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  1. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Dallas

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Robert Musil, Jul 9, 2016.

    I'm taking advantage of the fact that I'm pretty anonymous on this site, and (I think?) no one is going to trace this profile back to my IRL identity. Well, if you really wanted to get into IP addresses or whatever maybe you could, but I guess I'm not too worried about it.

    Anyway I'm taking advantage of this to post my opinions on race/violence in the US lately, because I predict that these opinions will be at least controversial and possibly not even fit for polite society. I'm trying it out here before I try it out on anyone I know IRL, just to see what range of reaction I get. Sorry to inflict this on you, WF, you all are lovely and don't deserve it, etc. Trigger warning, I guess.

    So: we had a couple (more) shootings of unarmed, innocent black men by the police, and then, in a pretty clear act of retaliation, a black guy with military training and an AR-15 shot 12 police, indiscriminately. Then, something which was extremely surprising to me happened. People began to change their minds about racism.

    No less a person than Newt Gingrich said that white Americans "instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk" that black people face. Even Donald Trump, who's never been shy about ginning up points with the racist constituency, put out a fairly measured statement, calling the deaths of Sterling and Castile "senseless" and "tragic", and didn't defend the cops involved with those shootings at all. There are more examples of prominent conservatives saying stuff like this; even my (admittedly few) conservative friends on social media have been posting hippy-dippy kumbayah stuff, instead of their normal doubling-down in defense of the cops in these situations.

    Now, this has been far from a universal trend; I don't want to overstate it. But the fact that it's happening at all, I think, is meaningful, and I think it signifies what is possibly a real opportunity to start to turn things around, on this issue, to really undertake some meaningful reforms of policing in this country.

    So my question is: why now? What happened to change these peoples' minds? And, much as it pains me to say it, the only thing I can see that's changed is that a black guy finally fought back, in an effective way. I don't mean effective in the sense that those individual cops in Dallas deserved to be shot. I mean effective in the sense that he demonstrated, with no room for doubt, just how serious the problem is, and just how bad it can get, if people don't wake up and do something about it. Up until now police violence against minorities has been easy for white people to ignore, if they choose to. If suddenly the indiscriminate violence starts turning against them, it becomes their problem as well, in a very real way. I think that Gingrich and people like him realize that holding on to their racism is not worth threatening the other parts of the social/economic/political order that they so dearly love.

    It might sound like I'm advocating for more violence, but I don't think I am. Violence for political ends has to be very finely calibrated in order to work, in all but the most exceptional circumstances. I think the best course now would be to wait and see, if any of this new talk turns into action. Will police forces start taking de-escalation more seriously? Will training regimens change, or will more excessive force complaints be investigated and punished? Will civilian politicians, at the very least, stop making up BS excuses every time an unarmed black guy is shot? If we start to see real progress, then Dallas might have proven to be, not a good thing exactly, but maybe a necessary thing.

    More violence now would probably give the other side of the right wing, which wants to double down on the violence, more ammo to say that their compatriots are "giving in to terrorism", or whatever. It would make this opportunity dry up. This one act of violence has done what violence does best, which is cause a break with what came before. Another act of violence would simply set up a new normal which I don't think would be good for anyone.

    So, that's what I think. If you really want to honor the cops who died in Dallas, recognize that the same system that killed them killed Sterling and Castile. And all the others. And try and change it.
     
  2. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    Just a couple of things: In the articles I read and saw, both men who were killed were armed, though not actively shooting or trying to shoot. Both, in my opinion, were murdered, but I think it's important to start with the facts.

    Why the seeming change in the attitude of public people? It's an election year. I don't think anyone's mind has been changed, but if the contention is that the people you mentioned were, until recently, necessarily racist, I'll disagree.
     
  3. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Yeah, but they weren't talking like that a week ago. And I'm not sure how agreeing (however reservedly) with BLM helps their electoral chances at all. If you're a Republican candidate I don't see much upside, electorally.

    As for whether the people I mentioned are racists or not--it's a premise of my larger argument, so not really the same discussion. I guess my short answer would be that defending the current level of police brutality against blacks in this country is a racist act. Whether an individual is essentially a racist or not seems like a semantic matter.
     
  4. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    True, but they didn't have the impetus to respond like that before the recent killings.

    I'll still disagree. Trump is a blowhard who spouts whatever pops into his mind. I don't know that you can reasonably describe him as 'defending the current level of police brutality against blacks in this country'. Gingrich, either.
     
  5. No-Name Slob
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    I don't think it was the shooting in Dallas that turned a corner, I think it was the murder of the two black victims. I think, specifically, the fact that they were both legally licensed to carry weapons has a lot of conservatives paying closer attention. I had a conversation with my conservative, gun-toting family about the fact that EVERY gun owner who is licensed to carry should be concerned right now, but the fact that white conceal carry owners are not speaks volumes to the BLM movement and what it means. I think it's that fact, and not the shooting in Dallas, that has more people seriously considering this movement.

    That said, as a Dallas resident, I was interested to see if this would hinder or hurt the BLM movement, and it doesn't seem to have hindered it. Our community has come together in support of one another, and that's a really beautiful thing to see. I think our vocal police chief helps, and I think that the fact that Dallas is leading the nation among community policing and other ethical priorities has everyone on the same page that this shouldn't have happened in Dallas. Look around the nation at the protests for Anton and Philando and you will see violence, riots, and use of excessive force. In Dallas before the shooting, there was none of that. There were police officers tweeting pictures of themselves with protesters, and protesters thanking police officers for keeping them safe while they practiced their civil liberties. The shooter was a maniac, and we all recognize that it had nothing to do with the protest. But shooting police officers will never push a movement forward, and I hope other maniacs don't copy it. And given the progressive practices of the police here, Dallas was the most ironic place to do it.

    ETA side note: If you're a supporter of the BLM community, you should seriously consider the implications of essentially touting a theory that the only reason anyone is paying attention is because white lives were lost. It downplays the validity of the movement. The movement is valid in and of itself.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
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  6. Erik-the-Enchanter!
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    Erik-the-Enchanter! Contributing Member

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    @No-Name Slob, I agree with you wholeheartedly. :D
     
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  7. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Minor factual quibble: Alton Sterling was a convicted felon, and thus probably carrying illegally. However, the gun appears to have been in his pocket at the time of the incident, and he didn't seem to be going for it.
     
  8. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My mistake, seems initial reports may have been misleading. Thanks for the correction.

    However, it also seems police were not aware of this at the time that they shot him, and in an open carry state, simply seeing a gun is not grounds to murder someone, which should have anyone carrying a weapon openly or concealed concerned for their safety in a police stop.
     
  9. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    One additional detail (and I've seen the video, the shooting was in no way justified) was that the original complainant supposedly said that Mr. Sterling had been brandishing his gun prior to the call. I don't know if this was relayed to the officers, and if so, how it was expressed. I'm out of that job now, but I was a 9-1-1 police dispatcher for several years, so I have a slightly different view on many of these cases than the average citizen. Sometimes it's less critical of law enforcement, but other times it's more; I worked with great officers and with guys who had no business with a badge, let alone a gun.
     
  10. No-Name Slob
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    It was a homeless man who made the call. Reports from witnesses say that the homeless man kept harassing Alton who was selling DVDs, because he didn't have any money and kept trying to get Alton to give him a free DVD/CD. The homeless man reported that Alton told him to get out of there, and he showed him his gun, he said "brandishing". According to the gas station owner, he had never had an issue with Alton, and they had a good relationship. However, he did say he had issues with this particular homeless man lingering and making customers feel threatened.
     
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  11. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure how I made it out to be less valid? If by valid you mean, "addressing a real problem through democratic, peaceful (or at most civil disobedient) means."

    It's more a question of how effective it is at changing things. I know change takes time, and there have been a few undeniable wins--that prosecutor in Chicago losing her re-election bid, for instance--but at the same time, innocent (disproportionately African-American) people are still being killed by the police at the same rate they were before Ferguson, before any of this. We know we can fix it--Dallas is a good example of a city that has come a long way, Nashville is another example. But right now most white folks don't even want to admit there's a problem, and until that changes I don't see this getting any better on a national scale.

    I know that I'm supposed to believe that violence doesn't solve anything, only love can drive out hate, etc. Just some days it's really hard to believe that.
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Anyone get the feeling that Fox News is going to twist this around into something more sinister?

    @Robert Musil - Yeah, it's hard to be optimistic in this day and age. Kind of explains why I'm a cynic about humans. :p If World War III broke out, I probably wouldn't even be the least bit surprised. :D Or if there's a giant asteroid heading our way, we'd be too wrapped up in our own worries to work together to save our own species and our planet. But I'm willing to entertain the possibility that I may, in fact, be wrong.

    Still, I think Commander Shepard said something like this: “Humans are stupid, awkward and sometimes cruel and selfish, but we're trying. I'm fighting to give us that chance.”
     
  13. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    I really miss Martin Luther King Jr.
     
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  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    He'd probably be really furious at what's going on. Sure he'd be happy to see blacks and whites getting along, even getting married, he'd be thrilled to see a black guy as a US president, but he'd definitely think we've got work to do still.
     
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  15. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Whoa, you actually knew him?
     
  16. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Oh no no. I would never claim that. I just miss what he stood for. The goodwill, the emphasis on peace, that sort of thing.
     
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