The Beauty Shop had barely stopped smoldering in Ferguson, Missouri, when the Eric Garner grand jury decision came down on Staten Island — no probable cause to indict one particular cop for something — manslaughter? — in his choke-hold take-down of the 300-pound cigarette-seller. For my money, they should have indicted the whole gang of cops who were there that day, including the black female NYPD sergeant on the scene ostensibly “supervising” the action, at least for something like negligent homicide, since the infamous video shows them acting cruelly, stupidly, and indifferently as the poor guy just lay dying on the sidewalk.
Worse, the decision only muddied the public’s view of several events in recent years involving black people, police, and standards of behavior so that now a general opinion prevails that all black people are always treated badly for no reason. That was the same week, by the way, that a white Bosnian immigrant named Zemir Begic was bludgeoned to death by three black teenagers wielding hammers who were out beating on stopped cars on a St Louis street — a crime that was barely covered in the news media, and went unprotested outside the immigrant neighborhood where it occurred. It’s hard to blame the public for being confused about what may or may not be happening across the nation, but history will surely judge this as a tragic time for America.
If we can’t or won’t unpack the separate issues in these matters, the country is going to get into a lot more trouble. One issue is whether police forces in the USA are becoming goon squads. The decision by the federal government to offload tactical military equipment, including armored war wagons, on police departments far and wide was disgracefully stupid since it only gives the impression, when hauled out, that the police are at war with the citizenry. There ought to be public discussion of just flat-out taking all that stuff away from them.
Non-black America is constantly being importuned to “talk honestly” about race and then punished when they actually do. I’ll venture here to summarize what I think has actually happened, and I’m sure a lot of people won’t like it, including plenty of white people. I take a historical view. It is at least an interesting coincidence that the climax of the civil rights campaign produced a black separatist movement that has endured for half a century. It emerged at exactly the moment that the two signal civil rights acts passed congress in 1964-65 (the public accommodations act and the voting rights act).
I think the reason for the sudden rise of black separatism was anxiety among black Americans about the prospect of being formally invited to participate in what was then American common culture. By the late 1960s even colleges were chartering new, separate student unions (at the demand of black students). The sad irony of this has been lost to history. But in effect, by that time a large segment of the black population had opted out either actively or mentally from trying to join the then-dominate culture. The gulf between the two cultures has only grown wider since then, egged on by a foolish white-sponsored “diversity” campaign which had imposed the ridiculous idea that a common culture in one nation is unnecessary.
The result is a permanently oppositional black culture with an elaborate ideology of endless grievance and a guilt-tripped white political culture held hostage by it and pandering endlessly to it — and sandwiched in between those two dispositions is a whole lot of really bad behavior. The least you can say about the four incidents involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice is that they involved some degree of ambiguity about what was actually going on, and in probably all those cases, at least, death was not caused by sheer malice. The same is not true about the case of Zemir Begic, or of the many people victimized during last year’s “knockout” game fad, or indeed the astounding number of people being gunned down regularly on the streets of Chicago.
I don’t think we’re capable of making these distinctions anymore, and surely not of doing anything constructive about them. Instead, we just appear to be careening toward a new and different kind of civil war.