Not Marching

I am not rallying against the current spate of presumed police brutality against black men. Much of what I am seeing is uninformed histrionics: here’s what we think we know, here’s what we saw on TV, here’s what we heard, here’s what we’ve been told. For me, there’s too much emotion loose on the streets of the nation and not nearly enough intellect.

Our outrage seems mostly an anti-intellectual embrace of rhetoric over analysis, and the wrongheaded and deeply troubling determination to fight our legal case on city streets where no such cases are ever won. Simply failing to obey lawful instructions from a sworn officer is legal justification for the very tragedies we are rallying against. I’d rather fight the actual problem than flail away at a symptom of it.

Where was our outrage when some idiot gave a 12-year old *black* child an Airsoft pistol to play with in a city renowned for police overreaction? The news media keeps referring to the air gun as a toy. Airsoft pistols are not toys. It’s really not hair-splitting: BB guns are toys. AirSoft pistols are weapons, like a bow and arrow. This is how these guns have skated around the law requiring the bright orange cone over the end of the barrel: they’re not toy guns, kids should not be playing with them.

Did that make it right for Officer Timothy Loehmann, 26, to shoot twelve-year old Tamir Rice? Of course not. However, just the fact that the officer panicked made it legal for him to shoot the kid. That’s the way it works: the bigger a punk the officer is, the more frightened he is, the easier it is to make a case for using deadly force. Not because his life was actually in danger, but because the officer likely peed himself; because he was afraid.

In such situations, cowardice is a cop’s best friend. I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened that night in Cleveland. What I do know is a child is dead, and folks running around hollering and outraged refuse, absolutely, to take any responsibility at all for it. They blame the cop, but I blame whomever put that pistol in the hands of a twelve-year old and left him on the damned *street* of all places, unsupervised.

This is my problem: not only is there no leadership in Black America, there is no accountability in Black America. We are all to blame.

Read Full Essay Here


  1. Dave Van Domelen says:

    I’ve got my own essay on the “bad public servants” side (, my main beef with this situation is how the prosecutors so arrogantly play grand jury manipulation tricks to sweep it under the rug.

    Cop kills someone who didn’t need killing, DA wants to keep cozy with cops, DA sweeps it under the rug with a rigged grand jury so that it never has to go to trial. Never mind that a trial might actually acquit the cop and end things (the double jeopardy protection only applies if you actually go to trial), never mind that everyone’s watching. Corrupt business as usual, bury the grand jury in crap and sit back to await inevitable confused no-indictment.

    Racism is a proximate cause. Overzealous enforcement of minor laws is a proximate cause. Irresponsible parents are a proximate cause. The deep cause is that as long as cops know they won’t get indicted for any abuses they commit, some cops will take that as license to go too far.

    • Thad says:

      I’m inclined to agree. The grand jury system is a farce; it’s a rubber stamp. There’s no reason to have a jury at all if it’s just there to do what the prosecutor tells it to. (Which is pretty much “Indict anybody who’s not a police officer.”)

      It seems to me that the solution is simple, albeit not politically easy to implement: put an advocate for the other side in the room. Require cross-examination. Prosecutor wants a trial? Put somebody in there to to hammer exculpatory evidence. Prosecutor doesn’t want a trial? Put somebody in there to hammer the reasons there should be one.

      Maybe nothing would change. But it seems like both sides of any story should be told.

    • Priest Priest says:

      My point exactly. Meanwhile, nobody’s having an honest conversation. The NYC cop union guy needs to shut the hell up, he’s just fanning the flames. Beyond that, both sides should fess up: this system is broken. But neither will. The lefties (and blacks) hollering in the streets are easily dismissed because, I am telling you, Ma and Pa Midwesterner Apple Pie is thinking, “They’re defending criminals.” So, even people who may *agree* with the major complaint become compromised because of the dishonesty on the part of the protesters. If I resist, mouth off to, or attack a cop, I expect a butt kicking. Hopefully not death, but attacking a cop is a STUPID THING TO DO, but the protesters are, by inference, encouraging more of that behavior, especially from young black males. And I’m definitely not walking around with a picket sign in defense of a convicted kidnapper (Cleveland), no matter how tragic or even how wrong the cops were: I want some TRUTH, first and foremost, from those who seek my support. What really worries me is how easily people, all people, are manipulated, going postal over hearsay and rhetoric; how unconcerned we are with truth. I hate it when Fox News does it, I hate it when MSNBC does it, I hate it when Rush Limbaugh does it, I hate it when Al Sharpton does it. Stop treating me like an idiot. Stop the yelling, stop sugar coating everything, and let’s ALL take some responsibility for this mess. Running around screaming “The Cops! The Cops!” is just childish. Hands Down, Mouth Shut.

  2. Will says:

    This is one of the few times that I really have to strongly disagree with you, mostly because of the mentality of how you approached this. This whole “taking responsibility” crap. It’s the same thing as saying “You know how Dad gets when he’s drunk, if you hadn’t said anything, he wouldn’t have hit you!” or “If you hadn’t led him on, he wouldn’t have raped you! Why were you wearing a skirt that short anyway, you know how guys are?”

    You’re making excuses for people who abuse their authority. There is no other side to look at. Mike Brown is dead. Tamir Rice is dead. Eric Garner is dead. None of them did anything that warranted the death penalty or a summary execution. Period. If they had been better people, they still would’ve died, because the cops they were dealing with weren’t good people, and no amount of politeness on the part of the victims would’ve changed that. None.

    Stop making excuses. The cops have a responsibility to the people, it not the other way around. You don’t lose your rights and become something less than human, reduced to “yes sir, no sir, of course I’ll grab my ankles for you sir” with even the smallest refusal meaning death, just because the person in front of you has a badge.

    “Yeah, I know she was underage, but she was hot and coming on to me. What was I supposed to do?” “Why did you say that your boyfriend? You know how his temper is; you shouldn’t have provoked him into hitting you!”

    There are no excuses for these executions. There was nothing that forced the hands of any of these cops. They all could’ve made different choices, and they’re the only ones with power in that situation. They’re the ones with the real guns, nightsticks, tasers, pepper spray, and bullet proof vests. They have a responsibility to use all of that only when absolutely necessary, and they failed miserably in that responsibility. Michael Brown didn’t shoot himself with the gun. Eric Garner didn’t choke himself to the ground. Tamir Rice didn’t shoot himself. But they’re at fault for their own deaths because they weren’t perfect, polite citizens? Please.

    I do not accept that, and I’m sorry that you do. As far as I’m concerned, being a bad cop is worse than being a criminal. At least criminals go to jail when they hurt someone, a crappy cop ends up on desk duty for a little while before being put back on the street.

    • Priest Priest says:

      Will: you may want to re-read my essay. I am saying nothing of the kind. The cops were idiots who deserve prosecution, I was adamant about that. What I am saying is all the focus is on the behavior of the police while virtually no focus is being placed upon the responsibility and accountability of the subjects. Michael Brown is in no way, shape, or form Trayvon Martin, and we should stop glossing over that important distinction just because it suits our agenda. This is what Ted Cruz does, this slick propaganda. I want an honest conversation, I think I deserve one if I am expected to march in protest on behalf of these folks. I want somebody to take reprehensibility for placing that Airsoft pistol in Tamir’s hand. Until somebody steps up and actually takes responsibility for *that,* all the rest is just a liberal version of the nonsense conservatives like Cruz do: ground up extremely complex matters into convenient sound bites which we swallow. This is why white America doesn’t take us seriously, Will: we’re unwilling to stand up and take the hit. Stand up, Bill Cosby. Stand up, Mike Brown’s parents. The only figure I’ve seen thus far telling an honest story is Eric Gardner’s widow, who readily admits Mr. Gardner’s shortcomings and, thus, makes her more credible. All the rest is Al Sharpton’s offensively self-serving grandstanding and finger pointing. When I FIRST see some accountability on *our* part, then, sure, I’m the first guy out the door. Please don’t confuse that position with making excuses for bad police; I am not doing that, you are completely misrepresenting my position. I am saying there is no accountability in Black America, only whining and bellyaching. Fix THAT, and I’m in.

  3. I’m not marching either. In part because it’s damned cold in Detroit. But as dysfunctional and/or self-destructive as some of the expressions have been, I’m hoping that the follow-through is purposeful advocacy for changes in public policy on any number of fronts- criminal justice, employment, education and voting access.
    As legitimate as it may be to point out that black communities have dysfunction and intracultural crime, I don’t believe it voids concern over police behavior (by police of whatever race/ethnicity.) Among the public pundits chiming in, I’d consider Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Barkley to be noncredible observers (Giuliani being a smarmy bigot and Barkley often times seems to love being a contrary d*** just to prove he’s not “that” kind of black person.) Unfortunately, now we can forget about Bill Cosby chiming in– sheesh– Was there ever a time when our communities were devoid from nuttiness that we wished were minimized? I mean, even during Jim Crow, the lack of near-universal middle-class-manners perfection among the black populace didn’t justify heads getting hung/blown off for “eyeballing” or sitting at a lunch counter, etc. The systemic inequities that in part lead to the ‘Pookies’, ‘RayRays’ and ‘SharKeeshas’ of today seem to get scarce critique compared to the bootstrap talk. Not that bootstrap talk has no value, but– can there ever be a conversation on how decades-long tax and corporate legislation have helped to hollow-out America’s urban centers with the flight of manufacturing (which at one point was a relatively reliable conduit for the modestly educated) as well as sustained tax-breaks for the already-affluent and corporations? Urban public education has been allowed to flounder, but the mainstream public takeaway seems to be that the kids are at fault, they’re scary, just build more juvenile and adult prisons.
    I don’t know what the tipping point is going to be. Local voter turnout was dismal for the midterms, reportedly barely 31% for Detroit proper. It might be easy to write off some of the local apathy on the city’s bankruptcy, but there’s a sustained swath of folks who just aren’t engaged with ‘the system’ at all. It’s depressing, it’s infuriating; the traditional civil rights outfits and all the big-deal megachurches can’t drive major voter turn-out in the ‘hood; but when Michigan’s heavily Tea-Party state legislature actively mulls a bill to disallow municipalities from creating community benefit agreements in reaction to developer proposals that give them huge tax breaks, I can’t disagree with the local folks whose takeaway is that everything is rigged.

  4. Tez says:

    ” I assure you, there are kids, somewhere in that neighborhood, who are afraid to tell anybody that Michael intimidated them, that he beat them or threatened them. He was a scary guy.”

    I am just now becoming aware of this video showing Michael beating and robbing an elderly man who was apparently handing out Jesus flyers.

  5. Tez says:

    Actually, looking closer, I am not even sure if that is Michael Brown in that video. You can’t really see his face too well and that kid looks a lot shorter than 6’5.

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