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Twitter campaigns necessary but probably insufficient.

There’s a “Hands up/ Don’t shoot” Friday campaign going on over at Twitter. It’s a nice gesture, no pun intended. But I can’t help thinking about how much more powerful the message would be if we could get ordinary Americans, not just the social media savvy and political activist types, out on the sidewalks banging pots together.

I used to think that internet campaigns would be enough.  Not anymore.  Non-violent, but non-silent demonstrations are probably the way to go.

MLK Jr. would approve.

Update: My sisters-in-law were a little uncomfortable with me using the word “thug” to describe Michael Brown in a post the other day.  I see their point.  I based my assessment on the video that was released of his actions in the convenience store.  One of the things that struck me as I watched it was that I really couldn’t tell what was going on with him and the clerk behind the counter.  Reaching over the counter to get something doesn’t mean stealing, not that stealing something in a convenience store is justification for getting shot 6 times.  It’s not, by the way.  This is not 18th century Williamsburg where a servant could be hanged for stealing a silver spoon.  But I couldn’t tell with any certainty what was transpiring at the counter. Plus, the volume on the video was off so for all I know, he might have had a perfectly friendly interaction with the proprietor.  There just wasn’t sufficient data for me to determine what was going on there.  I would not be friendly to the prosecution on a jury if the charge was shoplifting or robbery based on that video.

No, what bothered me was when he left the store and roughed up the clerk on the way out.  The clerk clearly looks distraught and Brown’s actions looked aggressive and unnecessary.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing that out.  But “thug” is a right wing word, apparently.  I’m not a cable news junky so I’m going to have to rely on the SILs here when they tell me to refrain from using it to avoid looking like a right wing nutcase.  Maybe “bully” would be more appropriate.  Still not a killing offense, though probably more prosecutable than we can feel comfortable with, considering what happened shortly afterwards.  It looked like a minor assault to me.  I guess it would have been up to the clerk as to whether it was worth pursuing.  For sure Brown needed a stern talking to, but, um, not 6 shots to the torso.

I’m troubled by this piece of footage for many reasons.  Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, describes so many instances of young black men being arrested and harassed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on the sidewalk or the stoop in front of their apartment buildings.  And the trouble they face because of these arrests is unconscionable.  Really, it’s overkill and debilitating.  Then I see this video and I think, that kid definitely needed correction.  Maybe not jail, and not a mark on his permanent record and certainly not death, but something.  Like, maybe his grandmother should have been sent that tape so she could see he wasn’t a choirboy.  Shaming your grandmother might have been enough.

So, this one time, I’m correcting my language from the right wing “thug”, which I came to independently of cable news based on my first impressions, to “bully”, because that’s what Brown’s actions show.

We shouldn’t be afraid to tell it like it is though.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable.  Not worth dying for but certainly not good.  It doesn’t diminish the horrible and unnecessary impact of Brown’s death.  Or of Eric Garner’s death as he was chokeholded by police.  Or any of a number of tragic deaths at the hands of people who think black people are less than human.

So, to all you Fox News watchers out there, there is a reason why racism is not acceptable, in thought, word and deed.  If you are thinking it, it becomes OK to hurt people who are not like you.  You need to ask yourselves if it’s Ok to be an anti-semite in your head as well.  Of course it’s not OK.  What we are seeing in Ferguson is a variation of the dehumanization and malignant behavior described by Phillip Zimbardo based on his Stanford Prisoner Experiment and his investigation of Abu Graihb in his book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It starts in your head when you allow yourself to think other people are less than you are and it’s all downhill from there.

Don’t start down that road.


12 Responses

  1. Well, I’ll be…you learn something new every day! Thug is a “right wing” word? Slang is more generational than political persuasion, IMO, but using that to describe someone who intentionally uses their genetic gifts (i.e. 6’4, 280lbs) to intimidate someone, CLEARLY much smaller – well, in my book that’s a thug, punk, wannabe, gangsta, whatever. You’re right…someone should have told grandmom…or maybe his mom…or maybe his dad…or maybe, the poor kid didn’t really have too many engaged relatives to give a crap.

    I feel bad for the loss of life, his family…his punk ass definitely needed to be whacked upside the head for acting like that, but if we are to believe at least half of what the officer claims, I’d be inclined to do something to get that freight train to stop and it kind of sounds like the kid had too much forward momentum or was just too dumb or arrogant to stop…and once a cop starts shooting, I kind of think they are not going to stop until they “stop” you.

    He may not have been armed, but he was big…much bigger than the average Joe. The black community is definitely hurting for real leadership and inspiration – which, of course, most everyone attributed to Obama (well not you or I) and guess what – he has done NOTHING for this community. Why is it the leaders show up when there’s a tragedy? They need to be there every day showing these kids there is a path to success.

    OK, nuff preaching…good points all the way around, RD.

    • Sorry but 6 shots to the torso was excessive. I’m not going to play judge and jury here, which is something the Ferguson police department should learn not to do.
      But there is simply no excuse for killing someone just because they are advancing on you. If you absolutely HAVE to shoot someone, there are ways of slowing them down without taking a life.
      Besides, I was there at Occupy events and saw the absolutely over the top police presence, complete with full armor and nasty weapons and if you had been there, which is what I urged people to do, you would realize that the militarization of the police force, coupled with the dehumanization of average Americans of every kind, is a dangerous combination.
      And yes, thug has become a word that has defined what side of the argument you are on. When right wingers stop using it to justify plugging the life out of the kid, then I’ll stop thinking they’re bigots. Fair enough?

      • OK, not looking to draw out the negative here…I never said it wasn’t excessive and one of the first things I thought of was where are the rubber bullets, the taser? I have personally been distraught over the cops killing peoples pets and thinking the same thing? If we are outfitting our police force to the extreme, then why doesn’t it include alternatives that are not (always) life threatening.

        I wasn’t at Ferguson…I wasn’t at Occupy. I have had my fair share of encounters with police, and while they were never with guns drawn, I have found all but possibly one to be condescending and your basic smart ass – hmmm, wonder if that’s another one of those right wing terms.

        While I realize this is an incredibly polarizing topic, my remarks were really not speaking to either side of this story as I feel we don’t yet know the whole story.

        Sorry if you feel one word defines who I or anyone else is…I was putting some thoughts out there which I didn’t really feel even contradicted your own thoughts.

        Have a lovely weekend!

        • Thug *has* become the word du jour and those who use it define themselves.
          That being said, there is a case to be made for overreacting to every single word. I have another post cooking for that based on an article that Jay Rosen tweeted about today. That is, there are too many people out there who will label any word offensive, even if it’s coming from people on their own side.
          But if you don’t want to be associated with the bigots, avoid saying what they’re saying. If you watch Fox or other cable news sources, you will know what those words and thoughts are.

          • Guess it’s time for a new Webster’s, or possibly some grandkids who can come around and teach me something that I thought I knew and apparently didn’t! Kids are great for that…what would we do without them?

  2. Thanks for this post, riverdaughter. You put into words what bothered me about the video too. Michael Brown certainly appeared to be a bully towards that clerk, esp given the size difference between the two of them. So thug is just a right wing word now? Well, I will certainly try to avoid using it then. I will probably end up saying something like “what a thu, whoops, I mean bully!” And not on purpose either. However, that was no reason to shoot him, racism is NOT okay, and the militarized police response to the protest was over the top, wrong and scary.

  3. As a longtime lurker (since the Hillary 2008 days and branch of anti-Clinton ‘progressive sexists’ took over the party) I have to say that a ‘bully’ and a ‘thug’ are indeed 2 different things; bullies intimidate – thugs are physical. Brown touched another human being in an aggressive manner. He’s a thug.

    Secondly, I detest the arrogance of the police and tactics they use. If a ‘good’ cop ever covers for another one’s criminal actions, he/she is no longer a ‘good’ one. The militarization of police is disgusting and needs to be stopped. The casual shootings of family pets by these callous individuals who are sanctioned by our own laws to act with near impunity is disgusting. People are slowly awakening to the fact that police needs oversight – serious oversight. And if anyone doesn’t needs unions, it’s definitely police. If you clearly abuse your power, you do not need to have some groupies to defend you and demand your reinstatement.

    Further, I have been stopped by police a total of 3 times in over 12 years for being in neighborhoods where in the words of one of the cops “You do not belong in this area.” I have had friends living primarily in black neighborhoods (mostly in Ohio and I’m white) and once in Columbus, once in Toledo and then once in Akron I was pulled over for made up reasons and even asked to have my car searched. I’m a well-dressed white guy driving a nice car. I was told “there are only 3 reasons why someone like you would come to this area”. I’m guessing he meant drugs, prostitutes and not sure about the 3rd reason, but no, no and no. Maybe I have friends from work? Maybe I’m dating someone? I get that drugs ARE a scourge, but the point of all this is to say DO NOT limit police encroachment on American rights to race; it can happen to all of us regardless of ethnicity. To do that is dangerous and gives other white folks a false sense of “that wouldn’t happen to me”, which if furthest from the truth.

    • Sometimes my mind works very slow and literal and I am unable to see clues that others may pick up on. I gather “this area” has some kind of meaning. When the officer said there were only 3 reasons why someone like you would come to “this area”, what did he mean by “this area”? Could you tell us in very straightforward language without any sort of hints or euphemisms what “kind” of “area” that “this area” was?

    • Since no one has replied to my question about what the “this” in “this area” means, I will try guessing despite my extreme literalness of mind. I will guess that “this area” means “black neighborhood”. If I am correct, then Josh Destardi’s experience was strictly and exactly racial. The police were enforcing the Code of Apartheid which they believe ought to exist and must be maintained between black and nonblack persons and areas. The police Mr. Bestardi interacted with consider blacks to be “the enemy” and “black neighborhoods” to be “enemy territory”. The officer was acting to prevent Mr. Bestardi from “fraternizing with the enemy”.

  4. The looting and property destruction by the rioters in Ferguson is what got Obama’s attention, not the peaceful demonstrations.

    • I wonder how many of those looters and rioters were just random scum . . . and how many were government or police provocateurs. Riot trolls, if you will.

      • Anyway, Obama is just counting down the days till he can leave office and begin counting all the beautiful money he plans to spend the rest of his life collecting.

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