Walter Scott

Deja Vu with a View

It has happened again: another white police officer shooting an unarmed black man under deeply questionable circumstances.  These occurrences happen so frequently, they’re almost predictable.

However, the most recent police shooting (or, at least, the most recent one that is garnering national attention) has even some of the most ardent and loyal supporters of police decrying the law enforcement officer’s side of the story.  This would not be the case were it not for the video of the actual shooting, which surfaced yesterday via The New York Times.

The video is chilling to watch.

The North Charleston, S.C. police department, upon seeing the video, almost immediately fired Michael Slager, the officer who fired eight bullets at Walter Scott as Scott ran away from him.  Slager was also immediately charged with murder once the video showed what had transpired.

But there are still so many questions that need to be answered, among them:

  • Was Slager’s police report about the incident (that took place several days before the video surfaced) completely at odds with the events that are shown in the video?  Is that an explanation for the uncharacteristic haste with which he was charged?
  • What is the object that Slager picked up and subsequently dropped close to Scott?  Was this the stun gun that the officer claimed that Scott was reaching for?  Why did Slager retrieve this object before attempting to come to Scott’s aid or summoning additional help?
  • Why does Slager’s action – retrieving and relocating that object – appear to be so automatic?  Is this an indication of just how commonplace this sort of behavior is when officers in North Charleston are unaware that they are being filmed?
  • Why do the additional police reports filed by other officers who were next on the scene align so closely with Slager’s account of the events?  Was there collusion that was part of the cover-up?

And perhaps the biggest question:

  • What role did race place in all of this?

North Charleston is less than 10 miles from the Charleston slave market, one of the main points of entry to the United States for the slave trade; it’s often referred to as the “capital of the slave trade.”  There are those in South Carolina (as well as elsewhere in the South) who still don’t like to talk openly about slavery and its horrific and persistent after-effects.  If slavery is mentioned at all, it’s referred to as “that unpleasantness” or some other euphemism masquerading as gentility.  This kind of paranym, more sugary than sweet tea, is deeply embedded within the culture of the South.

As events over the next weeks and months progress, it will be revealing to see how this community, other cities, and the nation as a whole respond.  Will this be the shooting that finally moves the understanding of systemic racism forward?

Deportation: The Right is Wrong and the Left is Right

When President Obama announced the policy change yesterday that will allow undocumented minors to stay in the United States for an additional two years instead of facing deportation, the backlash from the right was immediate.  The disrespectful outburst from pseudo-journalist Neil Munro during the announcement was only the beginning.

Republicans immediately started criticizing the policy itself and, more vocally, President Obama.  No surprise there.

The biggest kvetch that the GOP  kvetched was the fact that Obama’s policy change was merely a political act.

Now I have a few questions for the GOP:

  • Are you really pretending that this isn’t an election year and that there isn’t a political component to everything that gets said by every politician between now and Election Day (and beyond)?
  • Are we to believe that Obama’s policy change on deportation is a political act, but your immediate, vociferous, rude, and unified objection to this change isn’tpolitical?
  • If you think that President Obama’s policy towards non-citizens is wrong, what do you propose as an alternative?

So far, the Republicans have proposed electrified fences, mass deportations, splitting up families, self-deportation (whatever that is), and probably a few more harebrained ideas I’ve missed.  Not one plan or policy that the Republicans have proposed to deal with the decades-old issue of undocumented immigrants contains an iota of practicality.  All of them, however, appeal to the base, bloodthirsty instincts of the “low-information voters” that the GOP elite are so fond of manipulating into voting against their own best interests.

The fact of the matter is that the INS through many administrations has been widely regarded as the most dysfunctional agency in a government full of dysfunctional agencies.  Because immigration and citizenship issues are so problematic and complex, the INS has existed in a state of stasis for a very long time.  Consequently, a policy change as comparatively benign as the one President Obama announced is looked at as some drastic swing to the left.

The reality, however, is quite different.  Is there a political component?  Of course there is.  There’s no doubt that an announcement such as the one made on Friday will shore up support among potential Latino voters.  Republicans hate that even more than they hate the policy, because they’ve been on the wrong side of the immigration issue for a long time.

But, in addition to being completely in line with the President’s stated beliefs, it’s just the right thing to do.

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."
"Government is the means by which all the people, acting together, do for themselves, those things in which they cannot do one by one. That is the great principle of government. The things that government must do has changes as human society has changed. But that principle remains the same."
"It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

- Hubert H. Humphrey, May 27, 1911-Jan. 13, 1978

-

NAACP: Equal Equals Equal

In a somewhat surprising move, the NAACP passed a historic resolution endorsing marriage equality.

President and CEO Benjamin Jealous made the following statement:

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

Although the endorsement carries no specific legislative weight, the significance of the largest and arguably best known civil rights organization in the nation making such an endorsement can’t be ignored, particularly since there has been such disparity in polling numbers between the black community and the community at large when asked about marriage equality.

Opposition among blacks is often attributed to black churches.  The text of the NAACP’s resolution addresses that opposition in a somewhat roundabout way:

“The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, educational, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.”

Read more about this: