Monday, July 22, 2013

While we're on the subject of racial habits that need changing...

In recent weeks the nation has been treated to a laundry list of contextual sins and foibles that White America needs to get past if we're ever to surmount our racial divide. This list has been put before us by an array of self-appointed social critics from Barack Obama on down. (And I must say that for me personally, the most touching of these pleas came from CNN anchor Don Lemon, on the day of the President's remarks. In an obviously unscripted telephone call with the on-air anchor, Lemon spoke of how still today his mother wants him to call to let her know he got home safely, even though he's a  grown man in his 40s. I will not soon forget the quavering, the raw emotion, in Lemon's voice. That said more to me than all of Sharpton's self-righteous bloviating ever could.)

OK then. Today, boys and girls, as a self-appointed spokesperson not for White America but for Reason (presumptuous, sure, but it is my blog), I would like to specify one, just one, social tic that Black America needs to get past...and it's the one that might have made all the difference on the fateful night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin:

Call 911.

Black America must stop explaining, and alibiing for, and thereby perpetuating, its dysfunctional and tragically counterproductive relationship with law enforcement. Yes, we hear chapter and verse of how African-Americans don't trust the police. We hear the familiar stories of fire hoses and police dogs in Selma, rousts and gratuitous brutality in suburban neighborhoods throughout America, and so forth. We hear about the indignity of stop-and-frisk. This is not to minimize the truth or the psychic impact of any of that. But if whites can be told to, and expected to, put aside the knee-jerk reactions that cause them to clutch pocketbooks tighter and hit the door-lock button in cars, then blacks can learn to overcome their more deliberate refusal to make that all-important call when the need for official help is clearly present.

And by the way, alibis notwithstanding, I don't think the hesitancy to call police is nearly as universal among older law-abiding blacks as the demagogues would have you believe. Good people are good people; they want the bad guys punished, regardless of race. They'll pick up the phone to report evil-doing, even if the evil-doer is "one of their own," and God I hate that sort of phrasing.

Still, let's look at how things might have played out if Trayvon had called the cops and told them (instead of Rachel Jeantel) about the "white-ass cracker"* who was stalking him. Then Trayvon could've turned to Zimmerman himself and said, "I'm on the phone with 911 right now, asshole, you better back off." Do you think Zimmerman would have just executed him? Highly doubtful. There is no evidence to suggest that; and in fact we have hard evidence that Zimmerman did not fire the fatal shot until Trayvon gained the clear upper hand in their physical confrontation...a confrontation that Trayvon appears to have started (when he could have been calling police to report Zimmerman's overzealous neighborhood-watchery).

And doesn't it seem likely that if Trayvon had called 911, the dispatcher with whom Zimmerman was on the phone would've said something like, "Sir, we're on the other line with the individual you're following. He's worried about being stalked. He's worried about you being a criminal and doing him harm! So please leave it alone till our officers get there." That would've surely carried a lot more weight with Zimmerman than merely being told, "We don't need you to do that" (when the true nature of the situation remained, to Zimmerman's mind, uncertain and potentially incendiary). In any case he would've known that he could not now get away with ambushing and summarily executing a kid who was himself on the phone with police at that moment.

Let's even assume that the cops responded and, in line with the demagogic narrative spun by black leaders, drew their weapons on Trayvon. What would the outcome be? Would Trayvon walk up and try to punch a cop in the face (as he apparently did to Zimmerman)? No way. And even if the cops really got out of hand, Trayvon might have been been accosted, roughed up, Tasered...perhaps he might've been unjustly arrested...all of that...but the young man would be alive to tell about it.

By the way, I happen to think that Trayvon had a right to stand his ground that night; one could argue that if he felt he was in danger, he was justified in launching a preemptive strike against Zimmerman. But that in turn justified Zimmerman's response. The whole thing went nightmarishly awry because the two principals tried to handle it themselves, mano a mano.

Regardless of gun laws or stand-your-ground laws or anything else, there is an inescapable bottom line: Of all the calls to 911 that were made on that awful rainy night, February 26, 2012, it was the one call that wasn't made, by Trayvon Martin, that could've spelled the difference in the outcome. 

* ideally not using that nomenclature.


Adrian said...

Given the circumstances, I feel uncomfortable saying that black people should be making the changes here - talk about blaming the victim!

But to your point, I agree that the relationship between some groups and the police are poor. Before firing out solutions, maybe we should understand the problem better. Is it really just a racial thing, that black people don't trust the cops with no good reason? In many cities, black people are subject to stop & frisks, profiling, and very high rates of arrests & incarcerations. Drugs have been an especially big part of this. I heard that dealing drugs is seen as one of the few ways to escape, and drug dealers act as the de facto civic leaders by maintaining order and investing in community programs and charities. Drug use is a consensual crime so cops must do their work against the wishes of all parties. Raiding apartments, searching random people, and treating black youths as criminals not people to protect all create an adversarial relationship. If this is how they see things, who can blame them for not calling the police?

If we're on the subject of racial habits that need changing, let's not forget the role that white people play. Not only are we instigating, not only do we typically come out ahead when there are conflicts, but we have far more power (political, economic) to make change. Blacks are largely the victim here.

RevRon's Rants said...

So many "what if's." So many unresolved conflicts. Perhaps things could have turned out for the better, as you say, Steve. But Martin's not even considering calling for police intervention is hardly unjustifiable, not merely because of distant history or lingering paranoia, either. There are examples virtually every day that support black people's mistrust of law enforcement, and this latest incident only goes to further reinforce that distrust.

In a perfect world, nobody would "look like a thug," or be cursed for having similar appearance to someone who might have behaved badly. And in a perfect world, people with a history of violent behavior would not be entrusted with protecting the rest of us from folks who *might look* violent. And that goes for neighborhood watch volunteers, self-proclaimed protectors of the peace, and even law enforcement personnel.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just admit *you're* a racist. You think you and your readers cover your tracks with all the fancy footwork and philosophy. Re-read what you wrote! It's racist thinking.

Jenny said...

I'm laughing at "Anonymous" hiding, peeking out from behind a mask (google the word anonymous, you'll see) to call Steve a racist. Too funny!

Well, after all, humor is often our saving grace. I've lately been really down on women, in general. Oops, I'm a woman. Back to the drawing board. ;)

RevRon's Rants said...

Unlike anon, I found your post to be quite pragmatic and honest, if somewhat idealistic. Society has become terrified of offending anyone and risking being labeled racist, yet avoiding pragmatic honesty - even bluntness - serves only to stifle honest dialog and sustain the fear, distrust, and jealousy upon which racism is based.

I would be interested in hearing just what it was in your post that inspired anon to accuse you of racism. To be honest, I suspect that he is just another troll who has decided he has a bone to pick with you, and doesn't feel compelled to be any more honest about it than he is in revealing his identity. It's just so easy to sit back in the safe anonymity of the cheap seats and pick at those who actually have something to say.

Anonymous said...

Watch how Dallas Cowboy player Ryan Moats is treated by Dallas Police officer Robert Powell. Moats carefully proceeded through a red light to get to hospital to see his dying mother-in-law.

Anonymous said...

Steve/Ron can one of you two explain to me why you bring "anonymity" into exchanges?

It is not a valid option when posting on this blog to post anonymously?

Is it not a widely acceptable practice worldwide for people to represent themselves with an avatar that is not them and a fake name of some kind.

It seems like a cheap tactic (on your parts) to attempt to cast doubt on visitors and invalidate their point of view, because they are challenging or disagreeing with you in their own terms and not buying into yours or playing along with your blog game here.

There are safety and security reasons that many people do not post their ID and home information.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon - I have no problem whatsoever with those who feel their safety requires that they withhold their identity when participating in online discussions such as this one. My objection is to those who feel the need to sling derisive comments and question the integrity of those who put themselves in the public eye, yet choose to do so from hiding. I liken it to the pre-digital juvenile practice of making obscene phone calls without risk of the party on the other end knowing who is calling. I see it as a hostile act, draped in cowardice.

If someone fears for their safety, perhaps the better alternative would be to refrain from attacking others, rather than doing so anonymously. at the very least, one's silence would be a display of the kind of integrity that the anonymous caller lacks. Responders simply need to ask themselves - honestly - if their objective is to engage in constructive dialog, or merely to hide in the digital bushes and smear those who are willing to stand up - publicly - for their ideas and beliefs.

Steve Salerno said...

I try (though I often fail) to approach this blog from a journalistic perspective, and as we all know (or should know), anonymous sources are frowned upon in Real Journalism, even though they are sometimes necessary to use in the original gathering of sensitive information. I understand the desire for privacy and freedom from harassment, but the sad irony is that in my experience--and as Ron suggests--too often anonymous posters use their anonymity as a platform for the harassment of others. That is unfortunate.

Also, context matters as much as content. It is helpful for us to know some (honest, documentable) background about the person presenting an idea. Sure, an idea can stand on its own merits, but the more we know about the well from which that idea springs, the more we can evaluate the possible biases and/or agenda of the idea's author.

Anonymous said...

Ron more than yourself has no problem insulting visitors in Shamblog both openly and passive aggressively, and "harassing" visitors he takes issue with. Because Ron has demonstrated enough times that for the most part he is on Team Steve, he gets a pass. But people stepping in and being no more insulting and harassing than Ron are insulted for taking he anonymous option. You two are see through. I could dig up and post Ron's history of smugly insulting visitors but I am sure you will just come back with "context" and some other justification for his way being tolerated and others not.

It is just convenient (for you tow) crazy talk to take issue with anonymity on the internet

Steve Salerno said...

OK, enough; once we get to the point where a comment is all backlash and has no redeeming or "idea" value, I don't see the use in further engagement. We'll agree to disagree.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon should see how I respond face-to-face to obnoxious people. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Now Ron... Bran muffins, my friend. ;)

RevRon's Rants said...

Nah... always with a smile, Steve. Always with a smile. :-)

Chet said...