WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 2021
Does Our Town's practice make sense?: Yesterday morning, Professor Glaude performed the mandated winnowing.
That evening, it would be Sherrilyn Ifill, who we greatly admire. That morning, in the Washington Post, it was Professor Glaude.
Does this peculiar procedure make sense? Hard-copy headline included:
GLAUDE (5/25/21): It is painful to remember. We have to remember.
Anniversaries of death can be tricky occasions. There is the life remembered. All the moments of joy flood in on this day: the unique laugh, the corny jokes, that special smile. Then there is the intimacy of loss. The reminder that the person you loved is gone forever. The grief is constant, especially if the person you loved did not die right. Covid-19 snatched them away. The police stole their last breath. Nothing anyone can do can right the loss. The anniversary throws you deep into sorrow, but you have to remember. Forgetting would be a sin against God.
A year ago Tuesday, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Millions of people witnessed his death, because Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old Black woman, refused to turn away from the cruelty of Chauvin and three fellow officers. Her video sparked protests across the country and around the world as people demanded police reform. Chants of “defund the police” emboldened some and deepened the fears of others. The trial and conviction of Chauvin signaled that, perhaps, we might be on the verge of substantive change—even as politicians clamored for compromise.
Then we saw the video footage of the deaths of Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old shot in Chicago; Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old shot in Brooklyn Center, just 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis; Andrew Brown Jr., killed by police in Elizabeth City, N.C.; and so many more. Their deaths dampened the jubilation surrounding the Chauvin verdict, reminding everyone that some things remained the same: The police were still killing Black people.
For what it's worth, the late Adam Toledo is generally identified as Hispanic, not as black. The question we're left with is this:
Does it make sense to discuss this topic in a way which gives the impression that the only people being killed by police are black?
"Forgetting would be a sin against God?" Under current arrangements, no one is forgetting the decedents in the majority of these cases. Those decedents never get mentioned in the first place, no matter how unjustified their deaths may seem to have been.
Let's take an example:
Professor Glaude mentions Andrew Browne, who was shot from behind as he drove away from police who were trying to arrest him. He says this death should be remembered, and we'd be inclined to agree.
That said, Bijan Ghaisar was shot from behind by Park Police as he drove away from them. He was shot from behind and killed.
Those police officers didn't have a warrant for his arrest. Indeed, he had done nothing wrong. He'd been rear-ended in a fender-bender.
The Washington Post has discussed this peculiar case for several years, but the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar has never been mentioned on the national level. The Post identifies Ghaisar as "white," and such cases don't get discussed on the national level.
This is an extremely peculiar journalistic practice. But the practice is journalistic law here in our rather strange town.
In fairness to Professor Glaude, he hasn't "forgotten" Ghaisar's death. On the national level, he's never heard a word about it. A few would say that the Princeton professor may not quite seem to care.
By any conventional norm, the current practice, in which we only mention and discuss one particular species of death, is remarkably hard to justify or explain. Beyond that, the practice is guaranteed to create widespread misperceptions.
But this is plainly the way Our Town rolls, and our most erudite professors are plainly sunk in the practice.
This practice is sure to create misimpressions. Can this practice be justified?
At present, this practice is law in Our Town. We've asked, you can decide.