where there any white witnesses that testified?”

We’re six years into the term of the first Black president, with an African American man as Attorney General for that same amount of time, about to be replaced by (presumably) an African American woman. Yet faith in the judicial system is so low that revealing reams of documents from the grand jury intensifies racial paranoia across the country rather then calming it. For all the criticism of Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments that ‘the overwhelming majority of blacks are killed by other blacks‘, this is a fact, which has been argued about for decades. Martin Luther King Jr. himself noted the terrible phenomenon;

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

That was fifty years ago. Today, the structural, formal racism of that era has been all but banished from America. For all that today we are told that the race of witnesses is of great importance and that ‘police need to look like the people they police’. Dr. King’s dream of people being being judged by “the content of their character” has never been further away.

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Obama beats a path for the Devil

Tonight President Obama addressed the nation, and while the judgement of history will reveal if this is a mild exercise of executive power or an unbridled assumption of an imperial air by the president, one thing is certain: the president placed as much, if not more, emphasis on the moral case as the legal one. Yes, one may point out that he has only the loosest understanding of the biblical precedent he appealed to, and that he didn’t so much make a moral case as simply assert that his actions were moral, it remains that he couched his actions in the idea of “doing right”.

I think the best evaluation of whether doing “good” or following the law is preferable is this clip, from A Man For All Seasons;

The most important exchange;

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Even if we are to grant that President Obama is acting in good faith (an uncertain position to be sure), his decision tonight will have consequences long after he has left office. Consequences that I think it very likely we will come to regret.

The Virtue of Hold-Your-Nose Elections

Jim Geraghty, National Review author and writer of the excellent Morning Jolt sagely counsels about this election, “If you want to beat Bad, you may have to hold your nose and vote for Less Bad.” Excellent advice on a practical level and it echoes a point related by Alicia Colon (with an article evocatively titled “Hold Your Nose to Vote But For Goodness Sake, Don’t Stay Home”); “Every single Republican candidate is better than any Democrat including all the RINOs”.

Now all of that may be true (or not, depending on what you think of RINOs), but let’s remember what happened the most recent time a candidate played the “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” game…

Just another quiet, understated evening with friends…

Of all the benefits that the new Senate leader Mitch McConnell will have the most useful may be the least flattering: the benefit of low expectations. When the guys on you own side say things like “the transparent selfishness and corruption of McConnell and his GOP Senate cronies”, and “As a conservative who profoundly despises Mitch McConnell and everything that unprincipled swine stands for, I feel guilty offering his campaign good advice, but the crisis facing our nation requires me to transcend my personal animosity to the man“, well, Senate Republicans may be lesser, but they are firmly planted in the category of “necessary evils”. Not exactly a dewy testimonial to a schoolgirl crush, is it?

Obama came in as a blank slate, but is leaving as a wet blanket over his whole party. By contrast, McConnell comes in unadorned by Olympian wishes or caviar dreams, a man openly acknowledged by his supporters as a poor retail campaigner. Put another way, no one in a year or two is going to be making an ad comparing a vote for McConnell to falling in love;

 

Then again, the USA did seem to write quite the love letter to John Boehner…

 

Regional party indeed!