With alarming regularity, a black man comes into contact with the police during a legitimate action to enforce the law. He then refuses to obey direct orders while at gunpoint — an alarming state of affairs, given that “normal” people tend to obey when a firearm is pointed at them — resists with force, and is wounded or killed. As always seems to be the case, a portion — but a portion only — of video of the encounter makes its way to the public eye.
And then a segment of the population goes berserk.
It happened again most recently in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A man named Jacob Blake — who appears to have been armed with a knife — ignored orders to stop after fighting with police. You didn’t see his fight with police in viral videos; you saw only him being shot when he reached inside his car. This is a specific subject of police training, so much so that there exists video of an officer being shot when a suspect reached into his car to retrieve a weapon. Police are trained to prevent this. When being held at gunpoint by police officers shouting orders at you, you cannot just ignore them.
This is not to say police abuse of power does not occur. There exists, for example, harrowing video of a white man being ordered to the floor by police with carbines. They proceed to shout conflicting orders at him and, when he twitches in the wrong direction, they shoot him dead while he is crying and begging for his life. You don’t know his name and you don’t care about him, because he’s white — just like there were no riots for Cannon Hinnant, the little white boy shot in the face by a black man for no reason whatsoever.
You may have heard Cannon’s name, but only in the context that his death was not national news. It was not cause for white citizens across the country to burn their cities and hunt victims of the wrong skin color, looking for payback. This did not happen because, by and large, the American majority does not riot, burn, loot, and lose their minds every time an isolated abuse of power occurs.
I say isolated because the overwhelming majority of police uses of force are not merely justified, but occur according to a complex web of rules and procedures. Most of us have had interactions with police, even if only during traffic stops. Most of us have been treated with respect and professionalism. We may have our complaints; I remember a particularly nasty officer who pulled me over for the sin of signaling and then changing lanes in front of him. But at no time did it occur to me to swear at him or dare him to kill me and, oddly enough, I drove away from that altercation with only a traffic ticket.
When police abuses do occur — as with any abuse of power by those in government — they concern all of us. They are not exclusive to skin color. They are not filtered and pre-screened by race. It is, however, a fact that certain demographics within the American population commit crime out of all proportion to their representation in that population. This increases the statistical probability that a police use-of-force incident will occur.
But that is the point at which we have a problem. We have now decided that every use of police force is an abuse. We have decided that police may never defend their lives, may never use their weapons, may never tase a subject, take that subject to the ground, apprehend and cuff a suspect, unless they are doing something wrong. Now, every use of police force is an excuse to riot, burn, and murder.
When we aren’t killing our fellow Americans during these temper tantrums, we are killing their dreams and destroying their livelihoods. In Kenosha, the rioters burned a furniture store. They also burned the inventory of a car dealership. The owners of those businesses had committed no crimes. They had nothing to do with the attempted arrest, or subsequent shooting, of Jacob Blake. They were blamed, and their property utterly destroyed, for no reason. Screaming “justice,” the rioters commit injustice after injustice… and those in power make excuses for them.
The rioting class has razed entire neighborhoods in their temper tantrums over George Floyd. Most of them will incur no penalties. The looters and the arsonists have wrecked thousands of lives, destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of other people’s honestly earned and maintained property, assaulted and even murdered dozens of people… and there will be no consequences. Charges against rioters have been dropped time and time again. Excuses are made every time a man whose skin happens to be black decides he wishes to fight police.
When will we stop making excuses for this orgy of destruction? When we will start holding to account the people burning our cities down around our ears? When we will start treating criminals like criminals — and stop defaming every police officer the moment a gun or taser clears a holster?
The current state of affairs is unsustainable. Societies die when anarchy reigns. If we don’t start holding these criminals responsible for their crimes, the flames we now fan will consume us all.