Monday, May 4, 2020

There's No Way This Happens in Reverse

Two news articles got me going today. Enough that my husband said "stop reading the news." (I'd like to point out that won't work, especially if he is going to keep reading the news. Love you baby.)

News article 1: Georgia man shot and killed while jogging. Let me summarize this one for you. A black man was running in a neighborhood when a white father and son saw him, and decided he "looked like" someone who was suspected of breaking and entering in the area. On their own (they are not law enforcement), they grabbed a shotgun and a pistol, jumped into their truck, and sped after this man. They cut him off, and when he turned around and ran the other way (which is exactly what I would have done), they chased after him, shouting out their window "we want to talk to you" while brandishing their weapons. They caught up to the guy, where there might have been a struggle (you jump out at me with a gun, and I might realize I can't flee, and its time to fight) with one of the men, and the other man shot the black man twice. The reason they gave when specifically asked by authorities "was there anything that caused you to believe this man was committing a crime," was "he's a black man running down our street." This incident happened two months ago, and no charges have been filed against the two white men who killed the black jogger.

News article 2: Stillwater Oklahoma revises mask order after citizen threaten store employees. The summary here is this. Stillwater Oklahoma puts in place a public safety measure to require all people to wear masks when entering stores. Some of the citizens don't like the order, and they respond by threatening store employees with physical violence, including one with firearms when told they need to wear a mask to enter. And the city responds by rescinding the order (instead of, I don't know, arresting the people threatening others). I'm not sure what these folks did when "no shirt, no shoes, no service" was first introduced, but suddenly this particular public health mandate was enough to cause grown white men to scream at Walmart/Target/Costco employees and threaten to beat them up or shoot them.

I'm struck by the impunity of white men in both these situations.

There is no way this happens in reverse. 

If I were out running, and were chased down, shot and killed by a black man and his son, there would have already been an arrest and conviction.

If a black man threatened a store employee with violence over wearing a mask, several things are likely to have occurred. The police would have been called by multiple bystanders, who would have responded with drawn guns. From there, the black man would have been arrested or shot. Additionally, before the police arrived, there is a significant possibility that a white "good guy with a gun" would have shot him. In no instance would the law be rescinded or revised.

You cannot separate what is happening in America from racial politics in America. Politicians, prosecuting attorneys and the police respond differently when a white man is acting in a threatening manner than when a black man acts (or often, appears to act) in a threatening manner.

I'm not suggesting you shoot the white men .003 seconds after you yell "hands up."

I am suggesting you hold white men behaving criminally accountable for their actions, and give black men the same courtesy and benefit of the doubt you show white men.

I am suggesting we counter the impunity the racism-that-is-white-privilege provides. When white men with guns storm the Michigan statehouse, or scream in the face of store employees, have no fear or and face no consequences, even if they don't believe their actions are racially motivated, that is systemic racism at work.

I am suggesting that we demand an end to racist laws, policies and practices, and ouster public representatives that continue to defend them. Like the so-called "stand your ground" laws that have been so grossly and inappropriately interpreted as to legalize the killing of young black men by armed citizens. That same law that was cited as the reason why Ahmaud Arbery's murderers were not charged with crimes (two prosecuting attorneys said this publicly, and have now had to recuse themselves from any investigation and potential prosecution.) 

Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed
for having the audacity to go jogging
We have to speak truth into this.





** Note: About 5 minutes after I published this, I learned of the murder of a store security officer in Flint, Michigan, by someone who refused to wear a mask. The three people involved in the shooting were all arrested (as they should have been) and charged with first-degree murder. Governor Whitmer has not rescinded the state order requiring everyone to wear a mask entering a store. All three suspects in the murder are black.

I do not believe Whitmer should have rescinded the order, and I believe these people should be held accountable for murder. I do wonder if the charges and the conversation would have been different if the suspects had been white.

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