When I was in the Peace Corps in Africa, we were told about “mob justice.” In a place with few public services, like fire, rescue or police, people were on their own. We had serious debates over whether it was better to get one of the two or three passenger spots (on one seat) in the cab of the pickups that provided transportation, or to be in the covered bed, where two wooden benches would hold seven people each (room for five with blood circulating to the legs), and then six or eight or ten more people would be sardined in, crouching over the seated passengers, breathing on those on one bench and butts in the faces of those on the opposite bench, holding a rail attached to the ceiling. The thinking was, with the prevalence of head-on collisions due to pot-holed roads and overloaded lorries that ground their way up hills at a pedestrian pace, and also, especially before cell phones, the impossibility of first aid or getting to a hospital, perhaps it was better to die instantly in the front rather than to die slowly in the back, where who knows whether you would even be able to get out, but then again, maybe all those bodies in the back would cushion each other, and one would survive.

Mob justice was another moral dilemma, also life or death.

When people couldn’t call the police, they would yell “thief,” and the public–well, mostly if not exclusively men–would chase, catch and beat the culprit, too often to death. As privileged Americans, easily identifiable not only by our white skin, for many of us, but also by our fancy shoes, unfaded clothes and cameras that cost more than typical family’s annual income, we were targets. A pickpocket would not be wrong in thinking that we wouldn’t be devastated by the loss of the money in our pockets, which could feed many mouths unaccustomed to regular meals. I never, ever had a problem. I fainted from overheat and low blood sugar in the long-distance bus ticket line in the capital–a place notorious for pickpockets–and people took care of me; nothing was stolen. So it wasn’t like lawlessness ruled.

We were told to be careful but to never yell “thief,” because it could lead to an execution…for what? pocket change? A camera? Are they worth a life?

Photos of random disgusting things because happily I have none of police abuses. Top, a viper eats a gecko.

I have been thinking about this with the video of Amy Cooper, whose name will now be in history for using her white privilege to deflect from her own misbehavior–and there are few things I despise more than loose dogs–to call the police on a bird watcher because he was black and had the temerity to tell her to leash her dog. She did this knowing that cops coming to rescue a damsel in distress from a black man with something in his hand (a phone) might shoot him immediately because he’s so incredibly threatening by virtue of…his skin color. Happily, the dispatcher sized up the situation, and the whole thing was on video.

Unhappily, even on video, four Minneapolis cops decided to do some mob justice. Passing a forged note is either a misdemeanor or, if a felony, carries a sentence of a couple of years. The police took it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner of an unarmed man suspected of a nonviolent crime. How do four guys with guns feel so endangered by an unarmed man who was drunk or high?

It is just too blatant, the way black citizens, including many who are minding their own business, are executed without trial by police whereas police manage to capture armed, dangerous murderers without a problem. The same week that George Floyd was executed, Peter Manfredonia was captured without incident after having allegedly murdered two people and injured another then being a fugitive for a week. What about the guy who killed nine people in a Charleston church? He was armed to the teeth yet captured without incident, and the police even picked up Burger King for him. Last week, another double-murder suspect was arrested, given water and his wounds dressed in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, while around the U.S police were attacking peaceful protesters.

I have talked to people who side with the police. They blame the victim–should have used a turn signal, should have fixed that tail light, shouldn’t have run or been high or walking in the street. Cafeteria worker Philando Castile shouldn’t have driven with a broken brake light. But should he have been shot seven times within 40 seconds of being pulled over? A brake light isn’t a public menace worthy of death. These folks who take the police’s side also have driven with broken brake lights (just until it could be fixed), don’ wear seatbelts (just a short errand), speed, turn and change lanes without signaling. They jaywalk. They do a little of this or that outside the lines of rules and laws. Nothing serious. They do little things that almost never hurt anybody, knowing they will never be called out by law enforcement, and, even if that were to happen, could talk their way out of a ticket. And even some bigger, more serious things were just boys being boys.

I understand this to a point. I like to peek into houses under construction to check out the floor plans for good ideas. I don’t get hunted down for it, as Ahmaud Arbery was. My walks during the lockdown took me several meters, maybe 100 or more, beyond the one-kilometer limit. I never encountered anybody–it did no harm–but it was technical violation. Somehow technical violations assume severity only for one portion of the population.

These hardliners also consider themselves to be on the right side because the mostly have nuclear families, go to church, coach their kids’ teams–they have all the trappings of stability. What I see on YouTube and TikTok is homogenous–people, mostly teens, in the same kinds of houses with beige wall-to-wall carpets and ceiling fans and identical bathrooms and kitchens, filming their same interactions with pets, friends, family, music. We have such an intimate (and not in a creepy way) look into each other’s worlds, which are so incredibly similar. Every time I see a boy in a video, I think about how, in circumstances that wouldn’t warrant police attention if it were me or one of my family, he wouldn’t be seen for his dazzling smile or acrobatic skills in a police encounter; only that his skin is dark, and so he’s a threat worthy of lethal force. A decision too often made in seconds. It took just two seconds for police to fatally shoot Tamir Rice, 12, for the crime of playing with a toy gun in a park, as most boys I know have done. Those officers were not charged.

This is wrong. Something has to change. It isn’t the job of people whose only “offense” is merely living while black. That’s blaming the victim. Do what you can to make a difference. A big one is vote.

53 thoughts on “On Us

  1. What you see on the news, where you are, is not all there is to this story. Firstly, yes the officer was a murderer. Of that there is no doubt. He and his cohorts have been arrested. But when you see the news they are not telling you that in each of these riots the ANTIFA had been bussed in, and they put bricks/rocks, bottles of gasoline and other weapons all throughout the town/city. They even went into the neighboring private yards and hid them. Then, when the peaceful protest was well underway, they (ANTIFA) started their crap and kept it going well into the night (mob mentality). What is particularly terrible is that in this time of Covid, everyone is wearing masks. Before this time only the Antifa covered their faces. So, once the Antifa agitators started, you couldn’t tell friend from foe. Some police officers are bad people, true, but not all police officers are bad. In the mob scenes we are witnessing are the peace officers, faced with thousands of angry citizens, supposed to just walk away? Lay down and let the mob kill them? Several officers have been killed in the past week. Are they supposed to let the crowds burn, loot and pillage with abandon? Many of those who lost their businesses were black and some of them were killed/beaten by the mob when protecting their own property.

    It cannot be denied that this is a terrible situation. It never should have happened. But if you want to vilify anyone then you need to make sure you are vilifying the right persons. That cop and the ANTIFA thugs.

    I was going to keep silent and you are of course able to delete my comments, but if you don’t live here you don’t know the whole story. And yes, it is a tragic one.

    Like

    1. It isn’t one cop or even a handful It’s way, way too many of them. and now you see peaceful protesters who are just standing, or kneeling, and the cops suddenly shoot tear gas or pepper spray or rush them and start beating with clubs.
      Antifa is overrated. There is no organizing group, no leaders. Yes, there are always people happy for an excuse to wreak mayhem. There also are better-organized white supremacist groups involved (organized because they actually do training). The boogaloo crowd.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you Lynda for speaking up. Too often it is only the super liberals who feel entitled to speak their minds. I know because I live in one of the most liberal states and if you dare to speak up as a conservative you are yelled at. I know because it has happened to me. Is this freedom of speech? Yes, what happened was horrible and heartbreaking to watch and he should never have died. However, what no one wants to say is that he was not totally innocent. He was doing something illegal and if he had not this would not have happened. There is a wonderful, bright, articulate young women named Candace Owens who posted a very informative video outlining the life of this man. He has a long history of drug use and sales and spent 5 years in prison for breaking into a pregnant woman”s house with 4 other men. He pushed a gun into her stomach and threatened to kill her. They proceeded to steal whatever they could. Was he trying to change? It is said that he was. The point Candace Owens(a black woman) was making was to encourage blacks to not make him a martyr, or a hero. He did nothing to deserve that honor. Instead, how about Dr. Ben Carson, Kobie Bryant both wonderful men, and there are so many black men and women who deserve that honor. His death is a tragedy that needs to be paid for by the punishment of his killer. But he was not a martyr or a hero.

      As for ANTIFA, one can always find statistic to suit ones narrative. There is also plenty of info and statistics to prove they do bus in rioters and they are a terrorist group. As Lynda said, delete this if you must. Conservatives are use to being silenced.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But passing a forged note doesn’t carry a death sentence. It’s a nonviolent crime. There is no excuse whatsoever for the police behavior.
        Many of the worst criminals in society get off with no prosecution at all. The CEO of Wells Fargo, the CEOs of the many institutions that caused the financial crisis, which ruined so many people’s lives.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. No, the antifa rumors and fake news have been investigated, and it was discovered that they in fact were white supremacists masquerading as something called “antifa” which in fact does not actually exist as an organization. I no longer live in the US, but I have friends there and keep up with US news (not Fox I might state). Criminals often use the cover of mass events to commit their crimes, they are not the protesters. I protested in the 60s and we had the same situations. I support the protesters and suggest that everyone read all accounts before making judgment.
      bonnie in provence

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. It mirrors many of my feelings as a middle-aged white woman in the US today. Someone pointed out to me the white privilege of the luxury of saying, when a sales clerk asks if I want my receipt for the small things I just purchased, “No, I don’t need it”. People of color take that receipt, because they know thier odds of being accused of shoplifting are far greater.
    All of us in the US, Black and white, are appalled at the violence and destruction of rioters, and Black neighborhoods are suffering the most from this. But that does NOT change the legitimacy of the cause of the protests, or the appalling injustice that we have turned a blind eye to for too long. I am trying to catch up on 59 years of willfull ignorance – reading, watching, asking and listening. And then planning ACTION – for positive change – long after this has disappeared into the next news cycle and pandemic is over. And I’m hearing that from a LOT of people here.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Beautifully put. I love when people immediately change the discussion to the looters and the ANTIFA totally ignoring the issues that kicked these protestors off. This cop is not a lone wolf, too many of his brothers in blue are happy to act the same and I say that as someone who has a sibling who is a cop. I also find the outrage connected to ANTIFA totally out of proportion. Would they need to exist if white supremacists and facism were not getting patted on the back by those in charge?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s a relief to read this. I’m sad for the reason, but it has helped me to feel less alone. I’m surrounded by former “friends” who feel that the U.S. is in excellent hands and in the best shape in years. Only white, privileged lives matter to them. Oh, and their money. It terrifies me that the November election – if it happens – will be a perpetuation of this devastation to our country.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The term “antifa” is a corruption of “anti-fascist.” And the rightwing screeds about how dangerous and scary they are sound as if they came from the fevered imaginings of BunkerBoy. The US has been militarizing its police for the last 20 years, handing off all manner of military weaponry for domestic use, and now we’re shocked, shocked that they’re using it against the citizenry, white as well as black.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for this post. It is important we white women recognize and work to correct these injustices because as mothers and teachers and caretakers we influence many others.
    It occurred to me, regrettably only this week as I was seeing the news reports come in, that black people have been telling their stories about how they are mistreated and we keep hearing isolated incidents. But that could not be more untrue. The MeToo movement gained traction because because it laid bare the reality that *every single woman* has a few stories about being personally harassed, at a minimum. How could it be just “a few bad apples” committing all this harassment?
    This week I realized that *every single black person* has a cop story. And even if the cop pulled them over for a taillight, and they were nice and nothing happened, a POC won’t know for sure whether they’ll be treated justly or literally shot dead like Philando Castile. A common traffic stop is not something black people need to have “survived.”
    Focusing on “well they should have been following the rules” is like saying “well what was she wearing?”

    Liked by 5 people

  6. This is just a great article – thanks so much for the time you put into this and your thoughtful comments. I’m the white granny to a beloved young Black Grandson and we live in a southern state in the US – right now for us it’s not a good place to be. With violence escalating all around us, we’ve realized there have to be some very serious discussions with our grandson. He has two white brothers – can you even begin to imagine the weight this will put on him – – and on them also – knowing how differently he’ll be looked and treated because of the color of his skin? And of course anymore, the big issue is how he’ll be treated by police – as we’ve seen here, even for very insignificant and innocent reasons. Just for being black.
    These riots aren’t only because of recent incidents – how do people forget that part of this is hundreds of years of unaddressed mistreatment that can’t be forgotten, glossed over or done away with? My husband and I have seen many disturbances like this over in our lifetime and have noticed this time seems different in that there are so many people of ALL colors involved. That’s a good thing.
    I also believe the only thing that will make a difference for us is to have a new leader, not one who brings out the worst impulses in others. Even with a change, it will take a long time to bring any healing to our country.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I am SO proud to see Americans taking to the streets to protest the continued mistreatment and outright murder of people of color. Finally, we’re not going to take it anymore. The protesters are courageously exercising their right to protest, during a pandemic, while out of control police might gas them, beat them, or worse. The outrage is palpable.

    For my fellow citizens who have been brainwashed into fearing the “other”; antifa, “outsiders”, anyone who looks different from them, all I can say is, “wake up!”, turn off Fox News, and try to educate yourself. To value property, which can be replaced, over human lives, which cannot, is a pathetIc place to be.

    Unfortunately we have an autocratic President who stokes the hatred and division, who revels in it. He has emboldened bigots to come out of the woodwork! We can only hope that he’ll be gone soon and we can, as a country, begin to heal.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. This is a great post, you are always so logical, insightful and tell like it is. Racism is rampant worldwide and yet so many choose to turn a blind eye as if there is so much else going on this is just a minor blip. sadly, it is an everyday, yes EVERY DAY occurrence for so many and it is something that most white people don’t even think about. IT is a crime and a tragedy to see these senseless murders and they have to stop.

    I will be honest, this week I have found the massive amounts of emails from corporations touting their donations to black causes to little to late, my question to them is what else are you going to do? Are you going to change your hiring policies, are you going to continue to bring awareness to racism? Another thing that really bothered me what the mob mentality of influencers all of a sudden having an awakening that in the past they had been remise in talking about black writers, chefs, owners, entrepeuners, designers and more. Yes I am happy they are doing it now but it was like reading a script on almost every blog, Instagram or twitter platform; first the confession of white privilege, then the apology to do better and then a long list of resources. If you did not “tow the line” and write a different post or has the temerity to quote the bible you were set upon by angry comments that were like bit bulls tearing at a scrap of meat. I cannot believe the vitriol that I saw and almost always the comments were made by white women.

    The mob mentality continues with the emails, dm and more that I myself and many other s
    I myself shared a list of resources today and have in the past shared books and blogs from black cooks and writers that I have enjoyed, could I post more, yes I can, that said I am not going to be bullied into posting one time and then never again as I fear some of these others will. We are never going to move forward if that is the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The most basic thing for corporations is PAY LIVING WAGES. There’s no color associated besides green. But honestly that would be more expensive and less sexy for marketing. So the corporations will keep shifting jobs to gig work without benefits and will keep fighting unionization that might improve working conditions.

      Like

    1. Thank you for these.
      Yes, Breonna Taylor’s case was horrifying, but without a video it’s another news story, with details controlled by the police. The thing about the drug dealers keeping drugs at her house–was it old info? wrong address? a screwup? They put it out there as if it were solid fact.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Three men with ties to the U.S. military and alleged to be members of an extreme white supremacist group face multiple terrorism conspiracy charges of planning to wreak havoc at protests in Las Vegas over George Floyd’s death.
      It says they weren’t antifa, but that goes without saying–white supremacism is fascism, and antifa is short for anti-fascist.
      https://www.ajc.com/news/with-ties-white-extremism-accused-plotting-mayhem-protests/GdtpTjwVaapgVZihVtNWeI/

      Liked by 2 people

  9. So the question is will the vote be for Republican. Dems didn’t prosecute the same cop for prior bad behavior, the prosecutor was a democratic presidential candidate. The present democratic nominee has been in a position to facilitate Change for decades!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am not so sure it is that easy to talk your way out of a ticket…..maybe I am just not cute enough.

    We definitely don’t need any more Amy Coopers or Derek Chauvins in the world. Sounds like Derek Chauvin should have been fired long ago. Why did the store clerk call 911 on George Floyd…definitely not normal practice as far as I understand.

    Both sides have failed to act in a meaningful way to correct disparities that exist for minorities. I live in a mostly liberal area that has an undercurrent of racism especially when it comes to the school system. But these liberals still patted themselves on the back for voting for Obama.

    Someone I know lives in Minneapolis…she is posting her “game plan” on Facebook about how she’ll attempt to handle vandalism to her neighborhood or what will happen if people try to set her house on fire.

    There is a story in the Chicago Tribune about how people are having difficulty filling their prescriptions because so many pharmacies in Chicago have either been vandalized/looted or are closing in anticipation of such events.

    We had Walmarts and grocery stores board up in the Midwestern college town I live in, in anticipation of looting. Numerous businesses have been spray painted. Demonstrators blocking major roads and intersections, were even allowed to trickle out on the interstate last night. In my “hometown” area where I spent much of my childhood, massive amounts of property damage, gunfire and two murders.

    Does anyone know the stories of David Dorn, Dave Patrick Underwood or Italia Kelly? Why haven’t their stories received greater press?

    As for the previous commenter mentioning of Candace Owens…she is just one of many voices trying to cause division.

    Like

  11. Great post , it is very enlightening. I cannot comment on a country I have visited but not lived in.
    Having said so, I am against discrimination of any kind.
    It is a shame pacific demonstrations suffer the havoc brought in by small groups which only want to destroy and loot. It has happened here more than once.
    Hope your arm is on the mend. It takes time and patience.
    We are on day 80 of lockdown and the government has just said we are in for 3 more weeks 😢
    Keep safe
    Sylvine

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I remember my first visit inside a courthouse in Berkeley, California in 1970, where a friend was on trial for trespassing during a peaceful demonstration. I looked around and realized that most of the people being tried were black men. That was when I understood the black power statement that “all prisoners are political prisoners”. As a privileged white woman in my 20s, from lily white southern california, I had no idea, really….. Now I do: No Justice, No Peace.
    bonnie in provence (quite a lot of peace here)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am shocked at how many of these cases of police brutality come to light well after the incident thanks to mobile phone footage. If I was a person of colour in America I wouldn’t go out without a phone.

    And can I say, I couldn’t watch the murder, but what struck me was the police officer had his hand in his pocket as if nothing important was happening! The absolute
    horror.

    Our record here in Australia is not one to be proud of, we must all as global citizens educate ourselves to understand the very real problems and try to find solutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The CEO of Wells Fargo, the CEOs of the many institutions that caused the financial crisis, which ruined so many people’s lives.

    That ^^^ I will not presume to deny anyone’s lived experiences, re racism, privilege, etc, but this is an economic crisis at it’s core – designed, I would argue, to cultivate classicism to keep our eyes off the bankers and legislators who benefit from people being scared to death of each other and the future. It’s pretty straightforward – quit criminalizing poverty, and quit making the police de facto revenue agents (to fund their own para-militarization, in order to continue overcriminalization, overprosectution, etc). Want fewer bad cops? Make fewer bad laws and then you don’t need as many cops, and screening and training the really good ones keeps all of us safer. Quit putting them – COP means citizens on patrol – in direct opposition to the communities they were intended to serve. As for our President, he doesn’t need me to defend him nor do I care to, but the people who are being offered as alternatives are absolutely no better (Joe Biden has been in office since 1973, authored the 1994 crime bill that ushered 10’s of 1000’s of people of color into the prison system for victimless crimes, has serious “boundary” issues, and can barely form a sentence – just no). We had options for real systemic shift with Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang but apparently that’s just too much hope and change for The Machine. I live in a redneck state, and we managed to see poor George Floyd buried without a shitshow – we have our share of issues, but with our massive immigrant population, including a strong contingent of white ethnics, who have worked for everything they have, even in a state of outrage we’re reluctant to burn down our own communities and livelihoods. Rather than turning against each other, I believe our resolution and reconciliation lie in keeping our eyes on who is profiting from all of this division.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the 1990s, many in the black community also wanted a crackdown on crime. The thing is to admit that the measures taken then didn’t work and that something different is needed. What might have been acceptable then is not acceptable anymore. It’s one thing to say, we tried and failed vs. doubling down on the failure without admitting to any error.
      Andrew Yang is fantastic. Elizabeth Warren, too–somebody who evolved and changed her thinking about things (she was a Republican before) and who genuinely cares about the little guy.

      Like

  15. Great post, I’m in full agreement… and I see some of the ignorance here also, but you don’t need my help in establishing their ignorance, they do it all by themselves. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer to hope that it’s due to misunderstanding, the result of listening to right-wing propaganda and old stereotypes rather than actual hatred. I hope they will see that nobody deserves to be executed over $20.

      Like

  16. Let me commend you for your very thoughtful and thought provoking post. I love your blog and read it regularly, but I have never commented before. However, after much reflection and after reading a few of the posts, I feel the need to comment now.

    First of all, let’s stop blaming the victim. Yes, George Floyd was not a saint, and made some serious mistakes in his life, but, he also paid for them with prison time. To suggest that because he was not totally innocent, he was doing something illegal and if he had not this would not have happened, is deplorable. He was murdered, a victim of violence and systemic racism, and has become a symbol for the ongoing injustice that blacks have endured for decades. I don’t happen to know any “super liberals”, but I do know many people who truly want and are working towards fundamental change.

    Secondly, no one should hold up Candace Owens as some paragon of truth. She does not represent the Black community at all. Somehow though, she has become the darling of White conservatives who hang on her every word. Besides always blaming the victims, she peddles in conspiracy theories and has made some grossly ignorant comments in the past about everything from Hitler and Nazism, Native Americans and cannibalism and the origins of the NRA just to name a few. Just check out her credentials and where she stands on many issues. It makes one wonder what her end-game is.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for your wonderful post, and I am in full agreement. I am so angry with all the Trump supporters in this country, and I am so frightened for my friends and I am so proud to see the protesters taking to the streets. Property can be repaired. The lives taken by out of control undereducated cops can never be given back.

    I honestly hope that eventually all the treasonous actions of Trump and his family will be revealed and I live for the day when I see him in handcuffs. Wishful thinking, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

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