A sorry situation in Baltimore


Rioters hurt the cause because they harden the common perception among whites that blacks are prone to criminality. Why does this matter? It matters because blacks need the support of whites today just as they did during slavery times. Besides, rioters aren’t idealists who care about creating a better world; rioters are opportunists who, I believe, should be shot down in the streets and fed to zoo animals. It’s too bad that if you’re an intelligent, rational black mayor (see photo) who is doing your best to protect your city, you’ll only get ten seconds of air time for every ten minutes that black criminals who are running from burning stores carrying stolen property will get, but such is America’s love for drama over substance.

But what if I’m wrong, and rioting works? Will we all be safer if cops come to live in fear that if they harm a black man, any black man, they will be dismissed from their jobs—if not sued and prosecuted—and their cities will be burned and looted? Let me illustrate why I worry about this.

Until she retired last year, my wife was an obstetrics’ nurse, and people who work in obstetrics tend to get sued a lot. When caregivers live in constant fear of lawsuits, it doesn’t make them better caregivers. One reason is that it puts them on an adversarial footing with the very people they’re trying to help. Another is that avoiding lawsuits comes to take precedence over patient care both for the people performing the care and for their employers. For example, one-third of births in America is now by c-section. A c-section is major surgery with a great many risks, but if there is even the tiniest chance that it can avoid some problem at birth, and a doctor doesn’t do it, that doctor will look bad in court. The same is true with continual electronic fetal monitoring. It is feared that blips in the fetus’ condition might lead to potentially harmful interventions that wouldn’t have occurred if the fetus was only monitored periodically, but the problem is that if you’re taken to court and you can’t say that you did “everything possible,” you’re likely to lose. The public demands perfection, so when something goes wrong, they start looking for someone to blame, and they tend to blame those whom they perceive to be in control, people like doctors and cops.

This is what I fear about the recent pressure upon cops. They have to make split-second life-and-death decisions, and being fallible, they will most certainly err at times even with the best of intentions. So is it to anyone’s benefit for cops to be distracted by the fear that, even if their judgment is right, they’re going to pay dearly if the person they shoot happens to be black, as was the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, that started all this brouhaha?

Freddie Gray, the Baltimore criminal who died of a broken neck was called a martyr at his funeral. I remember when you had to do something noble—remember Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman?—to be a martyr to the cause of Civil Rights. Now all you have to do is to be a career criminal who comes to a bad end while resisting arrest. Die by the hands of a cop, and 2,500 people will come to your funeral and talk about what a exemplar of virtue you were. This is what remains of the movement of Martin Luther King. Where blacks once had a champion, they now have buffoons like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama who, come to think of it, has been awfully silent of late. Rationality has been thrown out the window, and I see no end in sight. All I see is that every time a black criminal dies, a cop will be blamed, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly, and few demonstrators will care which.

14 comments:

PhilipH said...

Very well put. Cannot find anything wrong in your assessment.

We had a similar 'riot' a few years ago when police shot and killed a known gangster drug dealer and this sparked the looting and firebombing in London and other places.

Most of the scum who wrecked and looted were later tracked down by CCTV cameras (we have loads of 'em in the UK) and these thieves got their come-uppance.

There will always be a minority who will join in to anything which they think is 'justified' by some Establishment 'crime'.
These low-life critters don't give a damn about dead person - they just want to grab whatever they can in whatever manner they choose.

They are SCUM.

Stephen Hayes said...

It's a sad time for America. I don't believe in free give-a-ways but something needs to be done to ensure that everyone in this country has at least an opportunity to reach for the American dream. Hopeless people are dangerous people.

rhymeswithplague said...

My wife, also a retired nurse, says you did one super job on this post and that what you say is absolutely true. She was an orthopedic nurse for a patient whose family sued the hospital for three million dollars over what they termed a wrongful death. Mrs. RWP was in court for five days. The jury sided with the hospital and not with the family, but it was traumatizing nonetheless.

Your last paragraph is also true as true can be, but some may accuse you of racism just because you happen to come from Mississippi, which is, of course, not a valid reason to accuse someone of racism. Today's black population defines racism as "oppression of a minority by the majority" so they exempt themselves from being racist since they are the minority. But if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc., it doesn't matter how many people are in one's group.

ellen abbott said...

I do not think cops should be able to shoot people down without repercussion. yes, they should fear for losing their job and being sued if they kill someone. Too many people are being seriously injured and murdered by police and the police get a free pass. There are too many unarmed people getting killed and often shot in the back multiple times by police. Is it right that a person (in this case a white woman) should be dragged off a subway car by three cops and have her head slammed into the concrete pillar, wrestled down and handcuffed and then need to be taken to the hospital because she couldn't produce her receipt for her fare ticket fast enough? Or how about the black guy holding a toy gun he planned to buy being shot dead in the store before he could comply with order because a white racist called the cops about a black man with a gun. Or the homeless guy shot dead in the back. These are not isolated incidents and I could list dozens more. Police kill hundreds of people every month. They break into your home and throw a flash bang in your kid's crib mutilating him and oh, sorry, wrong address. The police are militarized and out of control. If they fear for their lives so much that their first and only response is a lethal response before they even know what's going on then they need to get a different job. You can call these victims criminals because they have arrest records but black people get arrested often for no reason and even if they are guilty of an occasional petty crime, the police are not judge and jury. They do not have the right to summarily execute people. I don't care how long their arrest record is.

Snowbrush said...

“My wife, also a retired nurse, says you did one super job on this post and that what you say is absolutely true.”

Thank your wife for me. I remember cases where a doctor was sued and Peggy had to spend whole days given depositions. Even if you’re innocent, being sued is like nearly being killed in that it changes your view of life, making you feel anxious and guarded, changes that are not to the benefit of your patients.

“Your last paragraph is also true as true can be, but some may accuse you of racism just because you happen to come from Mississippi…”

Regionalism is the equivalent of racism, and I’ve often gotten it here in liberal western Oregon. People will insist that their contempt for white people from the South isn’t prejudice because they’re justified in feeling as they do, and it’s impossible to show them that this is no different from any other prejudice.

What I wonder, Ellen, is how many white cops start out racist as opposed to how many become racist because of their experiences in poor, black, crime-ridden neighborhoods. I also think it misses the point to imply that the only problem is out of control racist cops, so if we put the fear of death, prison, lawsuits, looting, and rioting, into their bigoted hearts, everything will be fine. What I mostly get from the news media is that black people and white people are just alike, but that cops treat the former worse. I will concede that in many instances they DO treat the former worse, but I think that the worst of the problem isn’t the police but impoverished urban youth from fatherless homes whose only role models are thugs. Far more needs to be changed here than the behavior of the police, and it bothers me that the very people whom are being paid to protect us and enforce justice are being treated as criminals while criminals are being treated as martyrs.

“You can call these victims criminals because they have arrest records but black people get arrested often for no reason and even if they are guilty of an occasional petty crime, the police are not judge and jury.”

Yes, black people are often treated unfairly, and, yes, the police have no right to punish anyone. Yet, it strikes me as interesting that in all of the nationally prominent instances of wrongful black deaths caused by the police, the black person involved wasn’t simply walking down the street minding his own business. He was fleeing the police, or resisting arrest, or pointing a very real looking toy gun at a cop, behaviors that invited injury. Are cops often in the wrong? No doubt, but why are all of the black victims who are featured on the national news thugs? If innocent black people are being killed everyday, why aren’t some of THEM featured on the national news? The absence of such people being featured weakens the argument that the police are running amuck killing black people.

Granted, you mentioned many cases that I haven’t even heard of, but where is the black outrage about them, and what was the cops’ side of these stories? Still, as I said, I concede your point that black people are more likely to be treated unfairly by the police—and the courts—than white people. Innocent black people are in a similar situation to innocent people in Middle Eastern dress in that the arouse suspicion simply because of the way they look.

More later.

Fram Actual said...

You and I have vastly different definitions of rational and intelligent in regard to the Baltimore mayor's reaction to the riots. Her choice of actions must have come from her heart, because her responses clearly showed she was in over her head and almost certainly failed to listen to the advice of people educated and trained to cope with such events.

Beyond that, I think you have written a good analysis of the situation.

possum said...

Same problem in the schools… if a white teacher disciplines a black kid, be prepared for a lawsuit. In many schools and even in one primarily black university, the lowest grade you can give a kid is 50, even if they earned a ZERO. Why? The school can get sued for not helping that poor (often dumb) kid to get thru his (her) class.
If a kid in my classroom tells me to go F myself… the principal wants to know what I did to provoke him. Plus, if the kid is a certain color, I am told the F word in every other sentence is part of his culture. Really?

I had a parent try to sue my school because I used the word “negro” in my art class when discussing skin colors. I would not let my kids use the terms black or white (or red, for that matter) when referring to skin color or race. No one in my room was black or white; I sure as hell wasn’t red.

I do understand the pain of poverty. I honestly do. And I understand the anger it breeds. But tell me what is the advantage in burning down the only drug store brave enough to move into that district and make life harder for the elders in that area who now have no place to get their medicines or have no way to get to the next closest drugstore.

I am really proud of that mother who grabbed her kid and made him go home.

But it is true, the media gives lots of time to the thugs and very little to the ones trying to make peace. There are a number of words that are getting misused today. You are right, martyr is one of them. Hero is another. Heroes don’t kill… and they don’t become heroes for running with a football… personally, I would call that mom disciplining her son a hero.

Snowbrush said...

“Beyond that, I think you have written a good analysis of the situation.”

Thank you.

“I am told the F word in every other sentence is part of his culture. Really?”

Sort of like the word “like” for white people, eh? Remember Michael Vick, the ballplayer who was busted for cockfighting, and how Jamie Farr—among others—said that laws against cockfighting were racist because cockfighting is a part of black culture? Now that 22 states have laws that permit disobedience to the law itself on religious grounds, I guess that, between that and race, pretty much any bad behavior can be excused and that those who object can be made out to be the villains.

I really can’t fathom that kids now use profanity in school. There was even a program on Oregon public radio this week about what to do with first graders who assault their teachers. Some are being expelled, and it was claimed that schools shouldn’t do that no matter what. It was also claimed that since more blacks than whites are expelled, racism is obviously alive and well in Oregon. When I hear such things, I wonder how stupid a person has to be to imagine that statistics alone prove racism when they might just as well be said to “prove” that a race is troubled . All I can see in such statistics is that a problem exists, but identifying it is another matter.

“I am really proud of that mother who grabbed her kid and made him go home.”

It was better than defending his choice to riot and loot. On the other hand, isn’t it odd that a single woman with six kids who disciplines by slapping and cursing is upheld as the epitome of good parenting? Of course, it could be that she doesn’t act that way all the time, but then again who’s to say? Did you hear her tell the interviewer that she didn’t want her boy to “vandalize the police”? Ha, ha, ha! That sure left me holding my side. My god, what a country. We need another Moslem attack to take out minds off our hatred for one another and to give us someone other than cops to scapegoat.

While I’m wound up here, you’re recall that in Ferguson, much was made about the majority of cops and city officials being white. In Baltimore, the majority are black, but it sure the hell isn’t making things better. I saw another parent on the news whose kid did go rioting and looting, and he was busted for a misdemeanor! A misdemeanor for throwing rocks and cops and breaking into a store and stealing merchandise?

I’ve lost readers regarding my posts about police and racism. I will even admit that the police are often racist, but it doesn’t matter to those who imagine that all that needs to be done is to beat the police into line. I would instead see the police as the symptom rather than the problem. Sure, cops should treat everyone the same regardless of race, and, sure, cops, have no right to go around shooting and beating up people no matter what those people have done, and sure cops who do such things shouldn't be cops. I will admit all of this, but it’s not enough. I believe that many people simply have a profound hatred of the police, and they’re not going to cut any cop any slack no matter what the circumstances. Instead, they're going to assume racism in every individual instances. I really and truly believe that many people would prefer to see a cop die than to defend himself against an assault. It’s a bit like you being cursed by a student and then having the principal ask what you did to deserve it. My wife used to be a teacher, and while two of her teenage students held her arms behind her back, a third cut her (slightly) with a knife, and she was asked by her administration (principal and school board) what she did to provoke it?! I’ll tell you exactly what she did—she made the mistake of being young and pretty in a school without discpline. I wanted her to file charges and put her attackers behind bars, but her choice was to give up teaching.

possum said...

I do understand her decision.
My goal when I first started teaching was to make it for 40 years. At 38 years, my body had just about had it, and I truly could not stand the path our education system was heading down. It was heartbreaking to watch the deterioration of the educational process and not be able to do anything about it.
It was hard to quit after 38 years, but, to be honest, I have never looked back. I even refused to substitute.
Does anyone teach respect anymore?

Snowbrush said...

“At 38 years, my body had just about had it,”

When Republicans talk about upping the retirement age, I wonder how they think people can survive working until 69 given the frailty of the human body as it ages and the cost exacted on it by many occupations. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to use public money to retrain a plumber or an electrician, so I can but assume that it’s okay with them if people starve since it’s already okay with them if people die for a lack of medical care.

“It was hard to quit after 38 years, but, to be honest, I have never looked back.”

That’s how Peggy was about nursing after about 32 years. Professions sometime change dramatically. For instance, when she became a nurse, not even the husband was allowed into a delivery. Now, there are sometimes so many people there that it’s literally hard for the nurses to function because they’re continually having to ask spectators to move out of the way. Perhaps, the biggest change, though, is in computerized charting. All the nurses at Peggy’s hospital hated it because it slowed them down so, and it was more about protecting the hospital from lawsuits than caring for patients.

“Does anyone teach respect anymore?”

I don’t think so, and I have no explanation for it. I too started out as a teacher, but left after the ’76-’77 school year because I had grown a beard during the summer of ’76 and refused to shave. If they had fired me, I would have sued them, but instead, they hated me, and it weighed on my mind to feel like an outsider in my own school. No one talked back to a teacher then, and profanity in school was unimaginable, at least when a teacher was around. Everything was “yes sir” and “no sir,” and I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t last a day anymore. On the one hand, our crime is actually down, but on the other, there seems to be so much anger and disrespect in the air.

Mir stella said...

Interesting post Snow, I think the education system is going to hell in a handbasket and it all starts there, as well as at home. Uneducated idiots looting and rioting - I don't care if they are black or white, they're all fools. but the death of freddie Grey worries me - was he really a criminal? why was he arrested? for running? not a really good reason.

Love your posts as usual, miss posting myself but not enought time to do it justice these days.

Snowbrush said...

“the death of freddie Grey worries me - was he really a criminal? why was he arrested? for running? not a really good reason.”

Freddie Gray had been arrested eighteen times. On this occasion, he apparently ran from a cop simply because the cop looked at him. The cop wondered why he ran and pursued him. It was claimed that Gray was carrying a switchblade, but it tuned out that the knife was legal. Since I wrote this post, six cops have been charged with having a part in his death. Three of these cops were white, three black, and one female. The most serious charge was brought against one of the black cops. The assumption in such cases is that the cop or cops involved was racist, yet half of the cops in this case were black. This fact will make NO difference to those who are fixated on racism because it will be claimed that, while the cops were black, they were serving a white, racist power structure. In my mind, this makes such claims the equivalent of claims about religion in that nothing can falsify them. In other words, no matter how groundless they are, or now much evidence is amassed against them, the person’s opinion will remain unchanged.

“Love your posts as usual…”

That means a lot to me because I’ve been accused of being racist because of such posts. Such accusations amount to an ad hominem attack, but there is really nothing one can do to dispute them.

“miss posting myself but not enought time to do it justice these days.”

I hope you find more time soon.

Sparkling Red said...

I listened to an interview on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with a retired policeman. He told a story of being called to the scene of a fight between two men. One of the men was so crazy-enraged that even with the cop car sitting right there, he pulled out a 10-inch knife to stab the other guy. The cop didn't have time to get out of his car, and tapping the siren had already not produced any results, so he hit the gas and knocked the knife guy down with his car to prevent him from murdering the other guy. A crowd immediately gathered and started throwing bottles and bricks at the cop car because the cop had "run a brother down for no reason". Actually, he had saved the other man's life, and both of the men were black. So I guess that's how it goes.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Well said Snow! I couldn't agree more!