Our Boys In Blue

patito
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby patito » Wed Aug 05, 2015 6:00 pm

I suppose when you put it that way I can see where you're coming from. Like a guy who is really into the #alllivesmatter tag would see the article titled "cop shoots unarmed man" and he would be like "this is my chance to prove that even white people get shot by police" only to click on the article and then realize that no, it's an article about another black man getting shot.

Going bacl to Brentai's bit about skin color being a magical talisman of protection. The thing is that it actually kind of is. If you go into an open carry state and you have your paperwork in order and whatnot and you have a gun clearly visible on you, the cops are most likely not even gonna approach you anyway, but if you're a black man and do the same then if they talk to you first then you can consider yoruself lucky. Basically if you're black then the cops don't even have to put a lot of work into claiming self defense when they can most likely kill you on camera and get away with it anyway.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Classic » Wed Aug 05, 2015 6:02 pm

At this point we're stumbling onto the big problem with a lot of civil rights movements. It is basically impossible (because of the way "power" is distributed and how it is used to further insulate the "powerful") to give people in power a reason to care. It is so easy to not care or get wrapped up in a bubble that precludes recognizing the problem that people can do it even when being vigilant against it.

And, obviously it's a problematic thing to say but, the statement Mongrel is making about everyone being a little racist is that basically everyone has internalized "problematic" messages and even if you try to buck them, if you come from a position of relative privilege you're likely to fuck up and get stuff wrong or just generally be gross (hopefully only at points). See: criticisms of Joss Whedon.

I think the drive here is right. I also think there's no "right answer," because the way people justify their emotional inertia changes depending on what would-be impulse they're (we're?) trying to deflect.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:45 pm

patito wrote:I suppose when you put it that way I can see where you're coming from. Like a guy who is really into the #alllivesmatter tag would see the article titled "cop shoots unarmed man" and he would be like "this is my chance to prove that even white people get shot by police" only to click on the article and then realize that no, it's an article about another black man getting shot.

Yeah, that's it exactly. I would want it to be set up as a gotcha mechanism. Not to troll, but to hopefully encourage some thinking.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Thad » Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:22 pm

Mongrel wrote:The thing that I think Brent and I are trying to get is, do you think those people are all unteachable lost causes?


No. Do you think they're sociopaths who will only feel shocked at police brutality if they think it might happen to a white person?

Mongrel wrote:Because framing an issue in a different way can help people see things in a way that helps them to understand and learn. Obviously this won't work on everyone, but if it works on some I don't think it's a bad idea.


But we're smack-dab in the middle of a huge, multinational reframing of the issue. It is helping people see things in a way that helps them to understand and learn. This is already happening. And it's working. I think backing off the thing that's working, on the assumption that it isn't working enough because it doesn't speak to privileged white people enough, is both counterproductive and a little insulting to the people who have (rightly) pushed this narrative into the national consciousness.

patito wrote:So yes, saying "cops shoot unarmed man" is a roundabout way of saying racism is over, like you can go around saying that cops are terrible and you can't trust them all you want, but next time you interact with a cop, if you're a white person you're gonna have a very pleasant experience.


Well, let's not go nuts.

If you're a white person and you interact with a policeman, there's a very good chance it's going to be a significant annoyance, inconvenience, and expense. But:

Classic wrote:I get violently angry at that song because I know I alienated a lot of people by not realizing that the racism people of color experience isn't anywhere near the same experience as occasionally being called a cracker.


I'd say mistaking most white people's negative experiences with the police to minorities' is similar to mistaking most white people's experiences with racism to minorities': yes, it sucks; yes, it's unpleasant; no, it's not even close to equivalent.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:32 pm

Thad, do you not think that the overwhelming power of police in general is not an equally valid subject? I feel like you ignored the bit where I clarified to patito that any article on the problem should still putting race front and centre. The headline thing is just a gimmick.

Anyway, you can do things separately, having one conversation about race and police and another about police overreach in general, but I do think it's worth looking at how out-of-control police departments are because there's actually two, inter-related problems. 1) Police departments have incredibly poor oversight and massive training and compliance issues, which is a nice way of saying they're out of control and drunk with power and 2) we have a societal problem with institutional racism, which encourages and allows the police to be most abusive towards blacks.

Brent is right in that the fact that the police can do this to anyone should be and is starkly terrifying. Focusing on race is important because it's a problem with society as a whole and police get away with this sort of thing because we allow them to, but focusing on police excess is also important because it's a grave problem with police as an institution specifically.

I think that getting white folks to feel that visceral fear goes a long way to promoting solidarity and understanding between the races. Our perceived safety in dealing with the police is a comfortable illusion that needs to be torn away. Yes racial privilege protects us, and we can recognize that, but what is it protecting us from? From the abuses of an institution that functions as the state's official monopoly on violence and repression which and has been demonstrated as having no effective regulatory check or balance on it. That we've allowed this organization to exist is fucking terrifying.
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Classic » Thu Aug 06, 2015 4:02 pm

Thad wrote:
Mongrel wrote:The thing that I think Brent and I are trying to get is, do you think those people are all unteachable lost causes?


No. Do you think they're sociopaths who will only feel shocked at police brutality if they think it might happen to a white person?

Honestly I'm edging toward yes. Seeing how much effort members of the "slightly racist" rank-and-file have put in to justifying inaction makes me think the cost, however small relative to being disenfranchised by racism, to simply acknowledging racism is high enough that they will never do so voluntarily.

This isn't to say that they can't or won't, but that they will never seek this out on their own initiative. They might not even seek it out with anything short of a threat of force.

I can't imagine someone even reading a transcript of the Sandra Bland video and not being effected, but I haven't been able to make someone confront that video either. It's also not far fetched for me to think racism damages people's ability to have empathy for people of color.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Thad » Thu Aug 06, 2015 4:31 pm

Mongrel wrote:Thad, do you not think that the overwhelming power of police in general is not an equally valid subject?


I believe it's an inextricably linked discussion, and that pretending we're not talking about race doesn't help.

By all means, produce as many examples of police abuse as possible; shine light on all of them, regardless of race. But don't avoid race when it's a motivator.

I also don't agree with the notion that if we were talking about this like it wasn't a racial issue, it would gain greater traction among people who are unaffected by it. Who, exactly? White progressives? White conservatives?

Well, here's the thing: we WERE inundated by images of excessive police force against mostly-white people, back in 2011, during Occupy. There was outrage. There were lawsuits. There were reforms. All of those are positive responses. But there was nothing like the kind of sustained campaign that we're seeing today. (As much as anything that's because Occupy itself proved unsustainable; there are a variety of reasons for that and they're beyond the scope of this post, but I think they boil down to (1) a hostile media that was always going to mock the protesters and (2) a membership made up largely (not entirely, of course) of people who thought that "lacking in leadership and organization" was a feature, not a bug.) The idea that there would be a bigger outcry if we weren't mainly talking about racially-motivated police violence isn't really supported by the last time that actually happened.

As far as getting white progressives on board by showing them this could happen to them -- well, that's what they were shown in 2011: police violence against people who were mostly liberal, white, middle-class, and educated. And the response was significant but not sustained.

As far as convincing white conservatives, well, it didn't move them an inch.

As far as pointing white conservatives in the direction of unfairness in our justice system, I think the drug war is (at long last) proving to be a useful lever to drum up bipartisan support for reforms. I think this is partly because drug use, abuse, and addiction cross race, class, and party lines, partly because of a growing Libertarian presence in the Republican Party, and partly because the electorate has forced the issue against the wishes of their elected representatives.

Mongrel wrote:Brent is right in that the fact that the police can do this to anyone should be and is starkly terrifying. Focusing on race is important because it's a problem with society as a whole and police get away with this sort of thing because we allow them to, but focusing on police excess is also important because it's a grave problem with police as an institution specifically.


They are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive.

Mongrel wrote:I think that getting white folks to feel that visceral fear goes a long way to promoting solidarity and understanding between the races.


But it's not gonna happen.

The old line about "a liberal is a conservative who just spent the night in jail" is instructive. You can't make people experience that visceral fear of police overreach without actually subjecting them, personally, to it. Short of that, it is a hypothetical, and something that happens to other people.

It is with that understanding -- that this is something that will happen to other people, but that it's still fucked up and somebody should do something about it -- that the argument must inevitably be framed; I see the proposition that there's any other way of framing it, for people who are privileged and unaffected, as an illusion.

Mongrel wrote:Our perceived safety in dealing with the police is a comfortable illusion that needs to be torn away. Yes racial privilege protects us, and we can recognize that, but what is it protecting us from? From the abuses of an institution that functions as the state's official monopoly on violence and repression which and has been demonstrated as having no effective regulatory check or balance on it. That we've allowed this organization to exist is fucking terrifying.


Well, yes. And we're seeing positive steps, at all levels of government, to curtail that power. And that's not happening because we pretended not to notice what color all the people police murdered last year were.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:39 pm

Thad wrote:But it's not gonna happen.

This what gets me. I'm supposed to be the hopeless and cynical one, and you're the one fond of talking about the wheel of justice turning irresistibly, but the overwhelming read I've been getting here is that a world where blacks and whites generally share a common cause and outlook, or even just a reasonable level of understanding is all but impossible.

I mean, I have to assume this is unintentional, but that hopelessness seems to be one of the core underlying sentiments.
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby patito » Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:53 pm

But that's exactly the thing mongrel, if you're white the police are not gonna treat you the way they treat black folks on a regular basis, it's not cynicism. There is a problem in the police force, but trying to frame it as "it could happen to anyone" is very disingenuous.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Thad » Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:18 pm

Mongrel wrote:
Thad wrote:But it's not gonna happen.

This what gets me. I'm supposed to be the hopeless and cynical one, and you're the one fond of talking about the wheel of justice turning irresistibly, but the overwhelming read I've been getting here is that a world where blacks and whites generally share a common cause and outlook, or even just a reasonable level of understanding is all but impossible.

I mean, I have to assume this is unintentional, but that hopelessness seems to be one of the core underlying sentiments.


No, the cynical outlook is to say that white people are only going to find common cause with black people if you remove the word "black" from the headline, because you have to trick them into caring about police brutality; that they're never going to care about the justice and safety of anyone but themselves.

You seem to be saying that the only way to make (some? most?) white people care about police brutality is to engage them on a purely selfish level; that they're incapable of empathizing with other human beings. That's the very picture of cynicism.

I'm saying that no, in fact most people are decent enough to watch what's happening on the news every night and think that's fucked up and we need to change this, even if it's not impacting them directly and personally. What the hell is cynical about that?

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby sei » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:07 pm

You can get rid of the word "white" there and sub in any other demographic, racial or otherwise*.

People are selfish. Things benefiting one's own tribe (and thus self) take priority over things exclusively benefiting other tribes. Time and effort are limited. Guess where investment goes.

The trick is subtly expanding the tribal umbrella and turning more of "them" into "us."

That way, people's selfish behavior inadvertently serves others' benefit.




*E.g. Some of the examples I've seen of how gay people on NeoGAF regarded trans weren't super heartening. I'm not saying most gays are transphobic. It demonstrates that communities with similar concerns—in this case, combating sex/gender-related prosecution—do not automatically bond in solidarity. See also shit like TERFs. Point is: people, even ones who seem similar (esp. from the outside) are surprisingly factious.
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Grath » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:28 pm

Something that I found interesting, after... I think it was Baltimore? I forget which police-killing-young-adult-black-person it was exactly, but I was talking to my officemate from Nigeria about it and he didn't believe that police in the US have a race problem - that he'd never had much trouble with police as long as he was polite and respectful.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby TA » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:01 pm

Thad wrote:
Mongrel wrote:The thing that I think Brent and I are trying to get is, do you think those people are all unteachable lost causes?


No. Do you think they're sociopaths who will only feel shocked at police brutality if they think it might happen to a white person?


No, I think they're sociopaths who, if police brutality happens to a white person, just quietly pretend it didn't happen so they don't have to think about it.
のほも is such a good word?? the concept is kind of hard to fully get across in translation, but basically it means a feeling of pure, deep, platonic affection, and i think thats beautiful

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:57 pm

patito wrote:But that's exactly the thing mongrel, if you're white the police are not gonna treat you the way they treat black folks on a regular basis, it's not cynicism. There is a problem in the police force, but trying to frame it as "it could happen to anyone" is very disingenuous.

I think you and I just don't believe the same thing here. I am whiter than a bleach blizzard - and yet I have living family who've been placed on no-fly lists. I may not live in as much fear of the police as an American black man, but it is impossible for me to imagine that I cannot be targeted by overweening state power, that I am somehow safe.

Just because you recognize that you have a magic talisman that probably, hopefully, protects you from the giant fire-breathing monster living in your spare bedroom, does not mean that you should ignore the fact that some asshole invited a giant fire-breathing monster to live in your spare bedroom.

Thad wrote:
Mongrel wrote:
Thad wrote:But it's not gonna happen.

This what gets me. I'm supposed to be the hopeless and cynical one, and you're the one fond of talking about the wheel of justice turning irresistibly, but the overwhelming read I've been getting here is that a world where blacks and whites generally share a common cause and outlook, or even just a reasonable level of understanding is all but impossible.

I mean, I have to assume this is unintentional, but that hopelessness seems to be one of the core underlying sentiments.


No, the cynical outlook is to say that white people are only going to find common cause with black people if you remove the word "black" from the headline, because you have to trick them into caring about police brutality; that they're never going to care about the justice and safety of anyone but themselves.

You seem to be saying that the only way to make (some? most?) white people care about police brutality is to engage them on a purely selfish level; that they're incapable of empathizing with other human beings. That's the very picture of cynicism.

I'm saying that no, in fact most people are decent enough to watch what's happening on the news every night and think that's fucked up and we need to change this, even if it's not impacting them directly and personally. What the hell is cynical about that?

As Sei and TA (and I) have pointed out, tribalism is a thing. I believe barriers can be broken down, but I also think most people completely fail to understand how big and deep those barriers run.

Anyway, just because it's a trick, doesn't mean it's mean-spirited. Parables, Aesop-style fables, Socratic teaching... we do tons of shit to try and teach people by making them work out a problem themselves. I'm not suggesting we play cruel pranks on people.
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Brentai » Thu Aug 06, 2015 11:29 pm

Kinda just want to say my goal here wasn't to get the white people to care, it was to drive the conversation more towards WHAT HAPPENED than WHO IT HAPPENED TO. On the one hand, yes, it's part of a pattern of systemic abuses, but on the other hand, it's very different than the pattern of systemic abuses we've seen so far and really needs to be treated as unique.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Thad » Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:47 am

Mongrel wrote:As Sei and TA (and I) have pointed out, tribalism is a thing. I believe barriers can be broken down, but I also think most people completely fail to understand how big and deep those barriers run.


Well, yes, but...okay, let's look at some assumptions here.

1. Privileged people are privileged.
2. Privileged people are not worried about police brutality.
3. Privileged people are not worried about police brutality because, by definition, they are not likely to be targets of police brutality.
4. Privileged people can be encouraged to step out of their privileged place and show empathy for people who are not privileged.

I think as far as those things go, everybody is on the same page.

But I think you're adding these, and that they're not internally consistent:

5. Privileged people will never step out of their privileged place and show empathy for people who are not privileged if those people are black.
6. Privileged people will step out of their privileged place and show empathy for non-black victims of police brutality, and will totally not show the same kind of indifference to that group of Others that they do to the African-American community.

I mean, is that a fair characterization? Because I think it's absurd. I think the result is that you just substitute one Other for another. Instead of thinking "That's something that happens to black people" or "That's something that happens to Hispanic people," they'll think criminals, thugs, hippies, punk kids, whatever. I am saying that the sort of person who excuses violence against people from outside his own demographic is...the sort of person who excuses violence against people from outside his own demographic. And that 100% of all people who have experienced police abuses are, by definition, outside his own demographic. If somebody can't feel empathy for some not-him being subjected to harm, then substituting a different not-him isn't going to result in a light-bulb coming on and him seeing the error of his ways, it's going to result in exactly the same pattern of dismissing and ignorning.

You are taking the assumption that privileged people just don't give a damn about people who are different from them, and coupling it with the assumption that maybe if we just gave them a different set of people who are different from them, then we would get a different result. I think that's silly and contradictory.

I think Sei is right that (1) tribalism is an issue and that (2) the key is to expand privileged people's definition of who is part of their tribe. But I see talking about police abuses against minorities as a valid way of doing that. Because I believe most people are not deliberately and consciously racist, and most people get upset at racial injustice once they can be convinced that it exists.

And yes, some people are much more difficult to convince than others.

My question is, why on Earth would you want to focus on trying to convince the people who are hard to convince? Especially if your strategy is to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio and potentially lose the people who are easy to convince and wind up not convincing anybody?

I'm not saying don't argue with the idiots on Twitter.

...

...You know what? Actually, I am saying don't argue with the idiots on Twitter.

Don't start with people who have fingers in their ears and an unshakeable trust in the Rule of Law. Start with people who are on the fence, who can be convinced and who can change their minds when confronted with evidence they hadn't seen before.

Which -- again -- is exactly what everybody's been doing for the past year, and which I think is working.

Is it working much, much slower than I would like it to? Of course. But it's working. The public's awareness hasn't just been raised, the media coverage has been sustained; it looks like it's not going to be a blip this time.

I think that in fact most people are moved by patterns of injustice against groups they don't belong to -- the trick is (1) making them see those patterns, and then (2) motivating them to do something about it.

Both are hard; #2 is probably harder. But what you seem to be recommending is a strategy that tosses out #1 entirely and makes the patterns harder to see instead of easier.

Mongrel wrote:Anyway, just because it's a trick, doesn't mean it's mean-spirited. Parables, Aesop-style fables, Socratic teaching... we do tons of shit to try and teach people by making them work out a problem themselves. I'm not suggesting we play cruel pranks on people.


The importance of stories is enough for a whole separate conversation. I think there's a tremendous power for social change in works of fiction.

But in works of nonfiction, let's leave the relevant details in.

Brentai wrote:Kinda just want to say my goal here wasn't to get the white people to care, it was to drive the conversation more towards WHAT HAPPENED than WHO IT HAPPENED TO. On the one hand, yes, it's part of a pattern of systemic abuses, but on the other hand, it's very different than the pattern of systemic abuses we've seen so far and really needs to be treated as unique.


Well, I can certainly get behind the "Wow, this one was unusual" train.

I still think "and he thought he could get away with it because the target was black" is a pretty important part of the story. But as abuses go, it's a lot less conventional than your usual beatings/tasings/shootings.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:25 am

No, I would not say that #5 or #6 or are really an accurate characterization of what I've been saying.

5. It is not impossible for privileged people will to step out of their privileged place and show empathy for people who do not share their privilege, but it IS very difficult, especially if you are hoping a privileged American will empathize with blacks.
5b. The small mental compartments that allow people to mentally sort "others" are far more resilient and robust than most people credit or admit.
6. Privileged people can sometimes step out of their privileged place and show empathy for non-black victims of police brutality, or they may or may not show the same indifference to that group of Others that they do to the African-American community.
6b. "Privileged people" are not some kind of monolith that thinks as a bloc. It's worth trying different things to try and open people's eyes.

Thad wrote:My question is, why on Earth would you want to focus on trying to convince the people who are hard to convince?


Something about going to hell to preach.

As you're already pointing out, the people who can be convinced more easily are already starting to open up to the idea, even if we're not fully there yet. Just because that might scrape together an effective majority or even a supermajority of non-assholes is no reason to just abandon a large swath of people as unwinnable. That's the kind of thinking that also leads to politicians playing niche politics to get just enough swing voters to win the election - ultimately it's divisive.

Furthermore, the stubborn ones often turn out to be leaders whom others follow.

Thad wrote:But in works of nonfiction, let's leave the relevant details in.


I already said several times that, yes, you do leave the details in, and that my suggestion wouldn't even work if you didn't. So I'm going to just chalk this up to you being :Thad: about titles.
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby patito » Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:45 am

Mongrel, I think you've mentioned you have relatives or roots in the middle east? I wouldn't be suprised if that explains the no fly list stuff.

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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Mongrel » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:00 am

I actually just assumed most of you sort of half-remembered that. That's actually exactly what I meant. Doesn't change the fact that I'm really fucking white. Persians, etc. Does this somehow invalidate my fear?

I do think it's kind of funny that your response is pretty much "Well you're linked to a minority, so of course."
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Re: Our Boys In Blue

Postby Brentai » Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:37 pm

I don't know about where you are, but down here you might be better off apparently black than subtly middle eastern these days.

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