...while minding their own business?: For our money, Gene Robinson's column in the Washington Post was the early day's most interesting read.
He ends his column with an insinuation we'll briefly consider below. Midway through, he makes a statement which, given the current climate, almost represents a type of concession:
ROBINSON (6/16/20): Drunken driving is a very serious offense. The police officers were absolutely right to respond, and they had a duty to make sure that Brooks didn’t drive off and put the lives of innocent motorists or pedestrians in jeopardy...Robinson's fuller presentation is much more nuanced. That said, within the current climate, it almost counts as a concession when he says that the officers who responded last Friday night "had the right to take him into custody."
Brooks was clearly in the wrong, and the officers had the right to take him into custody.
Why do we say that almost counts as a concession? Partly because of a range of comments we've seen on cable TV. Partly because of a long comment thread at Slate we read through yesterday afternoon.
For ourselves, we said yesterday that, if we had our druthers, we'd prefer to see someone in that situation driven home and given a summons. (Presumably with his car impounded, though we also don't like to see that.) We also said that we'd make the presumption that the attempt to arrest Brooks was a "by the books" attempted arrest.
Last night, we saw William Bratton speaking with Brian Williams. Bratton is the former police chief in each of our two largest cities, New York City and Los Angeles, with Boston making it three.
Bratton is very highly placed; also, he isn't crazy, nuts, dumb or insane. After the mandated reams of tribal narrative from Williams, Bratton referred at one point to what happened last Friday night in Atlanta.
More specifically, he referred to what happened "as soon as [the officers] attempted to make an arrest, which under their protocols is what they're required to do" (our emphasis.)
We don't know if Bratton's statement was accurate, but he seemed to be saying that the officers were required to make an arrest in the situation they encountered. We mention this because, in that long comment thread at Slate, one commenter after another seemed to think that it was left to the officers' judgment whether to make an arrest, with many insisting that they wouldn't have arrested a white person in that same circumstance.
For ourselves, we'd prefer to see fewer people arrested in various circumstances. That said, we'd also prefer to see fewer people offering assessments about extremely important matters where they may not be in full command of the full range of facts.
Later in Robinson's column, we'd have to say that he was possibly omitting some parts of the truth, by which we mean the whole truth. He was also adding speculations to his account of the truth—to the whole truth as it's now being told within our own tribal tents.
We're not saying that any such omissions by Robinson were knowing or intentional. We're just saying that we were struck by parts of what he said:
ROBINSON: Taking Brooks’s life isn’t a reasonable response to [his attempt to flee]. It’s as senseless—and as racist—as Derek Chauvin’s decision to lean on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.Robinson said the killing of the late Rayshard Brooks was a racist act. Somehow, he also felt he was able to say that it resulted from one officer's wounded pride.
How often are white Americans killed by police for falling asleep in their cars at fast-food restaurants? Or for paying for items in a store with a bogus $20 bill, as Floyd allegedly did? Or for minding their own business in their own homes, like Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death during a no-knock raid? Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, murdered nine innocent African Americans at Mother Emanuel AME Church, and police managed to capture him alive. Brooks wounded a police officer’s pride and appears to have been executed for it.
Beyond that, Robinson asked a very good question, and he mentioned some well-known names. More specifically, he asked how often "white Americans" are killed by police in certain kinds of circumstances.
Robinson's suggested answer is obvious—not very often! Last evening, Williams led with this same messaging-point in his segment with Bratton.
For reasons we'll explain tomorrow, we thought Robinson's reference to the late Breonna Taylor was especially striking. So too with his more general reference to people being shot and killed by police officers while "minding their own business in their own homes."
We'll flesh those points out tomorrow. For today, we'll only say that we're all inclined to narrow our accounts of the truth at times of high emotion and tribal conflict. We'll stand with the traditional idea that presentation of the "whole truth" may be especially important at times as awful as these.
That said, also this—as we read Robinson's column, we thought again of what we saw Jelani Cobb say last week.
How often are "white people" shot and killed by police? That's what Robinson sardonically asked in this morning's column.
Robinson's suggested answer was fairly obvious. Last week, though, for whatever reason, we saw Cobb say this:
COBB (6/10/20): One other point that I have been making a lot, I have been making all the time, is that one of the reasons that this problem has been allowed to persist is that people have the perception that this is a black and brown problem.For Cobb's fuller statement, see yesterday's report.
But if you were to discard all of the incidents involving black and brown people, what you would find is, there are a heck of a lot of white people, unarmed white people, who are killed by police each year.
We have a fundamental problem with policing in this country, whose most extreme violent forms are witnessed in how we see black and brown people treated by law enforcement.
We were struck by several parts of Cobb's remarks. For starters, we were struck by his claim that "there are a heck of a lot of white people, unarmed white people, who are killed by police each year."
We're not sure we'd agree with that statement, but we understand what he was talking about. We were also struck by his claim that we have "a fundamental problem with policing in this country," a problem which may extend beyond the treatment of "black and brown people."
Indeed, we were even struck by Cobb's statement about the way we "witness" this problem, though for us this comment suggested an ongoing state of affairs which Cobb likely didn't mean.
Robinson asked some very good questions in this morning's column. He asked a good question about the late Breonna Taylor. More broadly, he asked a good question about people being shot and killed by police officers "while minding their own business in their own homes."
That said, we think there are significant parts of "the whole truth" which Robinson was leaving out. Especially at times like these, the whole truth has never been popular—but Cobb almost seemed to suggest that we should put missing parts of the whole truth them back in.
We agree with Cobb on that point. We also know that, at times like these, the whole truth has never been popular.
We humans may tend to pick and choose. We're inclined to present "our truth."
Tomorrow: How many people get killed?