AND IT'S ONLY JUNE

I usually express optimism here about once annually, and rather than procrastinating I decided to get it out of the way early this year.

One of the lessons of American history is that we're capable of social change but we take our sweet time doing it. Think about Dwight Eisenhower calling on American blacks to exercise "patience" in their calls for equal rights – nearly a century after the 14th Amendment ostensibly guaranteed them (and Thurgood Marshall's sick burn response, "I'm the world's original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough.") And of course here we are sixty years later with some of the same problems left unresolved. We're….a little slow sometimes. Glacial, even.

There are some less bleak examples, though. In the past 20 years Americans, particularly those born since 1980, have done an about-face on gay marriage (57% opposed in 2001, 57% in favor today). That might not seem like much, but swings in public opinion on social issues usually play out over decades. The fall from 57% opposed in 2001 to 39% opposed today is significant.

As completely hopeless as the problem of excessive force and institutionalized racism in law enforcement seems – God knows the death toll isn't subsiding – I think Americans are starting to get it. Not all of us, of course. There's 30% of the population that is intractable on this and many other issues for a variety of reasons (usually something to do with racism and/or an Authoritarian-Follower personality type). The recent incident in McKinney, TX not only resulted in the cop losing his job but didn't see the usual number of people rushing in to defend him. Sure, some people still defended him, the ones would defend a white cop beheading someone for no reason as long as that person happened to be young and black. Moreso than other recent incidents, even those in which someone ended up dying, we seem much more willing to look at this video and say, "What the hell is wrong with that guy." I think – hope – that a growing number of people see this endless stream of videos of police brutality and weekly stories about unarmed black men being shot and think that maybe there's some kind of pattern here. If nothing else, people who don't pay attention to anything going on in this country might be forced into awareness through sheer repetition.

Don't get me wrong, there remain plenty of problems.
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Incidents in which cops actually get punished or prosecuted still inevitably require a bystander's video to keep the system from reverting to the default setting of believing whatever story the cops concoct. And the willingness of Americans to see themselves as Good People who have rights while others are Bad People who don't (or, more accurately, that the violation of their rights is fine because they're Bad and unworthy of sympathy) remains disturbingly high. Prosecutors and juries are deferential to police to the point of absurdity. Despite all that, there are reasons to be optimistic; not that the problem will be solved by Christmas or your next one's free, but that we are moving in a positive direction. The first step in solving the problem is admitting that it exists.

27 thoughts on “AND IT'S ONLY JUNE”

  • Well, NOBODY could really defend the McKinney cop when they saw that barrel-rolling, Paul Blart shit he was pulling. Asshole people will defend racists. Nobody will defend clowns.

    For the record, his name is Eric Casebolt (which…if there's such a thing as hardware-themed porn…), and he is a piece of shit who should not experience anything good in his life. I would normally insert a caveat in making such an assertion, but when there's video of you VIOLENTLY ASSAULTING A YOUNG GIRL, there's no hedging or amelioration to be found. You need to go.

  • Hannity, O'Reilly, and the rest of FoxNews defended him, and blamed Obama for creating some sort of "climate" wherein respect for Authority has been eroded (Britt Hume said as much to O'Reilly this week). The question to be asked is when and if some significant enough reaction to Fox's propaganda campaign will finally turn the tide against the whole enterprise. As long as Fox continues to be essentially Lord Haw Haw in Kansas, the voting public will continue to be confused and driven by various base fears to vote for authoritarian leadership.

  • No minds ever change. New people are born, old ones die off.

    Often it appears as if minds have changed but that only means that the "me too" people have changed sides. They never had an opinion on the subject other than "I don't care–leave me out of it."

    Pessimists are rarely disappointed.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    In just the last 5-10 years, I've noticed a significant shift in the way people who like to consider themselves enlightened discuss gender and sexuality. Part of that is the internet and the much larger and more visible peer group we're trying to connect with. It's always been smarter to behave as though all our words and actions go on the record, but now we get to live that, and it's done us some good. I don't think I'm the only one who really can't use "bitch" as a generic insult anymore. As easy as it is to mock hashtag activism, a lot of my peers have seen which way the wind is blowing and strived for levels of empathy I didn't know we were capable of.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    In England, which doesn't have a 2nd Amendment, and instead has tough anti-gun laws, despite not having one, hasn't needed to overthrow an oppressive government – even at time when they might have had one – and police there since the year 1900 – combined – have killed less suspects/criminals than in any one year in the USA.

    Too many guns out there, imo, is what's causing the cops to overreact more and more, and shoot first and ask questions later.
    And, of course, the myth that all black young men have them.

    The NRA, DUMB(FOX) "news," and Reich Wing talk radio have done more harm to this country in the last 30+ years, than any of the mythical "Fifth Columnists" that the anti-Communist crowd was afraid of from the time of the Russian Revolution until the fall of the USSR, could have even dreamed of.

    Of course, now that anti-Commie fear has morphed into fear of minorities and non-Christians.

    Authoritarians like to talk tough, but basically, they're afraid of everything.
    And that's why many of them feel the need to go out armed like Rambo, just to get a banana-split at their local Dairy Queen.

  • The usual suspects on Fox defended him, but their go-to "police expert" Mark Furhman surprisingly didn't.

    Ed – enjoy your trip and have a safe journey!

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @Alice:

    DAAAAAAAMN. How badly do you have to fuck up to alienate THE Mark Furhman?

    It's profoundly comforting that even Hannity's dingleberries are starting to realize this isn't the hill on which they want to be hogtied and shot in the head.

  • How badly do you have to fuck up to alienate THE Mark Furhman?

    I suspect you have to be acting like a ridiculous "ninja" and get caught on camera doing it.

    Frankly I haven't heard the usual cop defenders around here defending this guy. The closest I've heard is some half-assed bullshit about how the kids were rowdy and so the cops might have been afraid, but you can tell that it's a half-hearted defense. Defending a cop who's afraid for his life because a teenage girl in a bikini might be hiding a gun is hard even for the reflexive authoritarians.

  • I've been reading comments on Facebook on articles about the McKinney police officer, and guys, the naked racism and police worship is still out in full force (I know, never read the comments, but man, it's like an accident scene… I can't look away). Lots of conservative websites have been publishing "THE TRUTH" about the incident, loaded with lots of dog-whistle commentary about "rowdy" "disrespectful" teenagers. I am literally surprised no one has fucked up and put "uppity n*ggers" in the comments on stuff from WaPo or NYT. I can't imagine what the comments on Fox News, etc., are like. The usual claims of "race baiting" are trotted out by people who don't understand what it means.

    After watching the video, I am shocked at the cop's inability to de-escalte the situation. People were walking away, and he was still charging at them, swearing at kids, and then pulling his gun at teenagers holding towels. I still find if hilarious that the same people who are worried about the "government taking away mah freedoms!!!!" support idiot cops like this guy. Who do these tools think will be the ones to take away "mah freedoms"?

  • He wasn't fired – he quit. Which means he still gets his pension.

    When can we start yanking pensions from these clowns?

  • There's a growing disconnect between the people who can look at that video and defend Casebolt's behavior, and the rest of us who look sideways at the first group and sidle casually towards the exit. They used to be in unquestioned control of the culture and now they're not.

    Regarding the sea change in attitudes towards my own tribe, back in the XXth Century David Goodstein (publisher of the Advocate) argued that everybody GBLT should come out. Once straight people realized how many of us there were, and that they already knew us, we would stop being bogeymen. He was a colossal jerk about a lot of things, but I think he was right about that.

  • The interesting thing to me is that a key component of the whole story, and what makes it different, is that a group of young white friends were there to stand up for the rest of the group. I call it "interesting" because I don't know if it's good or bad.

    Good that at least there are white people out there that aren't so spoiled by their privilege that they can't stand up to authority; bad that a black kid could raise the same objections and post the same video to YouTube and be promptly ad-hominemmed into oblivion.

    Good that maybe the next generation of adults won't be so fucked up…or bad that maybe these kids will just get old and be like today's cranky old white people.

  • anotherbozo says:

    I'm sure there were other contributing factors, as the phrase goes, but one thing that helped the public turn around on gay marriage had to be the visual clips of weddings. Instead of seeing Ru-Paul French-kissing Richard Simmons, we saw people who looked like our own neighbors, uncles, cousins, ecstatically happy after their ceremonies. Hard to oppose either the "normality" or the ecstasy. One clip of gay newlyweds paved the way for others.

    And I may not have to live much longer to see smart phones raise awareness of racism and police brutality in a significant way.

    Visual aids are helpful in a culture in which language has become devalued almost to zero.

  • This has nothing and everything to do with whatever this debate may concern, and that is guns were invented for one use: to kill.

  • I came here just now after a frustrating discussion with my co-workers, who diagnosed via Fox News that there were "extenuating circumstances" in the McKinney situation and of course all the non-white guests were party-crashers who were terrorizing the lily-white God-fearin' pool-goers, forcing–yes, FORCING–the police to take action and "the video blew it out of proportion" (by showing what actually happened, obviously?!?).

  • I'd say there's some serious institutional rot in law enforcement when movie cops from "Dirty Harry" & "Lethal Weapon" start looking like bleeding hearts. What seems to have been happening is reactionaries learning the wrong lessons from history, fighting the last war and vocalizing yesterday's perfect comeback, today. Safe journey, and if you come back by way of Kansas City, Boulevard brews some drinkable beers, and there's good food, which sometimes warrants Jill Connor Brown's admonition "You don't eat this way every day, because if you do, it'll kill you and you'll die with a big ass."

  • Monkey Business says:

    If the Rodney King beatings hadn't been caught on camera by a bystander, no one would have done a thing. Instead, it sparked riots, as the mostly-white jury acquitted four officers caught on camera of beating the hell out of a black man.

    Stories, even first hand stories, of discrimination and police brutality are easy enough to fabricate, exaggerate, and dismiss. Video of the incident in question brings the viewer into the experience and allows them to internalize it in a way that the spoken or written word doesn't.

    There should be no surprise that with the widespread adoption of smartphones, giving everyone an HD camera and video recorder in their pocket, and services like YouTube, where anyone can upload video to the internet for the world to see, that people are starting to see why non-white members of society are generally not huge fans of the police.

    When you pull weeds out of a garden, pulling them out by the leaves gets you most of the plant, but often leaves the roots behind. By pulling slowly, you usually get the entire plant. It will take years, maybe even decades, to remove the institutionalized racism from law enforcement, but it will eventually pay off.

  • Unfortunately I don't feel like any progress has been made until the backlash and inevitable overcorrection is finished. Ed, you cite gay marriage support, but as a person who went to high school and college in the 90's I feel like society had become far more comfortable with gay people already (though not marriage). I'll point to the amount of 'gay friends' in pop culture shows; gay people prominently featured in young adult programming (like MTV) etc. The 00's were the correction, the Religious Right shock troops scaring the bigots into reminding us all how awful teh gayz really were. Then the backlash ended, and this change feels permanent (admittedly an unscientific statement).
    I feel the same way about the criminalization of race now. I agree that the general mood seems to be shifting and justice is a bit better now. However I'd caution that there will probably be a backlash — a new round of 'law and order' type politicians — that will make this worse again before it improves permanently.

  • Yeah, I wish I could share your optimism, but the problem is that most people just say "well, if you'd comply with the cop you wouldn't get tased/beaten/abused/killed." This is how people reason that such abuse would never happen to them. That will never stop.

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