Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

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Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:02 pm

I trust you guys. I think you know me pretty well, and I think I know you pretty well. I have really been struggling with this issue, and been uncertain about where I can go to get a sounding board. I hope I can be open to your honesty and that you're willing to give it, as this topic seems very complicated.

There have been recent protests in my city around the shooting of Jamar Clark. So far, the reports we have say he was shot by police. Police say he was interfering with emergency personnel and reached for a cop's gun, other reports say he was handcuffed and executed. At the moment, there's an official investigation by the US Department of Justice. Officials are refusing to release the tapes (police phone video, ambulance surveillance video, eye witnesses video-none of which display the full thing) until the investigation is complete. That's sparked off a series of protests to release the tapes.

Last night there was a shooting at the protest. Official sources have confirmed so far that it occurred about a block away, and about 5 (of the "about a dozen present") protesters were shot by 3 men, probably white supremacists who have been harassing the protests for the past week. So far, that's all that's been officially confirmed.

I've seen on social media a lot of information that hasn't yet been reported by news media, such as that off-duty cops were the shooters, that cops "did nothing" during the shooting, that cops dressed up in riot gear to mace the protesters, and so on.

So far, I've maintained a stance, in both the Clark case and last night's shootings, that until I see events confirmed by more than one source, I remain skeptical. I am a firm believer that evidence must be vetted, and process followed. I support not releasing the tapes until the investigation is done, so that there is less risk that the investigation be compromised (and thus the cops, if guilty, not be charged.) I won't join in criticizing the police department until either I have 2 collaborating sources of information (eye witness from both protest and civilian, news media and protest, protest and police, and so on. I don't like either eye witnesses or videos as sole evidence, as I think they can be misleading.) My stance is very much that I want as much vetted information as possible before making a conclusion or voicing my stance.

For this, I've been accused of being racist, and not supporting justice. I admit I may have some bias I can't overcome, as my dad is a cop. I've seen police procedures up close, and so am probably a little biased when it comes to certain things (like, why it may take 10 minutes for a cop car to go 1 blocks to respond to a call.) But I try hard to not let that cloud my viewpoint too much.

So give it to me straight. Am I racist? Is my stance bad?
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Wondering on Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:26 pm

I don't know if you're racist. But since your dad is a cop, I think it's going to be highly likely that you're going to give the cops benefit of the doubt. And the media gives them benefit of the doubt (journalists who question the police too much often find their police sources dry up and the police become antagonistic toward them) and cops (even the federal kind) give other cops benefit of the doubt and the general public gives cops the benefit of the doubt.

But black people are usually not given benefit of the doubt by those groups.

So wanting two corroborating sources of info from groups that are historically biased towards police may not be serving to help you be as unbiased as you want to be before forming your opinion.

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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Enail on Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:32 pm

I think it's good to retain a bit of skepticism on things as a general principle. But at the same time, there is a pretty big pattern at this point of cops shooting unarmed people of colour and claiming it was self defense. This is a very trivial comparison, but I see it a bit like on this forum or DNL Prime, if someone comes here and says "Females are so rude and cant take a compliment, why dont they date nice guys," I would probably jump to some conclusions, and I don't think I'd be terribly wrong to do so. If my first comment to him was a bit harsh, and a male poster commented that I was being so mean and he was probably just confused, I might be annoyed that I had to explain the long-standing pattern that made me suspicious and justify my response to him.

And of course, it's much more fraught when it's about people being killed than when it's a slightly snippy response on a website. And even more so when the majority of "official" sources of information like the police and media, are not neutral or always even truthful in the information they disseminate; the victims' supporters are at a disadvantage in terms of being able to provide evidence or to have their evidence heard. And of course, the victim does not get to tell their side of the story, ever.

I'm not saying I think people should jump to tarring and feathering without plenty of evidence. I'm not okay with mob justice. But when there's as much reason to fear that there will be no justice, as I think there is on this topic, I do think there's very good reason to lean towards suspicion of the police's side of the story from the start if you want to be as unbiased as possible. And also to be pretty aggressive about pushing for information, awareness and action.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:43 pm

Wondering wrote:I don't know if you're racist. But since your dad is a cop, I think it's going to be highly likely that you're going to give the cops benefit of the doubt. And the media gives them benefit of the doubt (journalists who question the police too much often find their police sources dry up and the police become antagonistic toward them) and cops (even the federal kind) give other cops benefit of the doubt and the general public gives cops the benefit of the doubt.

But black people are usually not given benefit of the doubt by those groups.

So wanting two corroborating sources of info from groups that are historically biased towards police may not be serving to help you be as unbiased as you want to be before forming your opinion.

Perhaps. But what you're arguing then is that our justice system cannot be saved; that even if there's a federal investigation, it's worthless, because those who report is (media), those who control it (judges/lawyers/cops) and those who deliver the verdict (representatives of a racist system) are all tainted. So what is the goal? What is the desired outcome? If no one who is connected with justice is trustworthy, then why demand justice through the system?

And does being part of a disadvantaged group mean anyone connected with the group is always above skepticism? Or criticism? If no, then how can one be skeptical and critical in a way that's appropriate? Does it matter if I'm also skeptical of eye witnesses in all cases? Does it matter that I want outside verification from those same sources in other situations, too? Is it wrong to want outside verification from those sources, or wrong to want outside verification at all? If it's okay to want outside verification, what sources should I seek instead, since I am highly skeptical of eye witnesses? (Especially when eye witnesses are in a group. Cops, protests, anytime eye witnesses belong to the same social group I become skeptical of their testimony, as there's heavy tendency towards bias and group-think.)

I do give cops the benefit of the doubt, sometimes. And sometimes it angers me that many people criticize cops with a broad brush, when in many others areas, we're told not to generalize because of bad individuals. I think racism in the police force is a valid and extra-terrible thing, but I think sometimes criticism of cops comes from ignorance of how the job is done (example: saying cops are racist because less than 12 hours after the shooting, there haven't been any arrests yet, as if 12 hours is a usual or reasonable time frame for making an arrest right after an arrest.) But I also try to be aware of that and use that knowledge to be critical of cops, too. So is it ever possible for my opinion to be valid or unbiased? Does having a cop for a dad mean I can never be critical of anything relating to criticism of police? Does being unbiased mean I always agree with whoever criticizes the police?

I'm asking not to shoot you down, but because I am genuinely unsure of these answers and how, exactly, to parse all this out.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:52 pm

Enail wrote:I think it's good to retain a bit of skepticism on things as a general principle. But at the same time, there is a pretty big pattern at this point of cops shooting unarmed people of colour and claiming it was self defense.

I agree, which is why my stance is just absolute neutrality and waiting to see what the justice system will do. My sticking point is, cops should be held to the same/a higher standard of justice. They should be investigated by an outside source who will hopefully be less biased then their own fellow, city cops. So far, that's happening. If the investigation concludes without releasing the tapes, or the investigation releases the tapes and there's no charges (when the video isn't conclusive either way), then the justice system has failed. It's not that I'm skeptical of the story; it's that I'm waiting to see if the legal system does what I think it should, in terms of justice. Right now, it's doing what it's supposed to; I just don't have any evidence that it's failed yet. Since the goal is for justice to be served, I feel uncomfortable assuming that it already has without giving it a chance. If I don't wait to see, then how can I say that what I want is justice within the system?

Enail wrote:
I'm not saying I think people should jump to tarring and feathering without plenty of evidence. I'm not okay with mob justice. But when there's as much reason to fear that there will be no justice, as I think there is on this topic, I do think there's very good reason to lean towards suspicion of the police's side of the story from the start if you want to be as unbiased as possible. And also to be pretty aggressive about pushing for information, awareness and action.

I totally get fear of no justice, which is why I don't think the protests are wrong. And I completely agree with pushing for more awareness and information. It's just so far, I've seen the media reporting the protests pretty unbiased. Last week there was a lot of damage and vandalism during the protests; the news media correctly reported it was NOT the protesters, but agitators who took advantage of the situation to stir up trouble. I guess I just come from a place where, if it seems like the media is reporting both sides, and is reporting accurate information, is it really wrong to trust them or wait for them to verify certain pieces of information?
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Enail on Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:00 pm

No one's opinion is unbiased. But there are some biases it's pretty reasonable to assume you have, because they're biases that our society gives pretty much everyone, so we know that in those areas, we're probably leaning towards one side and can't see it.

In those cases, I think we've got a responsibility to try and combat them by leaning what feels like a bit too far to the other side, because what feels normal is actually predictably biased. So that means listening what feels like a lot to people that we're conditioned to listen to very little, by giving what feels like more trust to the opinions of people we'd be inclined to dismiss, by questioning the cues by which we evaluate 'good' or 'trustworthy' or 'rational.'

It sounds like you're looking for a yes/no answer, but I don't think there is one. If the only tool you have to measure temperature is a broken thermometer that always skews 10 degrees too cold, you can't just say "ignore the thermometer," but you also can't trust it either, so what can you do but assume it's 10 degrees warmer than the thermometer says? The only tool we have is our judgement, even though we know that judgement is flawed, so the best we can do is try to be aware of and compensate for the flaws we know about, using our imperfect judgement to decide how much to compensate.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Wondering on Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:11 pm

I absolutely do not think our system cannot be saved. And I don't think I even implied that. It will take an infusion of people into the justice system (primarily prosecutors and judges) who aren't biased toward cops to fix it. And that will take time. A lot of time. Maybe decades. But having protests like this and people who listen to them and who stop giving cops the benefit of the doubt will help this happen.

I think it's okay to criticize cops with a broad brush. That doesn't mean all cops are bad. But as a group, cops are showing that their perspective on black people is not reliable. One or two incidents are isolated. Multiple incidents is a pattern. And it's not just in one police department. And it's not just black people, either. But they are more often the victims.

I think having a cop for a dad makes your opinion on the police less critical than the general public already is. Is that a fact, I don't know. But when I read your original post and got down to you saying your dad is a cop, I said, "Oh." And, "Of course she doesn't want to criticize the police." And I really don't think I'm going to be successful in getting you to be more skeptical of cops because your dad is one. Is that fair? Maybe not. But that was my gut reaction to reading that.

I think what enail says is wise. Given the pattern of behavior we're seeing (and finally paying attention to; it's not like black people haven't been screaming about this for decades) in police, you need to start with skepticism toward the police to actually be unbiased.

If you want to be skeptical, Marty, look at how many times police actually suffer consequences of things that go wrong. How often do they spend time in jail? How often do they even lose their jobs? Many times they're dismissed from one force and go get a job in another police force somewhere else (like molesting priests being moved from parish to parish). Cops get away with all sorts of things regular people don't. And they shouldn't. They should be held to a higher standard because we allow them more power.

(I know you love dogs, so even look at how many dogs are killed by cops. Always the police say the dog was aggressive and attacking and frequently a pit bull (even if it wasn't a pit bull) and that their only option was to shoot it, even if all it was doing was barking.)

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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Wondering on Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:15 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Since the goal is for justice to be served, I feel uncomfortable assuming that it already has without giving it a chance.

That's the problem, though. The goal shouldn't be for justice to be served. The goal should be for cops to stop killing black people.

They won't do that if justice is never served, but where has it been served? Where is the pattern of cops submitting to consequences that match their pattern of killing black people? There isn't one.

You're wanting to look at this (and it seems all) cops-killing-black-people as an isolated incident. The issue is that it's not.

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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:28 pm

Wondering wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Since the goal is for justice to be served, I feel uncomfortable assuming that it already has without giving it a chance.

They won't do that if justice is never served, but where has it been served? Where is the pattern of cops submitting to consequences that match their pattern of killing black people? There isn't one.

You're wanting to look at this (and it seems all) cops-killing-black-people as an isolated incident. The issue is that it's not.

No, there isn't (a pattern of consequences for killing people.) But there is hope that there will start to be one. Like there's a similar case being tried in Chicago right now where the cop was charged with murder. I don't think this is an isolated incident at all. What I think is that I want to see if there are changes happening in the justice system, if this time there's going to be a step towards improvement. I think that justice has failed spectacularly in other cases, but that we might slowly be learning our lesson; all I'm trying to do is wait to see which way the wind blows in this case. In the meantime, it makes complete sense to me to peacefully protest and prepare if justice won't be served, since that is the pattern. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best kind of thing.

Enail wrote:
In those cases, I think we've got a responsibility to try and combat them by leaning what feels like a bit too far to the other side, because what feels normal is actually predictably biased. So that means listening what feels like a lot to people that we're conditioned to listen to very little, by giving what feels like more trust to the opinions of people we'd be inclined to dismiss, by questioning the cues by which we evaluate 'good' or 'trustworthy' or 'rational.'

I think that's part of why I struggle, because I feel like I am already leaning against my usual tendencies. In many other instances, I assume the justice system is working. In cases of black people being shot by police, I've been trying very hard to not assume that; to read all the news articles I can find, from sources I don't usually read (aka beyond just conventional newspapers), read opinions online I might initially disagree with. Like, my neutrality kind of is me already leaning away.

Wondering wrote: I think it's okay to criticize cops with a broad brush. That doesn't mean all cops are bad. But as a group, cops are showing that their perspective on black people is not reliable. One or two incidents are isolated. Multiple incidents is a pattern. And it's not just in one police department. And it's not just black people, either. But they are more often the victims.

I think what bothers me about criticizing all cops is we criticize as if they are the problem, when from my perspective they are a (huge) problem; they are a symptom, not the disease. Cops, by and large, are not any more racist than any other group of the population. What makes them worse, of course, is that they have more power and more protection than your average citizen. But the underlying problem with cops is the same underlying problem that our entire society suffers from. We have systematic racism. Racism creates poverty, which breeds violence. Our society forces many minorities into poverty, and then punishes them for it. Along come cops. We don't demand cops have high levels of education; we don't give them extensive training on racism, on cross-cultural sensitivity. Cops, as a whole, are drawn from white, lower-class or poor backgrounds; groups that have already been set up, by social conditioning, to regard minorities as their "competition" on the race to the middle class. We erode police resources; we pass confusing and contradictory laws about guns and drugs, and demand police enforce them while paying them only enough to barely make a middle class living. We make cops clean up our messes. We create this poverty, and we abandon minorities with very little support or understanding, and then turn around and demand that cops, who are themselves no wiser or steadier than the lot of us, make trigger decisions on how to deal with these incredibly complex and emotionally fraught issues.

Cops are a problem. But we, the American people, created this problem. When we lower taxes, when we whittle away welfare and education and pit poor whites against poor blacks, we make this injustice. Cops are a problem, but they're also a scapegoat, an easy way for all the rest of us white people to point at someone else to blame. And the problems with cops and minorities will never go away so long as we (we being affluent white people) refuse to recognize our own role in creating this system. Cops pull the trigger against black people, but we put the gun in his hand every time we don't vote through harsher gun laws, or make it harder to earn a living wage, decide minorities don't need greater access to opportunities. The problem is never going to stop so long as minorities are disproportionately poor, and we demand cops "protect" us at any cost.  

   
Wondering wrote:I think having a cop for a dad makes your opinion on the police less critical than the general public already is. Is that a fact, I don't know. But when I read your original post and got down to you saying your dad is a cop, I said, "Oh." And, "Of course she doesn't want to criticize the police." And I really don't think I'm going to be successful in getting you to be more skeptical of cops because your dad is one. Is that fair? Maybe not. But that was my gut reaction to reading that.

Okay, well, that's honest, and ironic, and yeah, perhaps not completely fair. Like, I may be biased and unable to be critical. But it also kind of seems like you made that assumption based on your bias about my family, without actually asking questions and seeing if you could engage in a good faith discussion with me. I mean, I kind of feel like anything I say would be dismissed as being biased. I guess that's your choice to make, but it seems rather.... strange, especially if you couldn't have guessed my bias after having had conversations with me for years without me flat out saying it. Perhaps I ask too much for you to overlook the bias. But I think saying things like "I really don't think I'm going to be successful in getting you to be more skeptical of cops" without actually trying to see if I can be critical of cops is unfair.  

Wondering wrote: If you want to be skeptical, Marty, look at how many times police actually suffer consequences of things that go wrong. How often do they spend time in jail? How often do they even lose their jobs? Many times they're dismissed from one force and go get a job in another police force somewhere else (like molesting priests being moved from parish to parish). Cops get away with all sorts of things regular people don't. And they shouldn't. They should be held to a higher standard because we allow them more power.

And I think that's awful, and needs to stop. And this is one place where being related to a cop actually helps me be more skeptical. I had a long discussion about Eric Garner with my dad. He pointed out that the choke hold has been illegal in nearly all precincts for years, and that any cop training self-defense using it is dangerous and irresponsible. My dad thought it was a huge injustice that the cop wasn't charged, given that he fully went against procedure (can't even argue self defense.) Those kinds of conversations lead me to looks at situations like Chicago and call them for what they are; cold-blooded murder. You don't pull a gun against a knife. Self-defense is not an excuse in those cases. It's helped me be very critical of some of the BS I've heard to defend the killing of black people; it's helped me identify if the problem is the system (procedure), the individual or both. Many cops shouldn't get away with the things they do. They should be held to a higher standard, a much higher standard, because the procedures cops use should be above reproach. If the procedures aren't, we have a problem; if they violate the procedure, it should be an open and shut case, and it's only through a broken system it isn't. I completely and totally agree with you; what bothers me is more the nuances.  


Wondering wrote:(I know you love dogs, so even look at how many dogs are killed by cops. Always the police say the dog was aggressive and attacking and frequently a pit bull (even if it wasn't a pit bull) and that their only option was to shoot it, even if all it was doing was barking.)

Okay, well, that's kind of an unfortunate example, since despite how much I love dogs, I actually do usually see the other side, since I've seen a lot of aggressive dogs that aren't well trained, aren't handled by their owners, and can quickly turn violent. All bias admitted, I'm actually probably more sensitive in favor of the cop because I am very paranoid and afraid for my own dog, after I've seen and heard so many stories of dog violence and maiming. The more contact I have with dogs, the greater my fear of strange dogs is, because I know how quickly violence can escalate. So....
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Caffeinated on Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:56 pm

I think in these kind of conversations, context can matter a lot. If you're talking to someone who something affects personally, and speak about it in a detached and academic way, that can come across as very rude and hurtful. In the case of black people being killed by police, I would expect that it feels very personal to any given black person in this country. Part of the problem of racism is having to live with the fear that any day it could be them or their family or loved one. That must be a heavy burden to carry, and to have someone discuss it in a detached or skeptical way might not come across the way it was intended.

I think if I were you, I'd foreground the fact that you have a family in law enforcement and that this means you don't think you could be unbiased about the subject. Sort of like when a journalist mentions that they have a personal connection to someone or something in a story they're writing.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Wondering on Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:13 pm

Cops are not a scapegoat. They are, as you say, only one part of a much larger, more complex problem. But a scapegoat is someone or group who is blamed for the faults of others. They are at fault for their own actions. You don't get to claim scapegoat status because the system is complex and you're only one part of it.


Okay, well, that's honest, and ironic, and yeah, perhaps not completely fair. Like, I may be biased and unable to be critical. But it also kind of seems like you made that assumption based on your bias about my family, without actually asking questions and seeing if you could engage in a good faith discussion with me. I mean, I kind of feel like anything I say would be dismissed as being biased. I guess that's your choice to make, but it seems rather.... strange, especially if you couldn't have guessed my bias after having had conversations with me for years without me flat out saying it. Perhaps I ask too much for you to overlook the bias. But I think saying things like "I really don't think I'm going to be successful in getting you to be more skeptical of cops" without actually trying to see if I can be critical of cops is unfair.  
I don't think it's strange to assume someone with a cop as a parent will be biased toward cops. I would assume anyone with a parent in a particular profession would be biased toward that profession as long as they had a good relationship with their parents. For the exact reasons you give: You've seen and heard about the inside. I also didn't say I couldn't engage in a good faith discussion. Just that that was my initial, gut reaction in reading your first post.


(I don't want to derail a discussion of race with dogs, so I'll just say that I disagree and think cops are too quick to shoot dogs. I used it as an example because this is more evidence for me to mistrust stories cops tell about what really happened in any situation.)

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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:31 pm

Wondering wrote:Cops are not a scapegoat. They are, as you say, only one part of a much larger, more complex problem. But a scapegoat is someone or group who is blamed for the faults of others. They are at fault for their own actions. You don't get to claim scapegoat status because the system is complex and you're only one part of it.

I see them as a scapegoat because they're blamed as if they're the only part of the system that's corrupt. And they're blamed when we, as a society, put them in impossible situations but don't take responsibility for that. Yes, they are at fault for their actions, but their actions also don't happen in a bubble.

For me, a good parallel is the terrorist attacks in France. There is no justification for what they did. However, many terrorism experts have pointed out that Muslims in France are heavily discriminated against, live in poverty, and are isolated and alienated by French society, which breeds violence and extremism. There is no justification for cops shooting black people. But we've also put them in a position where we give them little training, little resources, and send them into stressful,emotionally-fraught, potentially racially-charged situations with nothing but guns. They are both responsible for their actions, and scapegoats for our faults, our failure to fight poverty and racism head-on, our refusal to acknowledge that we demand both low crime rates and loose gun laws.

Wondering wrote:
I don't think it's strange to assume someone with a cop as a parent will be biased toward cops. I would assume anyone with a parent in a particular profession would be biased toward that profession as long as they had a good relationship with their parents. For the exact reasons you give: You've seen and heard about the inside. I also didn't say I couldn't engage in a good faith discussion. Just that that was my initial, gut reaction in reading your first post.

It's not strange to assume, but it feels like (at least to me) that you didn't really challenge that assumption initially. Like, your first post wasn't," Hey, RB, could you give us an example where you might be critical of cops in these situations?", it was "It's pretty likely you're going to be biased towards cops." It doesn't really feel like you gave me a chance. I think I demonstrated that I can be critical of cops (and why that makes sense with my background), and you didn't really acknowledge that, which makes me wonder if you still think that somehow isn't critical enough, in which case.... I don't know if I can say anything that would appease you, which doesn't feel we can then engage a in good faith discussion. I guess what I'm trying to say, I'm not feeling a lot of good faith coming from you.... and maybe that's not fair of me to ask or assume.

Wondering wrote:
(I don't want to derail a discussion of race with dogs, so I'll just say that I disagree and think cops are too quick to shoot dogs. I used it as an example because this is more evidence for me to mistrust stories cops tell about what really happened in any situation.)

Perhaps it's not bias in either direction, but simply a matter of personal opinion and experience? Sorry, but I admit I feel a little.... disrespected when I say that I've known a few violent dogs and victims of dog attacks, and it sounds like you're saying I should ignore that in favor of mistrusting cops' stories. My own experiences happen to support those stories; doesn't mean that's the be-all, end-all truth, but in the case of dogs, it isn't a bias for cops, it's a bias from being in a population that has higher dog attacks.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by caliseivy on Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:50 pm

So far, I've maintained a stance, in both the Clark case and last night's shootings, that until I see events confirmed by more than one source, I remain skeptical. I am a firm believer that evidence must be vetted, and process followed. I support not releasing the tapes until the investigation is done, so that there is less risk that the investigation be compromised (and thus the cops, if guilty, not be charged.) I won't join in criticizing the police department until either I have 2 collaborating sources of information (eye witness from both protest and civilian, news media and protest, protest and police, and so on. I don't like either eye witnesses or videos as sole evidence, as I think they can be misleading.) My stance is very much that I want as much vetted information as possible before making a conclusion or voicing my stance.

For this, I've been accused of being racist

I don't think you're necessarily racist for this stance/viewpoint, but I do want to point out that a reason why people accuse you of being racist is that more often than not waiting/wanting to see the evidence is a line used to absolve a cop of their inappropriate behavior (not just involving fatal shootings) when a minority is involved followed closely by an insistence that people are not being level-headed and remarks about reverse-racism/race-baiting/etc. It's a pretty common pattern (similar to when a guy implies "not all men") that raises hackles.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:59 pm

caliseivy wrote:
I don't think you're necessarily racis for this stance/viewpoint, but I do want to point out that a reason why people accuse you of being racist is that more often than not waiting/wanting to see the evidence is a line used to absolve a cop of their inappropriate behavior (not just involving fatal shootings) when a minority is involved followed closely by an insistence that people are not being level-headed and remarks about reverse-racism/race-baiting/etc. It's a pretty common pattern (similar to when a guy implies "not all men") that raises hackles.

I thought the issue with "not all men" that raises hackles is that it's often used to derail conversations where it isn't appropriate?

Though that does beg the question; is it ever okay to say "not all men"? Is there ever an occasion where it's not inflammatory to say "I'd prefer to see the investigation before I take a stance"? Is the only course of action, if that is your opinion (and it's your opinion regardless of the circumstances of the case; aka, you always wait until the official investigation is done), to just not say anything?
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by Werel on Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:52 pm

Wondering wrote: I would assume anyone with a parent in a particular profession would be biased toward that profession as long as they had a good relationship with their parents.
Not necessarily. I love my mom a lot and have a great relationship with her; I also think that her job and her employer are... morally compromised, at best. I don't think she's an evil person for doing the job she does; I think she really believes she's making the world better, and is willing to participate in a system which I find abhorrent in order to do so. But my bias against her profession is strong and getting stronger, despite my strong bias towards her as a person (fun to navigate!).

reboundstudent wrote:Cops, by and large, are not any more racist than any other group of the population. What makes them worse, of course, is that they have more power and more protection than your average citizen.
I think that you make a really good point about cops being one component of a bigger set of racist systems, and that placing all blame squarely on police culture is a convenient way to ignore problems in the larger culture, but I think that they also are a self-selecting population to a degree-- not necessarily for racism, but for willingness to use force/do violence to others, desire to wield authority and power, and approval of existing criminal justice systems. Not many people choose to become police because they are averse to doing violence, dislike having power over others, and/or think American policing is deeply and systemically injust. It is, perhaps, a bit biased to say that the psychological makeup of the average LEO is the same as that of the average civilian.

caliseivy wrote:I don't think you're necessarily racist for this stance/viewpoint, but I do want to point out that a reason why people accuse you of being racist is that more often than not waiting/wanting to see the evidence is a line used to absolve a cop of their inappropriate behavior (not just involving fatal shootings) when a minority is involved followed closely by an insistence that people are not being level-headed and remarks about reverse-racism/race-baiting/etc.
Yeah, a lot of the hackle-raising you're getting may have more to do with who you share the "let's see the evidence" stance with, rather than the stance itself.

reboundstudent wrote:Is the only course of action, if that is your opinion (and it's your opinion regardless of the circumstances of the case; aka, you always wait until the official investigation is done), to just not say anything?
No, there are other courses of action, like being willing to say it and risk being called a racist; like saying it, but also taking care to elaborate that you do in fact believe that racially-motivated violence is rampant among police; or saying something like "I believe in due process for all criminals, including criminals who happen to be police."
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:28 pm

Werel wrote:
I think that you make a really good point about cops being one component of a bigger set of racist systems, and that placing all blame squarely on police culture is a convenient way to ignore problems in the larger culture, but I think that they also are a self-selecting population to a degree-- not necessarily for racism, but for willingness to use force/do violence to others, desire to wield authority and power, and approval of existing criminal justice systems. Not many people choose to become police because they are averse to doing violence, dislike having power over others, and/or think American policing is deeply and systemically injust. It is, perhaps, a bit biased to say that the psychological makeup of the average LEO is the same as that of the average civilian.

Oh for sure, you've got a perfect point there. My apologies, I wasn't trying to say cops are equal to civilians in every way; just that they aren't more racist than your average civilian (which is.... not comforting), like you said. The self-selecting is absolutely a problem, and there's also a huge schism between younger/older officers, and different attitudes depending on what rank you are. Granted, these are just my observations, but you see a lot less tendency towards violence when you're dealing with, say, investigative detectives versus rookie patrolmen... but that isn't saying much, since detectives don't deal with the public as much as patrolmen. I know there a lot of conversations about the standards for recruits being slowly lowered in a desperate need to fill quotas, and because many folks don't want to be police officers... It's kind of a self-perpetuating cycle, where you have a police force that starts depending on violence and force for lack of resources, which introduces even more recruits to violence and force and makes the profession more attractive to specific types of folks. Add to that that it's an incredibly stressful job with relatively meager pay (I'll make more in a few years than my dad did at retirement, and he was one rank below Chief), and you've got a perfect recipe for filling a very needed profession with assholes.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by kath on Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:52 am

reboundstudent wrote:
I agree, which is why my stance is just absolute neutrality and waiting to see what the justice system will do. My sticking point is, cops should be held to the same/a higher standard of justice. They should be investigated by an outside source who will hopefully be less biased then their own fellow, city cops. So far, that's happening. If the investigation concludes without releasing the tapes, or the investigation releases the tapes and there's no charges (when the video isn't conclusive either way), then the justice system has failed. It's not that I'm skeptical of the story; it's that I'm waiting to see if the legal system does what I think it should, in terms of justice. Right now, it's doing what it's supposed to; I just don't have any evidence that it's failed yet. Since the goal is for justice to be served, I feel uncomfortable assuming that it already has without giving it a chance. If I don't wait to see, then how can I say that what I want is justice within the system?  

One thing I was kind of thinking about based on what Wondering was saying is that ... it would be OK for you to be biased, and maybe trig to be absolutely neutral isn't a good standard to hold yourself to because it's not possible. So if you are trying to provide neutral cred / say you are holding a neutral position, but you have personal reasons to not be necessarily neutral, it may be more productive to basically consciously accept lack of neutrality, do what you can to compensate, but understanding that your compensation will never be perfect. Just like if you didn't know exactly how far the thermometer was off and were trying to roughly guesstimate all the time, it'd probably be useful to acknowledge and "own," to some extent, the guesstimating, rather than try to make your guesstimates perfect.

This makes way more sense with personal perspectives on something where you could never accurately calibrate your own perspective, of course!

reboundstudent wrote:
I totally get fear of no justice, which is why I don't think the protests are wrong. And I completely agree with pushing for more awareness and information. It's just so far, I've seen the media reporting the protests pretty unbiased. Last week there was a lot of damage and vandalism during the protests; the news media correctly reported it was NOT the protesters, but agitators who took advantage of the situation to stir up trouble. I guess I just come from a place where, if it seems like the media is reporting both sides, and is reporting accurate information, is it really wrong to trust them or wait for them to verify certain pieces of information?

They read as unbiased to you, but they are historically biased, so as someone who won't be particularly sensitive to whatever bias is there, you might not be an absolutely accurate barometer.

reboundstudent wrote:What I think is that I want to see if there are changes happening in the justice system, if this time there's going to be a step towards improvement. I think that justice has failed spectacularly in other cases, but that we might slowly be learning our lesson; all I'm trying to do is wait to see which way the wind blows in this case. In the meantime, it makes complete sense to me to peacefully protest and prepare if justice won't be served, since that is the pattern. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best kind of thing.

But I also think it makes sense for other people to be very angry that they aren't sure that police will not kill them (and people like them, and much less actually serve and protect them) when they are doing nothing wrong, and that they are not particularly interested in waiting for justice in a system that hasn't provided it. You can't feel their anger in that you don't deal with those issues in that way / on that dimension, and you may not agree with the exact dimensions of the anger, but like ... they get to have the anger about it. That makes complete sense. And you can listen to the anger and you don't need to make a call on it, because it's not your feeling so like ... you can't.

reboundstudent wrote:I think what bothers me about criticizing all cops is we criticize as if they are the problem, when from my perspective they are a (huge) problem; they are a symptom, not the disease.

I kinda think looking at the context of the criticism is a huge aspect here. If the marginalized group is criticizing cops right now, they probably would also be quick to criticize the systemic problems that make racial violence perpetrated by cops a problem. They're unlikely to be like "but the rest of upper middle class white American society, feel free to sit back!" (position A). If it's  upper middle class white American society saying "yeah those lower middle class cops are really awful, tsk tsk" .... that's another thing altogether (position B). But also, "the justice system is a specific piece of our society that is codified, and there are things we could do - like hire a more diverse workforce and train and support it properly, and then hold our justice system to high standards, which are relatively concrete and actionable right now through policy in contrast to changing behaviors of 'the populace'" is also not a criticism that scapegoats cops, but also presents the justice system as a place where change can much more effectively be mandated if there is political will from a relatively small number of people. Unlike all the upper middle class white people actually voting with social justice on social justice issues, which is a pretty slippery ball o' worms involving millions upon millions of individual decisions (position C). And I think it could be hard, in a quick discussion to sort out positions A, B, and C completely, or what exactly the other people need from the conversation. Sometimes, someone might just need a clear statement of solidarity with marginalized groups.

reboundstudent wrote:
Though that does beg the question; is it ever okay to say "not all men"? Is there ever an occasion where it's not inflammatory to say "I'd prefer to see the investigation before I take a stance"? Is the only course of action, if that is your opinion (and it's your opinion regardless of the circumstances of the case; aka, you always wait until the official investigation is done), to just not say anything?  

Well, like, why do you want to say it? I think "OK" is one thing, and "the right thing" or "the best thing" is another. I maybe haven't given this enough thought, but at first blush, I'm pretty much thinking that "not all men" is never going to be the best thing to say (as your example). I don't know what the measure of "OK to say" would be, so I'm not going to give an opinion there.

When I am having difficult conversations like this - and I probably err on the side of not making waves so there's that to consider - I will often default to listening (especially if I feel like making my case would be talking to someone who ... it's just not going to be a thing). I default to this position with more progressive and more conservative stances. Then I might try to figure out what really needs to happen in the conversation. Is asserting my position, to whatever extent it is dissenting, going to help? Or is expressing empathy with the hurt party what needs to happen, even if you don't actually state your opinion on the topic at hand? If you are saying you'll wait until all the evidence is in, like ... what's the benefit of saying that, and does it outweigh the potential feeling it may instill that you don't care about the ongoing injustice or don't believe it's happening (since that tactic is one that is used)?

Cause like, you taking a personal opinion on whether you think that cop actually killed those people ... probably isn't hugely important. You aren't investigating, you are not a member of the jury. Your opinion about that specific case, right now, is probably not a big deal. What is a big deal, is, do you think racial violence by cops is a real problem (yes), and do you want it addressed (yes). Sometimes, you can just say that, and take actions that support that outcome. You don't always have to give an opinion about a situation you don't know anything about and about which your opinion is not important anyway.

I mean it's always possible someone will want you to commit to an opinion concretely, but then what they probably really want you to do is listen to their argument that their read on events is correct, and listening to and considering it is probably the most important outcome there.

Like, if you don't have an opinion, you can just not state an opinion, rather than argue that not having an opinion is the correct stance. Unless you ARE trying to get people to agree with you that not having an opinion is the best option, which wasn't the impression I got from your original post. It sounded like you were just worried about whether not having the opinion in the first place was a problem.
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:38 pm

kath wrote: One thing I was kind of thinking about based on what Wondering was saying is that ... it would be OK for you to be biased, and maybe trig to be absolutely neutral isn't a good standard to hold yourself to because it's not possible. So if you are trying to provide neutral cred / say you are holding a neutral position, but you have personal reasons to not be necessarily neutral, it may be more productive to basically consciously accept lack of neutrality, do what you can to compensate, but understanding that your compensation will never be perfect. Just like if you didn't know exactly how far the thermometer was off and were trying to roughly guesstimate all the time, it'd probably be useful to acknowledge and "own," to some extent, the guesstimating, rather than try to make your guesstimates perfect.

Makes sense, and I do try to do that by pointing out my bias up front.... but it does still bother me when the assumption is I could never have an opinion that isn't against my bias, without even discussing it with me first.

kath wrote:
They read as unbiased to you, but they are historically biased, so as someone who won't be particularly sensitive to whatever bias is there, you might not be an absolutely accurate barometer.

But I also think it makes sense for other people to be very angry that they aren't sure that police will not kill them (and people like them, and much less actually serve and protect them) when they are doing nothing wrong, and that they are not particularly interested in waiting for justice in a system that hasn't provided it. You can't feel their anger in that you don't deal with those issues in that way / on that dimension, and you may not agree with the exact dimensions of the anger, but like ... they get to have the anger about it. That makes complete sense. And you can listen to the anger and you don't need to make a call on it, because it's not your feeling so like ... you can't.

I think what's failing to come across is that I do not think other people should think like me. When I say that I am waiting to see if justice served, I literally mean I, and I alone, am waiting to form an opinion.... but that if other people think justice won't be done, and are angry about it, and don't want to wait, I completely understand and respect that. I am not going to lecture anyone else on how they shouldn't march/protest/make demands just because I myself am currently abstaining from an opinion.

What bothers me is not that other people aren't thinking the same way I do, but that I feel like I'm being forced to already give an opinion in order to appear like a good liberal/good progressive. It isn't just enough that I support and agree with protesting and marching for justice; because I, personally, haven't yet decided the truth is X and nothing else, and voiced that opinion, I am Bad. (Extra wrinkle: it's been other white people pressuring me to take a stance, which I've found interesting.)

Does that make sense? That I'm not upset or judging that other people have formed opinions; I'm angry and upset that other people are angry and upset that I haven't. That's really what I struggle with. That it isn't enough to support someone else's anger, it's that there's this expectation that I be angry right now in the same degree and with the same certainty. It isn't enough that I support the protest; I'm Bad because I'm not protesting myself (because I'm waiting to see if justice isn't done, in which case I'll join.)


kath wrote:
I kinda think looking at the context of the criticism is a huge aspect here. If the marginalized group is criticizing cops right now, they probably would also be quick to criticize the systemic problems that make racial violence perpetrated by cops a problem. They're unlikely to be like "but the rest of upper middle class white American society, feel free to sit back!" (position A). If it's  upper middle class white American society saying "yeah those lower middle class cops are really awful, tsk tsk" .... that's another thing altogether (position B). But also, "the justice system is a specific piece of our society that is codified, and there are things we could do - like hire a more diverse workforce and train and support it properly, and then hold our justice system to high standards, which are relatively concrete and actionable right now through policy in contrast to changing behaviors of 'the populace'" is also not a criticism that scapegoats cops, but also presents the justice system as a place where change can much more effectively be mandated if there is political will from a relatively small number of people. Unlike all the upper middle class white people actually voting with social justice on social justice issues, which is a pretty slippery ball o' worms involving millions upon millions of individual decisions (position C). And I think it could be hard, in a quick discussion to sort out positions A, B, and C completely, or what exactly the other people need from the conversation. Sometimes, someone might just need a clear statement of solidarity with marginalized groups.

I agree. When I started this discussion, I was actually thinking of Position B. It's..... sometimes difficult to parse everything out, because a lot of the BLM activism I see is actually from (largely) white, middle class individuals. It's.... confusing, to get lectured on racism by other white people. And I may be overly-sensitive here, but there does seem to elements of classism to criticisms of cops. Like so long as upper middle class people post liberal articles on FB and say the right things, they're good!, not like those racist, lower-class cops who are clearly just rednecks. It frequently seems like from the perspective of these people, the only problem is "cops are racist," and if that would just stop, everything would be fine.

So context is important here, because ironically, none of these conversations I've been having have been with actual marginalized black people. I think that also kind of informs my side-eye, because sometimes it feels less like expressing solidarity and support, and more feeling like I'm in some kind of competition for Best Racially Sensitive White Person. Am I making any sense?


kath wrote:
Well, like, why do you want to say it? I think "OK" is one thing, and "the right thing" or "the best thing" is another. I maybe haven't given this enough thought, but at first blush, I'm pretty much thinking that "not all men" is never going to be the best thing to say (as your example). I don't know what the measure of "OK to say" would be, so I'm not going to give an opinion there.

Well in my case I'd say it in response to a question like "How are you not outraged about this injustice that the cops haven't been charged yet?" It's kind of like, well I'm not outraged yet because I'm not sure there's been injustice, but if you think there's injustice and need to protest, yeah, for sure, do that! Just because I haven't formed an opinion does not mean you shouldn't, either. But that doesn't sometimes seem to be enough. It sometimes seems like if I'm not calling cops pigs and posting things like "White people need to shut up and sit down!" (seriously, is it just me, or is that a weird thing for a white person themselves to say?), I'm not supportive in the eyes of other college-educated, middle-class white folks.

kath wrote:
When I am having difficult conversations like this - and I probably err on the side of not making waves so there's that to consider - I will often default to listening (especially if I feel like making my case would be talking to someone who ... it's just not going to be a thing). I default to this position with more progressive and more conservative stances. Then I might try to figure out what really needs to happen in the conversation. Is asserting my position, to whatever extent it is dissenting, going to help? Or is expressing empathy with the hurt party what needs to happen, even if you don't actually state your opinion on the topic at hand? If you are saying you'll wait until all the evidence is in, like ... what's the benefit of saying that, and does it outweigh the potential feeling it may instill that you don't care about the ongoing injustice or don't believe it's happening (since that tactic is one that is used)?

Well in this case, it was somewhat sensational things being stated as facts, when I hadn't seen them referenced anywhere else (that the shooters at the protest were undercover/off-duty cops). I responded to say that while it's completely possible that happened, are there any verified reports that corroborate this before I go ahead and store it as "fact" in my brain? And that's a.... huge difficult place I end up in, because reporting accurate information (avoid rumor and speculation) is a HUGE deal to me, but that might look like I am automatically not believing you. I guess the safer thing is to just not say anything at all, but it's difficult to sit there and see something like that reported and repeated as Fact when there doesn't seem to be any evidence for it. (Note: it deeply bothered me when folks immediately assumed extremist Muslims were behind the French attacks before we had any corroborating evidence. It really bothers me when a person assumes a crime committed in Northeast must have been done by a black person. I hate assumptions/rumor-mongering of all political stripes.)

But maybe in these instances, there just isn't a way to comfortably exist in both "I support/believe you because you are traditionally not believed" and "I want corroborating evidence before I believe."
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

Post by kath on Thu Nov 26, 2015 2:30 am

I agree, I'm not sure there is a way to exist there, and sometimes you just gotta pick which thing you want to say in this context. And not saying, you should say things you don't believe, but not giving into the temptation to make this a debate about getting all the facts when their position in terms of arguing that all facts are in is untenable. Because that really isn't going to be a useful discussion anyway.

Like, if they're like "HOW ARE YOU NOT OUTRAGED THAT THE COPS HAVEN'T BEEN CHARGED" and your mental monologue is "Well because the investigation is ongoing, so I'm not going to be outraged the justice system is giving itself time to do its job, no." but they are obviously just wanting to kind of demonstrate-sensitive-white-person-cred, you can say the "I'm outraged that a core part of our community can't trust their safety as a part of it" (or some other zoomed out statement). You've said "I'm outraged" so like, they are probably not super mad that you didn't meet their vocabulary meter, and there probably isn't a huge amount more to talk about anyway, so you could try to steer the conversation in a more useful direction, like "what can I, as a middle class white person, do about this?" and discuss the myriad of actions both of you could take to make life suck less for the group of people you are discussing.

Like going and including the group you are talking about, if they are interested in being a part of that particular conversation (like between the two of you, not the general societal conversation). Razz

(Also sometimes this stuff ends up being used as small talk at social gatherings and it's like ... if we're just displaying Progressive Cred at each other and that is the primary purpose of this conversation, it is a messed up conversation, let's move on.)
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Re: Is This Racist? Is This Bad?

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