Colbert’s Heir Does See Race

Max Ufberg looks back at the first week of The Nightly Show:

So far, [host Larry] Wilmore has already mocked the Academy Awards, poked fun at Al Sharpton, and taken down Bill Cosby (“That motherfucker did it”). The response has been favorable. Critics have praised Wilmore’s affability and wryness, even his “ideological unpredictability.” He has, as the New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley puts it, “a disarming way of laughing at his own jokes and those of others.” The show’s closing Bill Maher-style roundtable discussion format, while less of an immediate hit, certainly offers long-term potential.

Genetta M. Adams observes that Wilmore “comes at current events in the same manner that brothers at the barber shop or sisters at the hair salon do: straight up and no-holds-barred”:

And even if Wilmore’s takes on topics like Cosby aren’t particularly new, as Slate’s Willa Paskin rightly points out, “There has previously been no black perspective on late night to take these subjects on with such matter-of-fact vigor.” His signature segment, “Keep It 100,” can lead to some squirm-in-their-chairs moments for panelists who have to answer a question honestly or face the prospect of getting some “weak tea”—literally—as they’re handed tea bags. Rapper-activist Talib Kweli had such a moment when he was asked, “When it comes to black images, is hip-hop part of the problem or part of the solution?” …

Variety’s Brian Lowry wondered if The Nightly Show’s format and edgier take on the day’s news would make the show a “no-go zone” for newsmakers and celebrities who wanted to pitch their movies or books. But who cares? The last thing late night needs is another show for celebs to pimp their products.

Rawiya Kameir makes another key point:

One of Wilmore’s most important and praiseworthy attributes is his implicit acknowledgment that “minority issues” are really just American issues, and that they deserve to be treated as such.

Through a nightly panel segment comprised of actors, comedians, and journalists, Wilmore avoids the common host trope of filtering the world solely though his own worldview; instead, he allows a diverse group of guests to explain their own identities and perspectives. At the show’s core is a commitment to the idea of purposeful conversation, rather than the moral superiority that comes with being right.

Eric Thurm also considers the substance behind the laughs:

[T]he real center of attention is the dynamic between the panel members and the strength of their arguments — “The proof is common sense,” as Wilmore puts it. Though there are jokes, there’s also a sincere conversation about the implications of patriarchy and the way Cosby’s celebrity contributed to a collective unwillingness to believe his accusers, motivated largely by Ebony digital editor Jamilah Lemieux, who gets to make points about the way women who accuse men of rape are marginalized (when was the last time a rape victim got anything out of lying?). So the veneer of a comedy show allows the expression of uncomfortable truths and opinions in honesty. During the segment explicitly devoted to honesty — “Keep It 100” — there was a real, off-the-cuff fight between Keith Robinson and Baratunde Thurston over the relative importance of Thurston’s integrity and racial identity that was entertaining, revealing, and passionate. It was excellent television.

Watch that full segment here, with a segment of that segment above. Pilot Viruet points to another strength of the show:

What’s great about The Nightly Show‘s panels is that, as heated as the discussions may get, they are never disrespectful and they never get out of hand. Much of this is due to Wilmore himself, who knows how to moderate these hot-button panels, and how to rein in his guests without shutting them down. He has a very specific, calming cadence. As David Sims at The Atlantic (who was my guest for Tuesday’s taping) puts it, Wilmore is “a mellifluous radical who would say all kinds of hilarious, outrageous things that you’d barely notice because he did it so sweetly.”

And he’s not afraid of dissent:

[A]t the end of every episode, Wilmore invites Twitter to ask him questions so he too has to “Keep it 100.” This forces the host to think on his feet in response to tough queries — about race, Cosby, Obama, etc. — and keeps the show fair, because Wilmore knows that he is not exempt from the tough shit, either.

And Todd VanDerWerff notes the most obvious though no less important quality of The Nightly Show:

[U]ltimately, it’s just cool to have a show devoted to issues of interest to America’s racial minorities that primarily features those racial minorities. When white comedian Bill Burr made a joke on the panel in Monday’s debut episode about “speaking for all white people,” it was so funny precisely because the show often slots white men into the “token” roles minorities would play on other shows. There’s a fun subversiveness to this that The Nightly Show will surely play with in weeks to come.

Do Cops Treat Blacks And Whites Equally? Ctd

Another reader joins the discussion:

As an Afro-American, I want to address the cop who said “of course there are racist cops – there are racists in every profession – but I don’t think cops as a whole are more racist than other professionals”. I don’t know if this is true or not, but while it does seem plausible, it completely misses the point.

First, cops aren’t just “any other profession.” They are armed and have enormous power. When they take a life, there is a implicit presumption of innocence that most other professions do not have. Because of this, we need to hold them to a higher standard. Further, being a cop is a very dangerous profession, so rightly so, cops are always on the lookout for their own safety. This makes the the consequence of their bias far greater than that of most other professions.

Second, to really understand this situation you have to realize that some of the worst racism that many blacks have received have been at the hands of other black people.

In fact, this very often comes from black people who live in black neighborhoods and have only black friends and married to their black spouse. This may seem strange and rare thing, but it is actually quite common. The reason is that there is an implicit message in our culture that to be black is somehow to be less worthy and less beautiful and just less in general. There’s no conspiracy to teach this, but rather it is an insidious legacy that we carry from our past. The truth that no one wants to say is that it is hard for any of us (including blacks) to avoid learning these deeply flawed lesson. I’m convinced that for most, the only way to truly not being racist is admit that these false images exist in our culture and do the personal work it takes to say “no” to it.

Lastly, we’re discussing this topic as if there is actually a debate. There have been studies performed about this and the numbers don’t lie. One example that comes to mind is the statistic that blacks and whites use marijuana in near-equal percentages, but blacks are incarcerated at a much higher rate. This is the very injustice that has fueled the decriminalization across the country. I believe I’ve also read something similar regarding NYC’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics.

So there’s really no question as to whether blacks and whites are treated equally. The only thing we learn from the Post/ABC poll is that most whites either don’t know the facts or choose to deny them. This isn’t really surprising, as it is only natural to understand the complexities of struggles that you have experienced while completely not understanding the struggle of others.

Do Cops Treat Blacks And Whites Equally? Ctd

Many readers are pouncing on this email from a white police officer:

While off duty, I’ve been pulled over at gunpoint and have been treated like crap and yelled at for no reason by cops. Every time it was my fault because I had committed a traffic violation.

WHAT?!  Since when is it normal/acceptable for a routine traffic violation to turn into a drawn gun? If a cop thinks that is normal, there may be a bigger issue with policing then profiling.

Another reader on that quote:

Look, I know cops are people too, and can have a bad day like the rest of us. But the entire reason basis for entrusting police officers with the power of the state to threaten and inflict violence, even lethal force, is because we trust and train them to be professionals and act that way. What the reader describes is nothing more than state-sanctioned thuggery.

Several more sound off:

Perhaps those accusing the cop of racism have had the experience of being pulled over, stopped or frisked so many times they start to suspect every time. It’s human nature. The reader’s experience only confirms that these men have been overwhelmed with bad experiences with cops.

I’m a white male. I’ve only been pulled over for no reason once in my 50 years, while I was driving my brother’s red Porsche. I’ve never been followed in a store. But my 13-year-old black adopted daughter, a straight-A student who is honest to a fault, has been followed in stores, stopped by police or questioned by strangers at least a dozen times, almost all of them for no reason whatsoever. One time I watched a store manager follow her around for 15 minutes while all the white kids in the store went unnoticed. These would be all anecdotes except that the data supports the anecdotes, including the one you just posted about off duty black cops.

A lot of white people just need to wake up and develop a bit of empathy.

This reader did:

The latest post from the cop who got accused of being store security reminded me of an incident that happened almost exactly ten years ago. I was waiting for my wife to get off work at the Macy’s at the local mall so we could do some Christmas shopping, so I was wandering the departments. After about half an hour, a black woman confronted me and asked if she could help me. Lost in thought, I mistook her for a sales associate at first and said no. I don’t remember what she said next (okay, I admit, I was a little stoned at the time), but I do remember her gathering up her kids and exiting the store, leaving a basket behind with some items in it.

When I asked my wife later, she figured the lady had mistaken me for security. Apparently that store was locally notorious for their “Loss Prevention” tactics and would follow and sometimes harass people. I’m 6’6″, white, and at the time was recently discharged from the Navy and still sported a relatively fresh military haircut. I was probably wearing my Navy Exchange boots at the time. I probably looked just like a cop trying to blend in.

Anyway, I really felt for that lady. She was having a bad day and I made it worse without even realizing what was going on.

P.S. I guess an alternate explanation is she didn’t want to be in a store with an enormous stoned guy. But I was keeping to myself!

One more reader excerpts another quote from the cop:

Re: “The truth is, people perceive racism when there is none in order to avoid taking responsibility for their actions” … this is part of the poison of racism. It makes it difficult for everyone, of any race, to perceive situations as race-free. If you’re accustomed to you and friends and family members being racially harassed by cops, then you perceive cops as engaging in racial harassment even when they’re not. It may have nothing to do with whether or not you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions.

As Lord Chief Justice Hewart put it, “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” The purpose of a justice system isn’t merely to settle affairs of private conduct; it’s also to assure the public that the government is fair. Racism corrodes that assurance, even when the government is trying to be fair.

Update from the white cop who wrote in:

To clarify, it’s not normal or acceptable for a routine traffic violation to turn into a drawn gun, but not every traffic stop is routine. Out of the thousands of stops I’ve done, I may have drawn my gun 10 times. The point I was trying to make wasn’t that it’s normal for a stop to go that way; it was that when they do, it’s rarely a result of race. Perhaps I should have went into more detail in my story.

It happened around 2 or 3 am and I was driving home from my parents, half asleep (no I wasn’t drinking). When the cop turned on his lights to pull me over, I looked down and realized I was speeding. At the time I was driving a car that had really dark tint on the rear window. The tint made it extremely difficult to see into my car from behind. I reached down for my wallet and suddenly I hear the cop ordering me out of my car with my hands in the air. I get out and see I have a gun drawn on me. I identify myself and show my badge. The cop then approaches me and explains he couldn’t see through my rear window very well and saw me reaching for something. He was worried I was reaching for a gun and took precautions to protect himself.

At the end of the day it was my actions that led to the encounter. If I had left for my house earlier or slept at my parents, I would have been better rested and perhaps been more cognizant of my speed and not pulled over. Also, if I waited until the officer approached me to retrieve my wallet, I would have never been ordered out of my car.

Personally, I understand why the cop did what he did, but realize some (most?) people are going to read that and think the cop overreacted. In the cop’s defense, yes I was only reaching for a wallet, but what if I had been reaching for a gun? It’s easy to judge a cop’s decision in hindsight, but the question is what would a similar person do in the same situation.

Admittedly, 99% percent of the time a cop draws his weapon, it turns out to be unnecessary. The problem is we have no way of knowing which time will be the 1% when it is necessary. People often say we knew what we were getting into when we took the job. The thing is we agreed to risk our lives, not sacrifice them. As cops we do what we can to minimize the risk to ourselves.

Niebuhr On Race In America

by Dish Staff


The evangelical ethicist David Gushee pulled down Reinhold Niebuhr’s early masterpiece, Moral Man and Immoral Society, from his shelf, re-reading it with Michael Brown and Eric Garner in mind. Some background:

Written to pierce any surviving liberal optimism as the Roaring ’20s gave way to the disastrous ’30s, Niebuhr’s primary thesis concerns the effects of sin on human society and, in particular, on human collectivities or groups. Niebuhr says that all human life is marked by sin, especially in the forms of ignorance and selfishness, but at least the individual sometimes demonstrates the potential to rise above ignorance and selfishness to reach rational analysis and unselfish concern for others. Human groups, on the other hand, are both more stupid and more selfish than individuals. They seem especially impervious either to rational or moral appeal, easily prone to self-deception and demagoguery, and apparently needful of the imposition of a power greater than their own power if they are to accede to any changes that cut against their own self-interest.

Though the book focuses on economics, Gushee highlights Niebuhr’s telling comments on race: 

Niebuhr writes: “It is hopeless for the Negro to expect complete emancipation from the menial social and economic position into which the white man has forced him, merely be trusting in the moral sense of the white race.” That’s because, as Niebuhr writes throughout, groups which benefit from the existing structure of society have no particular interest in seeing that structure changed.

Moreover, privileged groups have an extraordinary ability to “identif[y] [their] interests with the peace and order of society.” Self-deception reigns among the privileged because, among other reasons, to see reality more truly would place an unbearable moral pressure on such groups to resign privilege in favor of greater justice. Instead, privileged groups call in the forces of state power in the purported interests of the “peace and order” of society as a whole, but in fact to suppress movements of the oppressed for social change and greater justice.

Knowing that only forceful resistance to white privilege has any hope of changing the existing structures of power, Niebuhr ponders whether that pressure will be more effective if it is violent or if it is nonviolent. Niebuhr refuses to draw an absolute distinction between these forms of pressure. He does conclude that “non-violence is a particularly strategic instrument for an oppressed group which is hopelessly in the minority and has no possibility of developing sufficient power to set against its oppressors. The emancipation of the Negro race in America probably waits upon the adequate development of this kind of social and political strategy.”

The Dish recently featured Gushee’s groundbreaking speech on the full inclusion of gay Christians in the Church here.

(Photo: A protester waves a “black and white” modified US flag during a march following the grand jury decision in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. By Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Who Profiles The Profilers?

On Monday, the Justice Department issued updated guidelines (pdf) to federal law enforcement agencies on profiling – be it by race, nationality, gender, or sexuality. But advocates of reform aren’t quite cheering, because the guidelines aren’t binding on state or local police and include some pretty broad exceptions:

“It’s better than the Ashcroft guidance, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said the ACLU’s Laura Murphy, referring to the directives issued during the Bush administration in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Murphy said in a phone interview she had been hopeful the Obama administration would go further in cracking down on profiling of Latino and Muslim travelers (among other groups) by the TSA at airports.

In making “routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions,” federal authorities may not use profiling “to any degree,” except if they are given a specific suspect description. In all other activities, however, the guidelines say that federal authorities may use race and other characteristics as factors “only to the extent that there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or time frame, that links persons possessing a particular listed characteristic to an identified criminal incident, scheme, or organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of federal immigration law, or an authorized intelligence activity.”

Federal agents enforcing immigration law are still allowed to profile “in the vicinity of the border”, though it’s not clear what that means, so the guidelines don’t really address one of the most controversial uses of racial profiling:

Border agents have come under intense scrutiny for testing the limits of its use of force tactics, including using the border search exemption of the Fourth Amendment to justify searches that have nothing to do with the border. A 2008 guidance document has allowed agents to search individuals at the border who carry in electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones without “reasonable suspicion of a crime or without getting a judge’s approval.” On more than one occasion, federal investigators used their border search authority as a means to investigate U.S. citizens to get around violating the Fourth Amendment.

The guidelines would likely have little effect in Arizona, where the anti-immigration state law colloquially known as the “show me your papers” law is still enforced. Immigration advocates have long charged that Arizona police officers disproportionately and indiscriminately pull over members of the Latino community. In October, a cop threatened to “kill” or “shoot” a Latino man pulled over for a traffic violation.

Ian Thompson is pleased that the DoJ added protections for gay and trans victims of profiling, but he’s disappointed that they don’t really have any teeth:

The largest national survey of transgender people to date found that 22 percent of respondents who have interacted with the police reported harassment by law enforcement due to bias, with substantially higher rates (29-38 percent) reported by respondents of color. As important as it is that this guidance is explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive, the failure on the part of the Justice Department to fully extend it to state and local law enforcement agencies, as recipients of vast amounts of federal funding, is a significant omission.

Jazz Shaw criticizes the guidelines, casting doubt on whether racial profiling exists in the first place:

This is one of those areas where common sense is overwhelmingly trumped by politics in both government and in the coverage of the subject in narrative journalism outlets. I’ve spoken to more than a few cops in New York on the topic (including a couple of relatives, just for full disclosure) and the message is pretty consistent. It’s not always a matter of race so much as location, but particularly in New York City the two are often impossible to split apart. But the short version of the police line of thinking on this is that you do the “hard policing” (as it has often been referred to on CNN) in the places where the crime is. And where is that?

The Ongoing Garner Tragedy: Your Thoughts

Readers push back on these two:

Your dissenter said, “…while Garner is still conscious and speaking, tries to restrain him by holding his head in place.” Yeah, he was speaking alright. He was speaking, “I can’t breathe!” What the part of that does this reader not understand?

Another also quotes that reader:

It is hard to tell from the video, but it does not appear to me that the officer continued to apply the “chokehold” (a label that may have been inaccurately applied to this case) after Garner said he could not breathe. It looks to me as if that officer grabs him around the neck for only a few seconds, and then, while Garner is still conscious and speaking, tries to restrain him by holding his head in place.

The autopsy report stated that the death was caused by “compression to the neck, compression to the body, and prone positioning”. It doesn’t matter that the officer stopped choking him, because he continued to hold him down.

An expert weighs in:

I’m coming from the viewpoint of being a retired paramedic with over 20 years experience, the last few in executive level management. I also have a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I am familiar with applying and receiving choke holds.

My impression of the takedown and restraint is that he was one big guy and that the choke hold was never fully applied. If it was, he would have been rendered unconscious in a matter of seconds.  I also noticed that before and after he was handcuffed, he did not receive any sucker punches or kicks.

On to the medical care, an area that I can speak about with some authority. The police have received plenty of criticism about letting him lay until the ambulance arrived. Well if you are someone with basic first aid training, there is nothing you can do for a person in respiratory distress except keep a eye on them. I counted two to four officers with him until EMS arrived, so they were doing that.

Why no CPR? Because he had a pulse and was breathing. CPR is only for pulseless and non-breathing patients. The female EMS worker is clearly shown checking for a pulse and we can safely assume breathing in the second video. Even though I see plenty to criticize about the EMS response, I would think they are competent enough to start CPR immediately if indicated.

My criticism of the EMS response shown in the video is the cursory initial examination, were they seemed to have missed how severe his distress was. I would have liked to seen at least oxygen being administer in the video. Perhaps his care improved once they got him into the ambulance, but it seems not as I have read that the EMS workers had been suspended.

Lastly, how they manhandled him onto the stretcher. It wasn’t pretty, but I have seen worse.  Picking up a limp human being of his size without manhandling him is very difficult without the right techniques and equipment. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin. My best case would have been to log-roll him onto a backboard and to lift him using the backboard onto the stretcher. My impression was that the EMS workers failed to properly control and supervise the lift of him from the ground to the stretcher. It happens sometimes. The firemen or in this case the policemen start moving the patient on their own.

Another reader:

I’ve been talking through the case with an acquaintance of mine in law enforcement, and he pointed out to me that, when the decision to arrest is made, you escalate force to whatever level is necessary to get the suspect into custody. You can’t just back out if you’re overmatched. You get backup, and you’re bound by procedure to continue to increase force until the cuffs are on. People who resist arrest can die; it’s a possible outcome. You can debate the chokehold versus the headlock, but the scenario could just as easily have resulted in a routine arrest.

So maybe the fault lies with Pantaleo’s decision to arrest on such a small misdemeanor, and/or the fault lies with Garner resisting. I keep thinking that there must’ve been an alternative to arrest for such a petty crime, but Garner had 31 priors, so it would seem a justifiable arrest. But they could have just told him to move along and revisited the scene later to see if that was sufficient.

If there is a racial issue here, it’s a systemic one. It’s just another example of black petty criminals being singled out. Garner was basically evading taxes in a city where tax evasion is a competitive sport in lower Manhattan among white collar criminals. Is that fair? No, but beat cops can’t arrest what they can’t witness. They had shop owner complaints about Garner, supposedly, so they were responding to that.

Another notes:

Garner wasn’t selling anything that day, and had no loosies on him. Did he have a record? Yes, but so did the officer:

Pantaleo was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused Pantaleo of falsely arresting them and abusing them. In one of the cases, Pantaleo and other officers ordered two black men to strip naked on the street for a search and the charges against the men were dismissed.

Another wrote just prior to this post showing similar polling to the ones he cites below:

I wrote on Friday to indicate I expected a slew of polling early this week backing up my assertion that the Eric Garner grand jury decision would polarize the electorate along more or less the same racial lines that the Ferguson case did. I predicted that the videotape would make little difference to whites who were using a popular racial narrative (thug vs. hero) as a lens through which to view this and other deadly encounters like the Ohio John Crawford and Tamir Rice shootings.

I stand corrected, at least at this juncture. Polling from Fox News and Bloomberg seems to indicate a much more lopsided view of the Garner killing, with less than half the number (Bloomberg) of Americans supporting the Garner decision as supported the Ferguson decision. It is true that a disturbing 32% of white Americans still, in the face of that video, support the grand jury in Staten Island. But 32% is close enough to South Park’s famous “a quarter of Americans are retards” trope to safely choose to draw no conclusions from that result.

It remains to be seen whether this is truly some kind of watershed moment, or if Eric Garner will join Sandy Hook in the annals of public tragedies that compel the spilling of much ink, and then no corrective action whatsoever. But if the polling had come out as I expected I would have been back here banging out a smug email regarding my prescient pessimism, so honesty demands I eat my portion of crow. Rarely have I been so happy to be so wrong. Thanks.

Another reader:

Regarding your take on the Washington Post poll of opinions towards each decision:

This suggests, does it not, that the gloomiest assessments of America’s ability to see through race are too dire. If we were truly racially polarized, we’d see similar responses to similar white-cop-black-victim scenarios. Which means we have some common ground to stand on.

You’re making a giant leap here, in my opinion.  You’re conflating peoples opinion on a decision regarding excessive force by law enforcement, not racial bias.  I would like to see the opinions on whether these people believe race played a part in either of these acts.  I’ve had several debates with conservative friends who strongly disagree with the Garner decision, but think race had absolutely nothing to do with it.  So I don’t think this speaks to your note about America’s ability to see through race.

One more:

I’ve been a NYC prosecutor for just under ten years. When I heard there was no indictment I was shocked, and I said at the time to a colleague that I certainly would have found something to charge those guys with based on those facts and with that video. The big story that I’m not seeing as widely reported as it should be is that it turned out that the Staten Island DA didn’t present any of the lesser charges. No one is saying that they tried to murder Garner, but I’d bet that even a Grand Jury in conservative Staten Island would vote for an indictment on Reckless Endangerment as a misdemeanor and probably as a felony. Just not presenting these counts is beyond not doing your job; it’s making sure that there is no indictment, and that seems very irresponsible to me.

Read all of our coverage of the Garner tragedy here.

A World Without Any Eric Garners

Protests Continue Across Country In Wake Of NY Grand Jury Verdict In Chokehold Death Case

Tomasky doubts it will arrive:

Ask yourself: What would it take, really, for your average white cop not to see your average black male young adult as a potential threat? Because we can pass all the ex-post facto laws we want, and we can even convict the occasional police officer, which does happen from time to time. But that’s not where the problem starts. The problem starts in that instant of electric mistrust when the cop reaches for his gun, or employs a homicidal chokehold. That moment is beyond the reach of legislation, or of any punishment that arrives after the fact.

McWhorter rejects such pessimism:

Are we trying to create a humanity devoid of any racist bias, or are we trying to stop cops from shooting black men?

The two aren’t the same. A world without racism would be a world without dirt. A world where episodes like what has happened just this year to Garner, Brown, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, and Tamir Rice is much more plausible. We need special prosecutors, body cameras, and, if you ask me, an end to the war on drugs.

As such, we must be pragmatic. I know the people protesting Michael Brown’s death nationwide are sincere. But it’s easy to forget that in cases like this, sincerity is supposed to be forward-focused. It’s all too human for people to end up mistaking the heightened emotions, the threats, the media attention, the catharsis, as progress itself. But drama alone burns fast and bright. Think about how Trayvon is already—admit it—seeming more like history than the present.

He insists that “Ferguson was the spark, but Garner was ‘it'”:

Here is where I am quite sure Reverend King and Bayard Rustin would be planning not just statements and gestures, but boycotts. The recording of Garner’s death has the clear, potent and inarguable authority of the Birmingham newsreels. We must use that. Yes, use—we are trying to create change, not just perform.

A reader points to a performance:

I’ve never emailed you, though I am a long-time reader and admirer (and, more recently, a subscriber). But if you want something to lift your spirits a bit about Garner, take a look at this. It’s a protest organized by the Black Law Student Association at Yale Law School and joined by much of the law school community. During this silent protest, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff joined hands and created a human chain between the law school and New Haven’s Courthouse.  Everyone then staged a “die in” for 4 1/2 minutes.  It was a remarkably moving event, all the move moving given that it was organized entirely by young people who’d been buffeted by the news of Ferguson and the Garner verdict and are doing their best to be successful law students at a top law school.  Want to know something else? Not only did the New Haven police facilitate the protest, but the Chief of Police showed up in support, cheering the dean of the law school as he passed.

(Photo: On December 4, 2014 in Oakland, California Michaela Pecot wears a sign on her hat that reads ‘I can’t breathe’ in front of City Hall on the second night of demonstrations following a Staten Island, New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. By Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Don’t _______ While Black

In the wake of the Garner tragedy, Ijeoma Oluo tweeted out many examples of actions that prompted officers to use lethal force against African-Americans. A round-up of her tweets:

Don’t play in the park with toy guns and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t ask for help after a car accident and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t wear a hoodie and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t cosplay with a toy sword and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t shop at Walmart and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t take the BART and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t ride your bike and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t reach for your cell phone and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t go to your friend’s birthday party and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t sit on your front stoop and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t “startle” them and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t “look around suspiciously”and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t walk on a bridge with your family and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t play “cops and robbers” with your buddies and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t work in a warehouse repairing instruments and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t stand in your grandma’s bathroom and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t pray with your daughters in public and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t go to your bachelor party and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t have an ex boyfriend who might be a suspect and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t call for medical help for your sister and maybe they won’t kill her. Don’t hang out in the park with your friends and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t get a flat tire and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t park in a fire lane and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t reach for your wallet and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t let your medical alert device go off and maybe they won’t kill you.

I’m done for today. My heart can’t handle any more.

Meme Of The Day

A reader’s take on it:

#CrimingWhileWhite is basically white people copping to crimes they committed and either weren’t arrested for or were let off with relatively minor punishment. It’s been a bit watered down considering how long it’s been trending, but my point isn’t so much the hashtag as what it means about crime statistics.

Your recent Chart of the Day was designed to demonstrate that blacks “commit” crimes at lower rates than whites perceive, though still at a disproportionately high rate for their (our) population. I think what #CrimingWhileWhite suggests is that not only do blacks commit crime at a lower rate than perceived, but that they are arrested for “criminal” behavior at a much higher rate than whites. In short, white people can engage in behavior that is technically illegal and not get ticketed or arrested and therefore their behavior is not recorded as a crime for statistical purposes. Whereas black people, especially poor black people, who engage in similar behavior are rarely extended that courtesy and as such they do become statistics.

For example, the reported rate of marijuana usage of is virtually identical across ethnic groups at around 11-13%. In fact, among young people, 18-25 years old, blacks use marijuana at a lower rate than whites. However, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession 3.5 times more often than whites. In the District, the arrest rate for blacks is a staggering 8 times as for whites! It doesn’t take long to criminalize an entire group of people when the game is rigged like that.

So when you casually stipulated that it’s natural that police officers might be wary of young black men because they do tend to engage in criminal activity at a higher rate than non-blacks, keep these statistical realities in mind. What someone living in Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan might take for granted being able to do in peace, e.g. have an ounce of weed and a pipe, would result in a felony possession charge for a poor black kid in Baltimore. I don’t need to say more about the effects of a felony charge on a person’s future employment and economic prospects.

I know you’ve been an outspoken advocate of marijuana decriminalization and I applaud your efforts on that front. But the deck is stacked against black and brown people in America and has been since its very founding.

Update from a reader:

I hate things like #CrimingWhileWhite. They are as unscientific as Hannity using a web poll of his own viewers to show that he is right about something. You don’t know if the person is lying or not, you don’t know if their friend mouthed off or not, you don’t know if their friend was carrying more or not, and you don’t know if the friend already had a rap sheet. And mostly you don’t know about the times that a black person got off with a warning because the cop was tired, it was the end of his shift and he just wanted to go home. Or the number of times the white person didn’t get off with a warning for the same action.

On the other hand, I do like the data that shows that while whites smoke pot as much as blacks they don’t get arrested as often. That’s actual data that shows the same point. #CrimingWhileWhite just make people feel good and reinforces existing perceptions but isn’t anything one can base a reasoned decision on.

The Lawful Killing Of Eric Garner

A reader writes:

I am in fear.

My son is 15 years old but looks like he is 20. He just crossed six feet tall and is growing, he is an athlete, a swimmer and is muscular and imposing, but he is also a completely sensitive wimp. I am white, he looks more like his mother, who is black. He has already had a bizarre police encounter. When he was 13 years old, we hired a college student on summer break to take him to and from swim practice because we were at work; she is a family friend; young, white and blond. On his first week, they were pulled over by the police and no explanation was given. The police immediately came to the passenger side where my son was, told him to get out of the car, put him up against the car, patted him down and demanded identification. Being a 13 year old, he had no ID. The girl was asked to step out of the car and was questioned, only about my son.

After some time, they left, no explanation, no ticket – nothing. The girl’s parents were as upset as we were but understandably told us that no offense meant but they didn’t want to be putting their daughter in that situation and so we needed to find another ride. We spoke to the police and were told that since there was not ticket or arrest, there was no report, so there was no explanation. Nothing happened, but because I have no idea why the interaction happened in the first place, I have no idea what could have happened.

Therefore I ran through a hundred scenarios, a number of which where my son could be as dead as many others. My ex-wife and I are both lawyers, we have means and can protect our children better than most. They go to private school, they have every other benefit education family and money can provide. (By the way, they had airsoft guns – pink ones – and only used them right around the house but not after last week.) And certainly they have been told often not to argue with authority – teachers and law enforcement – but they are still kids and do stupid things. We live in a city, but not in a dangerous area. But I am terrified because I am white and although I knew these things happen, I have never walked in a black man’s shoes.

However, for me, myself as a father of a kid who fits a profile, black and imposing, the type who seems to lend to unnatural terror among police, this is a scenario I can’t account for or defend against. In this sliver of circumstance, I have some small realization of the plight of people who have to deal with this daily. I am frustrated that people like me, white and privileged, have no inkling how the parents of a black kid growing up a dangerous place must feel every freaking day and how blithely we can dismiss these events because they are never going to happen to us.

Another reader:

I just watched the video for the first time, and I’m pretty sure I’ll hear at work tomorrow (in my smaller southern town in NW Georgia) exactly what I heard a few days ago after the Michael Brown non-indictment: he got what he deserved, he was arguing with the police, he instigated the situation by (insert whatever the cops said he was doing here), what were they supposed to do anyway when he resisted arrest?

For the life of me, I cannot grasp the mindset among so many of my friends and co-workers that finds this sort of thing acceptable, that they can just shrug if off with a “Well, he brought it on himself.”  They have no concept of proportionality, of a punishment fitting a crime.  All the see is a person of color in conflict with authorities, and in those cases – ALWAYS in those cases – the person of color brings it upon him- or herself by not acquiescing to the demands of the police.  And they get what they deserve, because they were asking for it.

A week or so ago, you featured a letter from a gay reader who was thankful that he was gay because, for one thing, it allowed him to understand what it is to be the Other.  As a gay man myself, I join him in that sentiment.  I have so much in common with these friends and co-workers, but on things that matter, on issues of empathy and compassion and attempts at understanding others who are different but who live next to us and work beside us daily, we are worlds apart, and it seems with every passing incident a chasm ever more unbreachable.

There are two tragedies here: the loss of life, and the loss of humanity.  I am emotionally exhausted and distraught by both in equal measure.

You’re not alone.