Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, September 22, 2016 8:45 pm

So much pain. And so much horseshit.

I was born in Charlotte in 1960 and grew up there, so I lived there through the disturbances surrounding Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 and surrounding the busing for desegregation in the early 1970s. I graduated from high school there and from nearby Davidson College. And for all but 18 months of my adult life, I have lived within an hour or two’s drive. My stepmother and brother live there today, as do other relatives. I grieve at what has happened there, but I also know there is no reason why it shouldn’t have happened there, just as there is no reason why it shouldn’t happen here in Greensboro or, really, anywhere else in this country.

What we know is that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police shot and killed an African American man, Keith Lamont Scott, Tuesday afternoon. We have wildly differing accounts as to why, and this morning, the police chief said that police video of the shooting does not provide “definitive” evidence that Scott was pointing a gun. That’s important: North Carolina is an open-carry state, so Scott was permitted to have a pistol in public, as the NRA would be shouting from the rooftops if it weren’t a racist organization. Only if Scott were an “imminent” threat — if he were pointing the gun at someone — would his shooting have been legally justified.

Without definitive video evidence, we are left only with the word of police officers. They might be telling the God’s honest truth, but a lot of people won’t believe them because if there’s one thing the smartphone era has made clear, taking cops’ word for it in any and all situations is a fool’s errand. Just today, a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was charged with manslaughter for shooting an unarmed African American man who had his hands in the air and, clearly, on video, posed no threat. Absent the video, there’s every reason to believe that the officer who shot him would have skated. So you don’t need a PR expert to know that if all you have to go on is the word of police officers, a whole lot of people simply aren’t going to believe you.

And so there were demonstrations Tuesday night and Wednesday night in Charlotte, and follow-on rioting both nights. Gov. Pat McCrory has called in the National Guard. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, at this twilight-fading-to-dark writing, has not imposed a curfew. And as my friend Ed Hardin from Charlotte writes, a lot of people are hoping tonight for rain.

We don’t know exactly what happened on Tuesday in Charlotte, and absent dispositive video evidence, we likely never will. That’s awful for all involved. But here are some things we do know, in no particular order:

This country has a problem with its law enforcement. Disproportionately more unarmed African Americans die at the hands of police than do whites. Meanwhile, a lot of white criminals, such as the suspect in last weekend’s terrorist bombing in New York, can actually shoot at police and still be taken alive. (And, critics, stop linking to that New York Times article — you know the one. It says in so many words that the study it describes does not focus on the killing of unarmed people of color by law enforcement. And that is the issue here. So that article is irrelevant.) Whether the problem is individual racism, flaws in training, both, or something else entirely, we need to find it and fix it. But before we can do that, we have to admit it, and way too many people are in denial about this.

Law enforcement needs to take a long, hard, critical look at itself. One of the patterns we’ve observed in many cases of law-enforcement violence against people of color is that while one individual officer may be the proximate perpetrator, others frequently lie to support the perp’s version of events or, at the least, fail to report the criminal behavior of their co-workers. That culture is radioactive. It needs to be ended. And if a whole lot of cops have to lose their jobs to make it happen, I will not shed a tear. I don’t want corrupt cops on my payroll, not only because it’s wrong on the merits but also because if my city or county or state gets sued because of their corrupt behavior, I, the taxpayer, will have to pay the judgment. And cops who fail to report and help prosecute their criminal co-workers are corrupt, full stop.

This problem with law enforcement, which is resulting in too many prematurely dead African Americans, is more important than property damage. And yet way too many commenters are focusing on the rioting at the expense of the dead people. Stop it. You’re exposing yourselves as moral midgets. Yes, both are wrong, but one is a lot more wrong than the other.

Too may critics are conflating “demonstrators” — and even “the black community” — with “rioters.” This one is almost, but not quite, self-explanatory. An uncomfortable truth is that demonstrators often serve as unwitting stalking horses for rioters, in this sense: Rioters almost never show up in situations in which a demonstration is not already happening. That’s because rioters are cowards coasting on the courage of others. Any fool can throw a brick through a window. It takes guts to stand up publicly against a militaristic law-enforcement apparatus one perceives as corrupt, armed only with one’s convictions and maybe a sign — guts that rioters simply do not have. If would-be demonstrators stayed home, so, too, would the rioters. And yet people have the constitutional right to demonstrate, and, indeed, an obligation to do so, inasmuch as major social change in this country seldom happens without demonstrations of some kind. It therefore behooves everyone else to properly distinguish between demonstrator and criminal, and way too many people — including some in the media who damned well ought to know better — are failing in this obligation.

In a weird way, HB2 is to blame. OK, we don’t actually know this, but: I can’t help thinking that Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, and current Mayor Jennifer Roberts would be on better terms if not for HB2, and that the governmental response to the situation would be better organized and coordinated. But from all I’ve seen, the two aren’t really on speaking terms right now — which is McCrory’s fault, with HB2 the proximate cause.

Some incredibly ignorant people are going to say that MLK wouldn’t have approved of all this uproar. To which I respond, probably not, but he damn sure would have understood it. Here he is speaking, about two weeks before he died:

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

And in 1965, in Montreat, N.C., even while the Watts riots in Los Angeles were still going on:

I say to you my friends this afternoon that I am convinced in so many instances that people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. It may be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people who would bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, or who would shoot down an Episcopal theological student in Lowndes County, Alabama, but also for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around as they wait on time. Somewhere along the way, we must realize that human progress never rolls in on the heels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be coworkers with God….

We must realize that the time is always right to do right. (h/t John Burns for both quotes)


I fear that this will get worse before it gets better, but here’s something else I know: White people need to sit down, shut the fuck up, and listen to their brothers and sisters of color. Unarmed black men getting gunned down in the streets while white wanted terrorists who shoot at cops get taken alive isn’t something you can explain away from the comfort of your wood-paneled suburban den, and it is a mark of moral retardation that people are even trying.


  1. […] SOURCE […]

    Pingback by So much pain. And so much horseshit. | Greensboro 101 — Thursday, September 22, 2016 9:09 pm @ 9:09 pm

  2. There is a subset of white people who seem pathologically incapable of allowing their minds to wander anywhere near the idea of racism. They are so horribly invested in being considered a “good” person that they will throw any number of human lives under the bus to have that sense. There is absolutely no hope of ever reaching someone like that. They won’t recognize racism because on some level they do know it exists, and admitting that existence means they’re a part of it, and that most definitely they are on the wrong side.

    Which makes them not a “good” person, doesn’t it?

    Comment by lkeke35 — Thursday, September 22, 2016 10:25 pm @ 10:25 pm

    • Yup. Silence is assent. I can’t change how law enforcement officers are trained, let alone singlehandedly change the mindset of the upper class that order is more important than justice, which is what drives how law enforcement officers are trained. But at least I can speak out. And that’s something most people of good will can do, too, if only they would.

      Comment by Lex — Friday, September 23, 2016 7:58 am @ 7:58 am

  3. […] From The Evil Lex Alexander: […]

    Pingback by Throwing Cops Under the Bus | Under Siege — Friday, September 23, 2016 1:03 am @ 1:03 am

  4. […] From The Evil Lex Alexander: […]

    Pingback by Throwing Cops Under the Bus | Greensboro 101 — Friday, September 23, 2016 1:10 am @ 1:10 am

  5. Media in Charlotte: Light on details .. Heavy on drama

    “Reporters covering the unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina have been working overtime to justify the violent riots and shoehorn the police shooting into a national narrative about racial injustice.
    And even as some reporters on the scene flee the city — after a night of deliberate attacks on media–the press can’t stop itself from preening shrilly about “a grim snapshot of America’s continuing crisis in black and blue” (as the New York Times put it). This despite mounting evidence that this particular police shooting hardly fits the mold of racist white cops killing unarmed black men.
    The New York Times‘s Richard Fausset and Alan Blinder were clearly feeling verbose as they penned their florid coverage of Charlotte’s police killing– in which Keith Scott was shot by black Charlotte police officer Brentley Vinson. While describing the scene on the ground, they waxed poetic:
    ‘The gunshot victim lay motionless on the ground, his eyes open, as people surrounded him and blood pooled among their feet. He was taken into the nearby Omni Hotel, and a series of confrontations played out afterward as the police kept people from entering,’ they wrote.
    But information about the incident that sparked the shooting was buried several paragraphs down. The Charlotte police’s press conference (led by its black police chief) was given a mere two sentences. Brentley Vinson was never mentioned by name, and his race noted only in passing. Long before they discussed the specifics of the case, Fausset and Blinder were trying to line up Charlotte’s story with stories in Columbus, Ohio and in Oklahoma.
    ‘And then it was Charlotte, where Mr. Scott, 43, black like the other two, was shot by a police officer in a parking space marked ..Visitor.. outside an unremarkable apartment complex. On Wednesday that parking space was both a shooting site and a shrine, and Charlotte was a city on edge.’
    A special hats off to USA Today, which leads with a touching portrait of Scott:
    ‘Keith Lamont Scott was well-known in the neighborhood, a fixture in the after-school hours who sat in his truck, passing time reading while waiting for his son to step off the bus, according to local residents.’
    Note USA Today‘s emphasis on Scott’s alleged reading-in-the-car habit, as his supporters claim he was holding a book, not a gun, when police shot him (police insist he had a gun which was recovered at the scene). The newspaper chain’s Tonya Maxwell (of the Gannett-owned Asheville Citizen-Times) ends her piece by quoting at length a random guy named Calvin Bennett. His tone is “sure”, his words “direct”. He speaks “quietly”:
    ‘You have a child coming off the bus and goes to meet daddy, but doesn’t know what to do because daddy’s dead,’ Bennett said. ‘Think about that image for a minute. America should be outraged.’
    ‘We get killed in church. We get killed when we comply. We get killed when we hold our hands up. We get killed when we wait for our children. What more can we do?’ said Bennett, his tone sure and his words direct.
    Asked if he is an activist, Bennett’s tone softened. He is not. He keeps up with the shootings of black people and has gotten an education he wish he did not need.
    ‘The black community has this conversation every day,’ he said, quietly. ‘We have this same conversation over and over and over.’
    Slate‘s Leon Neyfakh didn’t even make it to the body of his story before inserting incendiary language, and like the New York Times, he also relied on flowery language to set the scene. A “convulsing” crowd was simply “expressing anger;” a “tumult” moved into a nearby Wal-Mart (he never mentions that they looted it).
    Reporters Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Derek Hawkins and Katie Mettler at the Washington Post wrote eloquently about “blame, rumor and blood” as protests surged. They’re creative in describing protesters’ wounds, and the quick work of medics saving the innocent from rubber bullets. But they were short on details of exactly what happened in Charlotte to cause the “tense” protests, preferring only to refer to the Charlotte shooting as part of a larger trend and identical to other stories.
    ‘The violence in Charlotte came less than a week after disputed police shooting of a black man in Tulsa — amplifying debates over policing and race that have been thrust open before in places such as Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.’
    In all, these reporters seem to view Charlotte as a playing ground to win a Pulitzer Prize, the scene of a new civil rights movement, playing out like a maudlin Hollywood film before their eyes. And they are the people who will set the scene for the history books, even if they aren’t quite covering the story.
    They also describe Charlotte as a dystopic backdrop for violence and revolution. In all these accounts, life is brutal, and daily confrontation is routine. But just a few short years ago, in the same place riots are now ripping through the downtown, the Democrats held their national convention. The Democratic National Committee picked Charlotte, it said, because it was “vibrant and diverse,” and because it was “reaching for tomorrow.”
    Just two years ago in the New York Times, Charlotte was a functioning, innovative city. Thursday morning, it’s a hellhole of racial disunity. And it’s all in how the New York Times spins it.”

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Friday, September 23, 2016 1:25 pm @ 1:25 pm

    • I got my first good look at how national media parachute into a local story when busing began in Charlotte when I was in the fifth grade. Even then, it was pretty clear that local media like the Observer and the Charlotte News were more nuanced, careful, accurate. Not much has changed, whether the subject is PTL, Hurricane Hugo, or this.

      Comment by Lex — Friday, September 23, 2016 1:38 pm @ 1:38 pm

  6. Last night I saw a witness to the shooting death of a civilian protester being interviewed . This man said he saw the victim shot and the assailant he described as a black male with dreadlocks running away.

    Other protesters insisted it was a police rubber bullet that killed the civilian even when confronted with the report of the above mentioned witness. The version of police responsibility for the civilian’s death went viral in the crowd despite the Chiefs remarks to the contrary .


    CHARLOTTE — Police say they have arrested a suspect in the deadly shooting of a protester during demonstrations in Charlotte over an officer’s killing of a black man.
    Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said during a news conference that the suspect was arrested Friday morning. He provided few other details about the arrest or the suspect but said that video led investigators to the shooter.
    According to WSOC, the suspect is Rayquan Borum.
    The protester was shot Wednesday night during a violent night of protests in Charlotte.

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Friday, September 23, 2016 1:41 pm @ 1:41 pm

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