2015.72: Black Lives, Cop Lives, Dangerous Rhetoric
Black lives matter.
This is not to say that other lives don’t matter.
It’s gertruding, sorta. Saying “black lives matter” calls attention to the question of whether black lives matter like white lives matter. Responding “all lives matter” denies the importance of the question.
And it is a fair question: do black lives in America matter the way white lives do? The question has been raised lately in the cases of police shootings, with account after account of cops getting away scot-free after killing black people.
A digression: I’m not nearly as interested in writing about unjustified police killings as Scott Greenfield and the boys at F?a?u?l?t? ?L?i?n?e?s- …
…Fault Lines (whew!) are. What used to be the criminal-defense practical blawgosphere has turned into the police-misconduct blawgosphere.
It is tragic, but killings by cops are banal, a predictable symptom of the predominant cultural diseases of the 21st century, in which fear leads to trust in government leads to more fear, and police mistreatment of the citizenry leads to public resentment leads to more police mistreatment of the citizenry. Prosecuting cops for their killings would at best be an aspirin, temporary treatment of a minor symptom while the disease eats the rest of our freedom.
Maybe it’s a topic of such compelling importance that criminal-defense lawyering pales in comparison; maybe they love writing about it; or maybe blogging criminal-defense lawyers fetishize police misconduct for other reasons.
The truth is that cops are going to get away with their killings regardless of their victims’ race. Which is not to say that black lives don’t matter less than white lives to the American criminal-justice system, but only that cop lives matter more than either.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman says, “cop lives matter too.” Yeah. No shit. The law and society already treat cops like special snowflakes with their own set of rules. It’s a felony to assault a cop; it’s a capital felony to kill a cop; when a cop is killed every other cop in town drops everything to find the killer; a cop can’t get indicted for murder in this town; corrupt judges will not find lying cops to be dishonest because they fear the judgments of police unions. That our society treats cop lives as mattering more than others is beyond obvious to anyone who is paying attention.
said the attack “strikes at the heart of law enforcement” and noted the “very dangerous national rhetoric that’s out there today.” And when it gets to a point where cops are being assassinated, he said, this rhetoric is “out of control.”
A guy kills a cop for no obvious reason, and we immediately jump to the conclusion that it’s because he was a cop. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable conclusion, but would we jump to it if police didn’t think and behave like occupiers?
In truth, police officers are safer now than ever before: in 2013 there were 107 law-enforcement deaths in the US, the lowest annual number since 1912, when the population of the U.S. was less than a hundred million. It’s hard to see how the national rhetoric is “very dangerous.”
But rhetoric is speech. It ought in any case to be out of the control of people like Hickman. What Hickman and his ilk seek is two things: for the rhetoric to be controlled, and for cops to be treated even more specially than they are now. “It is time to come forward and support law enforcement,” says our DA, Devon Anderson.
Right. In Harris County, people don’t support law enforcement. I don’t know whether Anderson is delusional or cynically manipulative. The American public, out of irrational fear fed by people like Anderson, give law enforcement obeisance and tribute enough already.
That obeisance and tribute fuel anti-cop rhetoric. Treat cops like they are a class above, and the classes below will resent it, will talk about that resentment. Their talk will do no good, and they will occasionally resort to violence in their frustration. Calling for more obeisance and more tribute will do nothing to diminish the resentment and frustration.
We human beings are in no position to name anyone who deserves to be gunned down from behind. Goforth didn’t deserve it, and his wife and kids didn’t deserve to lose him. Killing him was a shitty thing for the killer to do.
Turning his killing into a political platform is a shitty thing for Hickman and Anderson to do, and ultimately counterproductive.
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