WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 2021
These are the ways Our Town rolls: We were struck, perhaps even a bit disappointed, by something we saw last night on cable TV's Maddow Show.
Maddow was speaking with Sherilyn Ifill, current head on the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund.
According to our cynical staffers, Maddow was posing, as always. Whatever the truth of that may be, this exchange occurred:
MADDOW (5/25/21): Today, on the first anniversary of George Floyd's death, Mr. Floyd's family visited the president and vice president at the White House. They met with congressional leaders. They are attempting to use the momentum from this somber anniversary to try to move the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This is a bill that's passed the House. It is currently stuck in the Senate. Mr. Floyd's family and frankly the Biden White House are trying everything they can to get it unstuck, to get it passed.
Sherrilyn Ifill leads the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The Legal Defense and Educational Fund at the NAACP is also marking this anniversary today by, among other things, reflecting on the progress toward police reform that has happened in the last year. The progress that's been made possible by the outcry and the protests that has happened ever since Floyd was killed.
She said this today online, she said, quote: "Much will be said about where things stand a year after the murder of George Floyd. Did protests make a difference? Has anything changed? The answer is yes. Is there much more to do and are we facing a strong backlash? Yes and yes."
Joining us now is Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Ms. Ifill, it's an honor to have you here tonight on this really big day. Thank you for being with us.
IFILL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tell me about the progress that you—that you see as having been made in the past year and what you think made that progress possible.
IFILL: Yes, it's important to take a moment and to recognize what shifts have happened because, you know, the truth is black people are still being killed by the police. They're being killed by police during the Derek Chauvin murder trial, after the Derek Chauvin murder trial. And so, I don't in any way want to suggest that we're out of the woods, or that the kinds of shifts that need to happen have happened...
The discussion continued from there.
For Maddow, it was an honor that Ifill was there on such a really big day. For ourselves, we were struck by Ifill's highlighted statement, which was of course perfectly accurate.
The statement was perfectly accurate! One year after George Floyd's death, black people are still being killed by police officers.
Also, black people are still being killed by police officers even after the Chauvin trial. Those are just statements of fact.
No one could say that those statements are false. Those statements are perfectly accurate.
It's also true that lots of people are still being killed, whether justifiably or not, by police officers. We were struck, and also a bit disappointed, to see Ifill address herself only to such decedents who are understood to be "black."
Let's cite one large subset of such decedents. According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site, just under three people per day are shot and killed by police officers somewhere in the U.S.
Just under three per day! And yes, this pattern continues even after the Chauvin trial.
According to that site, just over half of those decedents are "white;" roughly one quarter are "black." But in recent years, Our Town has adopted the practice Ifill displayed last night—a practice in which we only discuss such incidents if the decedent is black.
By any traditional norm, that's an astonishing way to do business. It's also very much the way Our Town currently rolls.
It's very much the way Our Town's deeply flawed news orgs roll. Despondent experts routinely say there's no other way our deeply flawed species can hope to do business, given the way our deeply imperfect human brains are wired.
We were a bit disappointed in Ifill's remark because we've actually met her. Long ago and far away, we did radio with Ifill on one or perhaps on several occasions.
She wasn't a huge public figure back then. What she was was extremely sharp.
(We refer to the now-defunct Marc Steiner Show. In 2013, The Nation selected it as the country's Most Valuable Radio Program.)
You rarely run into people that sharp. It disappoints us to see someone so sharp adopt this new tribal practice. We don't expect better from Maddow, who recently expanded on her account of why she never owned a TV set until she and Susan got blackout drunk and ordered a TV set online while they were in that state.
(The network backed her up on that rather strange claim. This is also the way Our Town rolls!)
One other way in which Our Town rolls involve the essay by Talmon Joseph Smith in last weekend's Sunday Review. While still in high school, Smith was stopped by police while driving his parents' SUV, but the white girls got him off.
(For Smith's text concerning the incident, see yesterday's report. The white girls were well-dressed.)
That traffic stop could have ended as one recently ended for Daunte Wright, Smith wrote in his essay. And yes, that certainly could have happened!
It especially could have ended that way if Smith had outstanding warrants on gun charges, and if Smith had then tried to avoid arrest by driving away. Also, if one of the officers had the misfortune of making a tragic mistake, as seems to have happened in the tragic case of Wright.
Smith's highly selective presentation is one other way Our Town rolls. His essay appeared in the New York Times, a newspaper which isn't inclined to tell you why Wright was being arrested that day.
That said, the sanitization of these incidents—these incidents which are selected for your attention on the basis of "race"—is a major and remarkable part of the way Our Town currently rolls.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but this is the best Our Town can hope to do, or at least so we've been told.
Our brains aren't wired for post-Enlightenment "rational" conduct, major top experts persistently tell us. This even explains why we can't get straight talk about Godel's incompleteness theorems, or at least so we've come to suspect.
More tomorrow on the sanitization of these extremely high-profile fatal events. It has become a mandated part of the way Our Town currently rolls.
This is all Our Town is capable of. Top major scholars have said that!
Tomorrow: Reverend Barber remembers