If you haven’t seen the recently-released video of an officer pulling up behind a young male, black driver in a parking lot for an alleged seat-belt violation, stop for the two minutes it would take to view it before reading on.
I have a lot to share, and I did in a fairly long back-and-forth on my Facebook account this morning with some thoughtful readers. A lot of what I wanted to write about this I said during that exchange, which is posted below.
Before that, I wanted to share some headlines about some of the things I reference below, include attacks on police officers by disaffected young white men that has not gotten as much attention as it should have.
Here are the links:
I also reference Rand Paul’s eloquence on this issue. For those who missed my longer post about it, here it is: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2014/09/11/4466931/issac-bailey-blog-rand-paul-can.html
The Facebook exchange from last night and this morning (note: comments have not been edited):
I’ll write about this more on the blog, but this video is the clearest-cut case of a latent fear of black men turning ugly and dangerous. This cop shoots the driver because he did precisely what the cop told him to do. My initial blush is that this cop is not blatantly racist - but that’s the scary thing about all of these incidences. It would be better if all of this was just the result of blatant racism. It would be easier to understand, solve, and discuss rationally.
An S.C. trooper who stopped a man for a seat belt...
Karen Childs Smith Did you read the comments? It makes me just as angry to see how many people will take up for this idiot.I hope they throw the book at him, but they won’t.
Robert Carrison Obviously the Trooper should not have been issued a weapon, he panicked without justification. PERIOD! What a shame, both families suffering a tragedy. I’m less sure about the racial component, I just don’t know what was going on in the Trooper’s mind at the time.
Dennis A. Hamann I’m sure some will find fault with this victim’s actions, but we all have to remember law enforcement supposedly has been trained for all types of situations. I applaud SC for stepping up and charging this former officer. Law enforcement and all public servants must be held to the highest standard. We entrust them with a tremendous amount of power and authority. They must be held accountable. Also it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure all are treated with fairness and respect.
Ruges Stockton Robert, if the guy who got shot was White do you think the cop would have shot him?
Robert Carrison Ruges, I can’t answer that question, As I said he should not have been issued a weapon, he obviously panicked when the man reached into the car (for the license) probably thinking “GUN” so to answer your question, if the guy had been a skin head, probably shot. Black guy, three piece suit, probably not shot, white guy in polo shirt and khakis, probably not shot. We are all trained to remain in the car, in this instance he was already out of the car and had left his license in the car,, just a tragedy.
Becky Billingsley I’m thinking the officer did not follow proper procedure, such as asking the victim to step away from his vehicle, which led to this tragedy. If he had simply done that, this would have been averted. And it was so silly for him to pull the fellow over at all, for not having a seatbelt on as he drove around the building.
Issac Bailey The latent fear of black men I refer to leads to these kinds of things, not because the cop is racist, not because he sets out to shoot an innocent black man, but because in stressful situations, that fear manifests itself almost automatically. It is not a purposeful, evil act. The more we continue to deny this basic reality, the more things like these will keep occurring. Most of these are not caught on tape. From what I see in the video, it means law enforcement needs to do more of the kind of training on race many people continue to scoff at rather than making sure this cop goes to prison forever. The odds of something like this happening goes way down if the cop was not dealing with a black man, because of that latent fear too many of us want to deny even exists. Most people, good people, don’t want to believe it. But it is true nonetheless.
Lisa Verkuilen I was stopped by a police officer on a dark road in the middle of the night. I was coming home from a second shift job. He asked to see my registration which i keep in the glove compartment. I said to him, it’s in the glove compartment I’ll have to undo my seat belt, I do not have a weapon. He said ok. I leaned over with one hand and retrieved the registration. It must be scary never knowing what a traffic stop can produce. I think he became calmer once I told him what my movements were about to be. I am white and a woman, which might have made a difference, but I really did think how scary that must be. I have not read this article, but I agree it’s probably more fear than racism.
Robert Carrison So, Issac, how do we explain the latent fear? Is it based in fact or fiction? Who’s behavior do we modify? All difficult questions.
Issac Bailey Lisa: What you described is what happens most, fortunately. But what’s on that video happens too often, though, and they most likely involve black men, no matter how they are dressed.
Issac Bailey The irony in all of this? There have been a string of incidents the past few years of disaffected young white men targeting and killing cops for execution while the latent fear of black men remain. I’ll touch on that too on the blog.
Lisa Verkuilen It’s true. My bother-in-law got hauled down to the police station because he was sitting in a car taking pictures of a bank. It was his job as an insurance claims investigator. He was black, sitting in a Volvo in a 3 piece suit. The police PULLED him out of his car without asking for any explanation as to why he was there or what he was doing. He had identification but they took him to the station. It wasn’t until his boss and my sister (both white) went down there to vouch for hime that he was finally released.
Robert Carrison By the way, last time I was stopped, it was by a black policeman, when he came to the window I handed him my Drivers license and my CCP. I had my gun in the car, but not on my person, and I advised him of that fact. He said good, smart to have a gun, people do crazy things. I got a verbal warning ( was probably 15 over is a rural community one block downtown zone.
Lisa Verkuilen I hate to say it, but I think as hate is becoming more accepted, people fell more free to act on that hate thinking everyone will back them up. Just like in the South of the Jim Crow days. You could pretty much kill a black person on a whim and get away with it. I really do think that hate and fear are overtaking us all.
Issac Bailey Robert: This is another part of the story people don’t want to talk about, because they call it living in the past or using the race card. Since before the founding of this country, black people, but especially black men, have been painted in scary terms - on purpose - to make slavery seem more justified, even though black people were the victims of incredible white violence. That continued to be used to end Reconstruction, through Jim Crow, and beyond. It also led to an explosion in the prison system, a ten fold increase since the 80s, which led to the breakdown of the black family more than anything else, which lead to the much-discussed black on black crime that continues to fuel these fears - even though you are more likely to be shot dead in a mall or school, etc., in acts of random violence, by mass shooters who happen to be white, not black, and this is in a period in which violent crime has been falling for awhile. But no matter what seems to be going on in society - crime rises, crime falls, crime stays the same - that latent fear of black men doesn’t ever seem to go away. A part of it, I believe, is that, frankly, so many good white people become offended when we talk about these things, they get defensive and deny it, and that makes it almost impossible to root out. What I’ve learned is that real acknowledgement of this goes a long way towards getting rid of some of this fear, and that’s why I think we need to calmly, rationally talk more openly about this. Maybe you have or haven’t noticed that I go out of my way to defen people against blanket charges of racism, even this cop, even George Zimmerman, because I know something deeper and more complex is at play. Many of the people who love when I do that, though, balk when I talk about the latent fear of black men that has taken residence up in most of our minds - including my own, even though I am a black man. But I can effectively deal with it because I acknowledge and deal with it forthrightly publicly and in my daily life.
Toni Boutwell Ever since 2003 when government began giving heavy duty military equipment to cops it looks like homegrown terrorists like the KKK and Birchers have been infiltrating the cops to have access to weapons. Look at the huge number of these weapons that have “disappeared” while in police custody. It’s time to demand full accountability from cops. Body cams at all times, weapons and ammo checked in at end of shift, body cams with film going to independent review board before cops can edit or erase it, citizens armed with cameras wherever possible, If we don’t get them under control there will be an all out citizens revolution against them.
Robert Carrison Issac, I find that I do suffer from some degree of latent fear of young black men, not so much grown adults. I did not suffer this fear when I was younger. It is most assuredly not a product of history with me, it has nothing to do with historical representations or scary terms. I grew up in a fully integrated community and school system. The first time I experienced this fear was during and after the race riots in the Mid 60’s. So I would say it is born of experience. I now see young black men misbehaving in ways I could not imagine years ago. Flash mobbing stores, the knock out game(sick) and general behavior in our community. I admit, there is much I don’t understand on this topic, and I know most young men both black and white are decent law abiding citizens. Some lasting perceptions perhaps of misbehaviors by the minority.
Ramona Grigg Saw the video on the news this morning. We don’t need scared cops on duty. That young man did exactly what he was told to do and still got shot. But it was the aftermath that bothered me most. The cop was still arguing with the young man instead of getting him immediate medical attention. He clearly was not prepared for the situation and just made it worse.
Issac Bailey Robert: Black people - like all people - are less than perfect. And we can find events that help us hold onto this fear, and make it seem justified, normal and rational. But think about what you just said, about the riots in the 60s and the knockout game. If black people used a really, really long list of events and experiences to hate or fear all or most white people, they would seem justified, too, no? From before the founding of this country, if you add it all up, there has been a whole lot more white mob violence directed towards black people than the other way around. That’s historical fact, from slavery, to the ride of the KKK well into my parents’ lifetimes, and a bit of mine, even. And we can talk about all the other ways violence and other means have been used to hurt black people, from redlining, to purposefully keeping blacks out of the federal home ownership programs and the GI Bill that helped create the white middle class, to the criminal justice and educational system, the court system and police, etc. But I maintain that it would be wrong, and unwise, for black people to either hate or fear white people. What’s astonishing, though, is that even with all of that well documented history, the presence of an over-hyped knockout game can deepen the roots of the latent fear of black men in a way all of the school and mall shootings by young white men - real random acts of violence that threaten us all - never has. Why is that? Why can young white kids shoot multiple people, randomly, in broad daylight, can take out dozens in an elementary or high school, and that not rub off on all young white men, when it comes to fear, but every instance of a black man doing something wrong convinces people there is something wrong with the black culture and young black men? These roots are deep, and even the most responsible, most well trained police officer takes them into every interaction with a black person. And black people know it and have been screaming for a long time for someone to pay attention so we can solve this, but every time we do, we are shut down and accused of playing the race card. That’s what’s so frustrating about this. Sometimes I wish this was just about obvious, blatant white racism. That would be much easier to solve. But that’s not what we are facing.
Issac Bailey And I’ll go back to the differences between the Cliven Bundy ranch, where a gaggle of well- armed white men and women openly and brazenly threatened federal officials - and law enforcement didn’t shoot one of them - and the Ferguson protests, during which officers threatened peaceful protesters with death and what looked like tanks and military equipment. And, again, during the past several months, young, disaffected white dudes have been purposefully targeting and gunning down cops, but when unarmed black men are gunned down by cops while well-armed white men and women are not, enough of us still don’t pause and at least ask what’s going on. A black man in a Walmart with a toy gun was gunned down by top cops as soon as they responded to call to the store - and it is caught on film - and they weren’t even indicted by a grand jury. But unarmed black men are killed by cops in all sorts of incidences, and people rush to blame the dead young men.
Jeffrey Booker Mr. Bailey you have spoken eloquently with all the facts.
Jeffrey Booker What’s so sad about this incident is that this unarmed law abiding citizen almost lost his life for a seatbelt violation. The fear this trooper showed is unbelievable. Hope he gets his justice. I know the incident in New York has different circumstances but the gentleman lost his life by the hands of the police over supposedly selling loose cigarettes. Great example of poor use of police discretion in both incidents.
Issac Bailey By the way, I have not had “the talk” with my son that many black parents have with theirs, to teach their sons how to be appear to be non-threatening - even when they are doing nothing wrong. I’m still torn on it. I don’t know if having that talk will heighten his fears and make him view police officers, or white people in general, too skeptically. But I also fear that if I don’t have that talk, I’ll be potentially crippling him and leave him unprepared to navigate a world which too frequently views him as a threat no matter how nice and compassionate he is. My fear of that only worsened with the reaction I saw from many good people in the Trayvon Marin case, how quick they were to assume that he was in the wrong, even though he was unarmed and had been stalked around his own neighborhood before he was killed. My initial take on that shooting was two-fold, that a full investigation was needed, and that such incidences were still not as big a threat to my son as black on black violence. But the reaction to that shooting scared me, because it revealed that lots of non-racist people had no compassion for him and came to the defense of a man who had a history of violence even before he shot Trayvon. I don’t think a lot of good white people understand, or even are aware of, these kinds of dilemmas that black parents have to contend with. It is not a matter of black parents trying to hold onto the past or play the race card - it is about real life, today, right now. I wish it wasn’t the reality we had to contend with, but it is.
Issac Bailey Another thing. There is a ton of research that shows this latent fear of black men begins when they are in preschool, when they are boys and are actually kicked out of preschool - preschool! - for being threatening for doing the same thing young white boys do. And it goes on throughput their school years and into the criminal justice system. They get punished more harshly, consistently, for the same actions many young white boys get slaps on the wrists for. And that has major economic implications and is one of the reasons the black jobless rate is always higher than the white rate - because it is hard to graduate at really high levels when you are constantly kicked out, hard to find a job with inadequate education, and harder still once you have a record. That’s also why that I have written about my intrigue with Rand Paul. He seems to get this and has been speaking out forcefully about it. Obama has made good strides in rolling back some of this, a ton of it build upon the war on drugs. Paul seems to sincerely want to take it to another level. So despite all of the other disagreements I have with him about politics, that’s why I am a potential Rand Paul voter. I have not heard Hillary Clinton deal with this issue (she talked about Ferguson once) the way Paul has. I hope that changes soon.
Patti Pacileo I’m glad Jones or any bystanders weren’t mortally wounded. It would be interesting to know how many years the trooper has been on the force. The trooper’s knee jerk response was so over the top, one would think that he has prior questionable responses to the public.
Issac Bailey One more thing: For those who have convinced themselves that speaking forthrightly about race is the wrong way to go, the research is at odds with your belief. The child-rearing book, “NurtureShock” - which I recommend to parents and non-parents alike - found that the black parents who deal forthrightly with race end up raising kids who work harder and make fewer excuses, just the opposite of what some people claim happens when we discuss race. The caveat is that if they take it too far - and blame problems on race that shouldn’t be blamed on race - then that can backfire. Also, white parents who forthrightly discuss race raise kids who are better adjusted and are more likely to respect all people. The kids who grew up in households in which white parents avoided the issue grew up to be less-well adjusted and more egocentric. The research on this is overwhelming, but because so many people get reflexively defensive any time race is discussed, they end up unwittingly contributing to the unrest they say they want to see go away. Yes, it is true that black people have to be more careful and not label too many things racism that really aren’t racism, but white people have to find away to get out of the defensive crouch every time this issue comes up.
Issac Bailey And no matter what you think of Michael Brown in Ferguson, that entire incident - the killing, the looting, the heavy-handed police response - began with Brown jaywalking - jaywalking! - and Officer Wilson yelling at him to “get the f@uck out of the street.”