If #BlackLivesMatter, then…

In light of the events of the last weekend, it’s worth asking a cursory question about this new movement that has grown up over the last few months. Based around the slogan “Black Lives Matter“, rallies to this cause have marched and conducted more… exotic activities in cities throughout the USA. This slogan has been so embraced that its adherents have chastised others for broadening the phrase to “All Lives Matter”. It’s worth asking: do the people involved in this actually believe what they are saying? If so, why have they chosen as martyrs the people they have chosen?

How well does the movement actually match the message? (Source)

If the point of the movement is to illustrate random violence, or unjust treatment of blacks by police, why hold up Mike Brown and Eric Garner? Whatever tragedy is involved in these cases (and no one should minimize the loss their families have endured), they remain cases where… well, people engaged in conduct that ensured they would have bad interactions with police.

Indeed, if this movement is really about the terrible toll violence is taking on the lives of black Americans, then why are the poster children for it people (that in any rational examination of the facts) that were treated… well, exactly the way anyone would be treated in their circumstances. In neither case was it a surprise that the police intersected Micheal Brown or Eric Garner’s lives: Mike Brown had just robbed a neighborhood store, and while the law Mr. Garner was breaking may be a stupid, paternalistic law, Mr. Garner was very clearly breaking it.

It’s not my place to know the nature of Mike Brown’s soul, but we can say with fair certainty that he crammed more crimes into his last 30 minutes of life then most of us will ever even contemplate. Eric Garner’s crimes may have been picayune, but they were crimes he habitually committed. Mr. Garner had over two-dozen arrests, including previous arrests for this specific crime (of selling single cigarettes).

This is seven-year-old India Williams, who was shot in Detroit, September 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Police Department.

If, on the other hand, the point is to draw attention to the terrible toll that violence takes on the black community, and the indifference many have to it, are there not many better examples? Consider the tragic case of India Williams (above): a 7 year old girl shot with a stray bullet during a running gun-battle. Ms. Williams survived her injuries but is paralyzed from the waist down. Or Demario Bailey (below)? Mr. Bailey “was shot to death while coming to the aid of his twin brother when the two were robbed on their way to basketball practice, police said.”

Each of these cases cries out for greater attention, yet Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey’s stories have received little more then regional attention, and aroused dramatically less public outcry then the deaths of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner. How can this be squared with the message that #BlackLivesMatter?

A teddy bear and poinsettia are placed on a 63rd Street passageway where Demario Bailey (inset) was slain. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

 

Sadly, the obvious conclusion is difficult to avoid: that to organizers of these movements, Black Lives don’t Matter. The Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey have all of the elements we are told should make for compelling media narratives: attractive and sympathetic subjects, compelling narratives and, most importantly, relatable situations. The fear for a child playing senselessly injured, or siblings being victimized even when doing the right thing, these stories strike at the heartstrings. Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, by way of contrast…

While there is no doubt that many people marching and demonstrating in favor of this cause are sincere and motivated by a deep feeling of injustice. But it’s hard to avoid noticing that the only lives the movement’s organizers seem to find worthy of mourning are… black men killed by the police.

Who can doubt the good will of a protest co-sponsored by the “Party for Socialism and Liberation”?

It’s entirely too pat, too trite, to reduce the people marching in cities all across the USA to dupes or frauds. At the same time, it’s worth asking what this movement is really intended to accomplish other then the aggrandizement of the truly execrable Al Sharpton and the enrichment of his National Action Network. When one of the movers and shakers of a protest is the ANSWER Coalition (or, as Jonah Goldberg termed them, “a slime of Stalinism”), a little bit of suspicion is called for.

The Deadly Cost of a Nanny State

Eric Garner is not dead because of racism. He’s not even dead because of bad policing (which is not to say that this was good police work). Eric Garner is dead because a series of government actors decided: the poor shall not smoke.

NYT, March 26, 2013 : Bloomberg Seeks End to Cheap Cigarettes,

 Along with strengthening the penalties on retailers that evade tobacco taxes, the second bill establishes a minimum price for cigarettes and cigarillos, or little cigars, of $10.50 a pack, the first time such a strategy has been used to combat smoking. The bill also prohibits retailers from redeeming coupons or offering other discounts, like two-for-one deals.

New York’s price-regulation bill would, in effect, close off the remaining means of access to cheap cigarettes and little cigars, which make it easier for teenagers to experiment with smoking, and progress to smoking regularly, said Brett Loomis, a researcher at RTI International, a nonprofit institute that offers research and technical services to governments and businesses.

A move, which should come as a surprise to no thinking person and thus every politician, that only served to intensify the illegal trade in “loosies” or un-taxed cigarettes. To be fair, this was just another bump for the loosie trade, which had already benefited from Mayor Bloomberg’s earlier major tax hike on tobacco;

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars and playgrounds, and outside hospital entrances. Even city parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas will soon be off limits to smokers. Then there have been successive rounds of taxes — the most recent one, a $1.60 rise in the state tax in July — that raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to $12.50 at many Midtown newsstands.

“The tax went up, and we started selling 10 times as much,” Mr. Warner said. “Bloomberg thinks he’s stopping people from smoking. He’s just turning them onto loosies.”

Wow, it’s almost like imposing crippling taxes will create a thriving illegal trade in a product that many people want, just not at the artificially inflated price!

It’s almost as if you can make big money smuggling tobacco. Almost.

 

Now, some have argued that to look at the underlying cause of the police interaction is to be ‘insensitive’ to the racial issue: I contend that it is the opposite. Unless these (often liberal) reformers that want to “address the race issue in law enforcement” are suggesting that we start using robots as peace officers

And we all know how well robots do as peace officers, right Bob?

It’s a simple truth: police are people. People being flawed, some percentage of people will be bad actors, without regard to their profession. Police, however, are uniquely empowered to administer violence, or as Sunil Dutta, Ph.D., 17 year LAPD veteran proclaimed, “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” Dr. Dutta certainly gets points for honesty, if not tact. Of course, the fact is we live in a time when associating ‘tact’ with police is most appropriate when thinking of them making a Tactical Response.

The truly sad fact of the matter is that a bad result from an antagonistic civilian-police interaction doesn’t even need bad actors, only bad actions. A misheard word, a bad day, a gesture mistaken or even confusion about a toy can change an ordinary day into a tragic one. The reality is that the NYPD did not swoop down on Eric Garner from the sky like a random bolt of lightning, this entire chain of events was initiated (as Senator Rand Paul observed) when politicians that the people elected enacted laws that the police are expected to enforce. As Ace of Spades points out (emphasis in original);

Nevertheless, we actually pay them to use force when a law-breaking suspect (even one breaking a trivial law) resists arrest. That is the job we’ve given them.

To say this guy is guilty of murder or manslaughter seems to me to be a case of scapegoating the people we’ve tasked with implementing a policy that we have imposed ourselves.

If trivial laws should not provide grounds for arrest, We should change the laws to say so.

If cops should just let a non-compliant but non-felony suspect go if he resists arrest, we should make that officially part of their job description.