But A White Guy Who Attacks Cops Would Get Shot, Too, Right?

On Tuesday night, I went to a boating party. It was full of liberal white folk, so of course the conversation turned to Black Lives Matter. One of the guys thought they shouldn’t build a movement around Mike Brown, cuz “he attacked a cop, and when you do that, you’re going to get shot.”

I was so flummoxed by that, I forgot to mention that Black Lives Matter actually started with Trayvon Martin, a kid with some tea and Skittles. (My friend wouldn’t have said anything like, “But if you try to keep some maniac with a gun and an outsized ego from assaulting you, you’re going to get shot,” and declare Trayvon disqualified as well. But I know there are people in this country – even some in white liberal circles – who would claim that, yep, Trayvon brought it on himself by not immediately prostrating himself before George Zimmerman and begging for his life to be spared. I hope they all come to understand just how deeply fucked up they are, and change accordingly.)

My friend is a Science Facts Guy. We’ll call him SFG. Evidence matters to him. And he just couldn’t get past the fact that Mike Brown had supposedly attacked Darren Wilson. I say “supposedly,” because in this white supremacist society of ours, one in which so many cops have claimed that they were attacked by that unarmed black dude, only to have evidence turn up that no, actually, they weren’t, that I remain skeptical of those results. But perhaps they scuffled. Let’s even concede all the worst facts we can find: that Mike smoked weed, that he shoplifted some cigarillos, that he was walking down the middle of the street, and mouthed off to an officer of the law, and attacked him. Let’s make it look really, really bad.

It doesn’t matter, I told SFG. Those facts simply don’t matter. We had a nineteen year-old unarmed kid against a fully-trained law enforcement officer who was in a fucking car. Wilson had plenty of options. One of the easiest is one that women are taught from the time they’re old enough to drive: if someone comes at you while you’re in a car, you drive. GTFO. Call for backup once you’re safe. Wilson surely had hand-to-hand training. He had a non-lethal weapon within easy reach. He was in the driver’s seat of a powerful car. He had all sorts of options, but he chose to shoot an unarmed kid, and that’s all that really matters.

And so I told SFG that Wilson had options. SFG was very skeptical when I added that Mike probably would’ve survived had he been white. SFG just couldn’t believe me. We were in meatspace with no internet, so I couldn’t look up the videos of white dudes with guns getting belligerent with cops and walking away not only alive, but free. Dudes with guns, did I mention? I got him to concede the debate by mentioning the completely innocent unarmed black guys, like John Crawford, and we chorused on the name Tamir Rice. Everybody knows it’s fucked up to shoot a twelve year-old with a toy pistol within two seconds of arriving on the scene. Everyone except racists, a terrifying number of cops, and the other people invested in white supremacy.

But evidence matters to SFG. And lo, the day after we had this talk, there’s more evidence, right here.

This guy not only punched a cop, but he knocked him out…and would you look at that…he wasn’t riddled with bullet holes! For a black person, that would have been strikes two and three. Which means a black person would be O-U-T. Also known as D-E-A-D, bc over in the United States inhabited by black people, in the eyes of many cops (and their stalwart supporters) such an offense is punishable by death (hell, just balling up your fists and charging at a cop is deemed sufficient cause to use deadly force, amirite Darren Wilson?).

Image shows a white guy with short hair and a five o' clock shadow. He has a few scrapes and contusions on his face and nose, but is otherwise looking just fine. He's even saluting the officer taking his mugshot.
Joseph Parker’s mugshot. He’s awfully perky for someone who knocked out one cop and punched another. Suspicious lack of bullet holes, here. I wonder why that is…

Next time I see SFG, I can just say, “Joseph Parker,” and he’ll be all, “Yep.” If this dude had been black, we’d be chalking up yet another unarmed black man killed by police. And the media would be busy excusing the cops involved, and (mostly white) people would be doing the “Well, what do you expect” dance.

This case proves that police officers are perfectly capable of bringing even violent suspects in alive. So no, my evidence-loving friends – you cannot invalidate Mike Brown as a symbol. That kid should have lived.

Image is a drawing of Mike Brown, with the caption, "I am Mike Brown and my life matters."
Mike Brown. Image courtesy dignidadrebelde via Flickr.

His life matters. Black lives matter. They don’t have to be blameless lives, they don’t have to be perfect, flawlessly innocent, in order for them to matter. We can’t ever forget that. And we must demand racial justice. All of us.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to #SayHerName, either.

But A White Guy Who Attacks Cops Would Get Shot, Too, Right?

20 thoughts on “But A White Guy Who Attacks Cops Would Get Shot, Too, Right?

  1. rq

    For what it’s worth, I believe Darren Wilson himself testified that he didn’t have his taser with him that day because – get this! – it was uncomfortable. (I could be mixing up my cops, though.)
    Here’s to increasing the awareness of white folk everywhere.

  2. 2

    I’ve mentioned this before a bunch of times, but I’ll say it again. I’m stunned at how people are willing to defend the notion that the guy “attacked” the cops. Even, as you say, if he had, cops deal with these things, or at least should. I’ll give an example from My Home Town.

    A guy was spotted shoplifting at a department store downtown. Mall security approached. He drew a gun and fired, striking one of the mall cops in the hand. Together, they were able to overpower him and contain him until the police showed up. He served four years in jail here in Canada. Then we extradited him back to California, because that guy was Charles Ng.

    In case you aren’t familiar, Charles Ng was a mass murdering sexual sadist who, along with a buddy, videotaped himself murdering and torturing women in their special compound in California. When cops caught the buddy, buddy swallowed a cyanide pill in police custody and Ng fled to Canada.

    Ng was a former marine, a mass murderer, a trained fighter, armed with a weapon he had shown no concern about firing, and desperate to avoid being arrested, and STILL two mall cops were able to detain him without shooting anyone. They were able to transfer his custody to the police without having to shoot him. So either we’re doing amazing things training our mall cops and police here in Canada (which we aren’t) or there’s simply no way you can compare the threat from a child to an ex-marine mass murderer on the run and you have to call bullshit on the “I WAS AFEARED OF MY LIFE” defence.

  3. 3

    See also the Oathkeepers strutting around with their hands on their Assault Rifles. Something that in other contexts (like darker skin color) can be interpreted as “reaching for their weapons” and constitute a threat to any officer’s life deserving of deadly force response.

  4. 5

    They don’t have to be blameless lives, they don’t have to be perfect, flawlessly innocent, in order for them to matter.

    Exactly. Christian Taylor did something wrong. The police should have arrested him. Shooting him dead when he was unarmed and surrounded is still criminal.

    Mike probably would’ve survived had he been white

    This isn’t as clearly true. Most Black people who get harassed or assaulted by cops don’t end up dead. Some white people do. The data don’t show whether Blacks and Native Americans are being killed at higher rates because police target them disproportiately or because police use greater force against them or a combination of both. The data regarding how police use force once an encounter happens is mixed. On the one hand, there’s a study finding people of color were less likely to be injured during a use of force, but on the other experiments show police may be more likely to see a Black person as a threat.

  5. 7

    Thanks for a great post, Dana.

    For SFG? I’ve got this:

    a pop-press write up that mentions the importance of the study, and the study itself

    Ah, but what is the study?

    Just something that shows this:

    test subjects were shown images of black and white males, some armed, some not. The subjects had to decide when and when not to shoot.

    The results speak for themselves. “Participants fired at an armed target more quickly if he was African American than if he was white, and decided not to shoot an unarmed white target more quickly than an unarmed African American target.”

    From Maclean’s.

    Other good stuff for SFG is also in the Maclean’s article.

  6. Pen

    According to The Guardian, who are counting*, US police kill about twice as many white people as black people numerically. Given the demographics of the US, this means black people are twice as likely to get killed. They’re also more likely to be unarmed and doing nothing much… But not always, obviously.

    *For the latest figures, search for ‘the counted’ on The Guardian.

  7. rq

    This guy. This guy just pisses the hell out of me. ‘Shoot first, questions later’ – like lives aren’t in the line. THIS GUY.

  8. 10

    There is, quite obviously, something you are overlooking. Even in the pictures you present.

    The white guy pictured is … what … 5’7″ and 180 pounds. Whereas Brown was 6’5″ and 289 pounds. For comparison Wilson was 6’4″ and 210.

    I keep getting the feeling the people doing a lot of the talking and posting have never been in a violent confrontation where a head taller and a hundred pounds heavier make a profound difference the odds you are going to get seriously hurt. Independent of race, a big person is inherently more dangerous. At some point the combination of strength, size and hostility is equivalent to an escalation in the use of force.

    Don’t believe me? Find a gym with a boxing ring and get in there, with gloves and pads, with a variety of opponents. Most gyms will welcome anyone willing to do a little light sparing and generally respect anyone willing to step into the ring and test their metal. It will be fun … mostly, and quite telling.

    Most people implicitly feel that bigger guys are more intimidating. In the ring you find out why.

    A welterweight champ simply can’t hold up for long against a heavy weight champ. the small guy can dance and dodge and land a few punches but those punches really don’t seem to do much. If the big guy lands a punch it sends the little guy sprawling. The big guys, all other things being equal, tend to do more damage and win. This is why boxing has weight classifications.

    A big guy has both impact and reach. He can land blows while you are still out of reach and you have to land many punches to match the effect of one of his. That later point being true both because of the weight and strength of the larger body in delivering a punch, but also because larger bodies, larger bones and more muscle mass, can absorb more impact without serious damage.

    In the examples offered too many people just see the difference in race. Size matters. A little time in the ring will help orient your concerns. When they tell you about a potential opponent you will want to know how big they are, and how skilled and fast they are. Race isn’t even a consideration.

    This is not to say that racism isn’t a thing, or a problem. It exists and it is a problem. But It is telling that so many can’t see the difference which is glaringly obvious. A little ring time would help straighten that out.

  9. 11

    Um, lorn? These aren’t boxes matches we’re talking about here, diddums. Police officers are trained in defensive techniques and ought to know how to deal with suspects who are larger and stronger than they are without having to bloody murder them over traffic stops and $5 packs of cigars.

  10. 13

    “Police officers are trained in defensive techniques and ought to know how to deal with suspects who are larger and stronger than they are without having to bloody murder them over traffic stops and $5 packs of cigars.”

    Actually police don’t get very much training, and almost all of what little they get is in the police academy, if they get formal self-defense training at all. Many police forces, particularly those for smaller municipalities and sheriff’s departments have very little significant training of any sort. If an officer gets training it is often a one time deal that is not followed up upon, refreshed, or formally tested. In some smaller towns they don’t require any formal training. Just sign up and pass a background check and you too can wear a badge while doing a stressful job for lousy pay.

    Police are not martial arts experts or even fit. Some larger municipalities set higher standards for fitness and training but many don’t. Assuming they remember their training police can generally put up a good fight against most people simply because most people are completely untrained, and/or operating on the lies Hollywood tells them about defense, and/or drunk.

    Which is why police are allowed to use sticks and Tazers, and guns … to make up for deficits in size, strength, capacity, numbers, or skill.

    While I don’t agree with Brown getting killed the fact remains that Brown committed a theft, assaulted the store owner who tried to stop him, and was quite legitimately told to get out of the street before Wilson drove away. Had Wilson been more racist and gone through a stop and frisk he most likely would have called in another officer, the usual training guidance is to have at least equal numbers. Wilson would have been on his guard and outside his vehicle. A situation where Wilson would more easily maintain control and where Brown would have less of a chance of being shot.

    When Wilson backed up and tried to get out he was battered and the fact remains that the most likely cause of the gunshot wounds initially received by Brown were during a wrestling match with Wilson in the seat of the police vehicle. That was obviously Brown’s doing. Police, if they are trained at all, know to get people out into the open. The fatal shots being delivered as Brown charged Wilson. So far, of all the versions offered, that is the only story consistent with the physical evidence.

    Racism is real. But Brown, contrary to initial accounts, was not just a kid guilty of nothing more than being black and walking down the street. I don’t think anyone should need to be a saint to avid being shot by police but the fact remains that large people, black or white, present more of a threat of physical violence than smaller people. In effect they are, by virtue of their size, always armed, and always potentially dangerous. A large and powerful enough person can maim or kill with their bare hands if they lose control.

  11. 14

    I’m not familiar with that case.

    As usual, as with the Brown case, the initial reports, from any side, are not to be taken as the final word. Most of what was asserted by witnesses was false. Humans are lousy witnesses. Give me physical evidence any day.

    Give it a few weeks for the physical evidence to be collected and analyzed, and the various investigations to conclude and we might have some idea of what actually happened.

  12. 16

    Your 3 paragraphs after the quote? Exactly part of the problem. Which is entirely cultural. And has been accepted or at least allowed by the majority. Meanwhile, police keep becoming more militarized.

    If you are that scared all the time, get a different job. It’s one of the few jobs where the threat of harm allows the worker to unilaterally, with nearly guaranteed 100% support after the fact, and frequently irrevocably, take an action against the perceived threat. What would these people do if they, were, say, iron workers? (Which is another thing, in terms of the respect some professions get in terms of the risk they take on their jobs. Never mind policing has only gotten safer for decades, and crime rates have dropped. Gravity, on the other hand, does not change.)

  13. 18

    You dumbshit, that “little” dude knocked a cop out. Then he tried to beat up more cops who’d already seen what he was capable of. And yet you want to pretend he wasn’t seen as a threat cuz he was short? You want to lecture us on how scary big people are and pretend it’s fine for a cop to escalate immediately to lethal force just cuz you seem to think only size matters? Take your sanctimonious ass to a different blog, because it is not welcome here.

  14. 19

    And Lorn is so busy focusing on the less-than total innocence of the homicide victim in question that xe completely erases all the other victims of police violence. Good show. You also sound like those assholes who proclaim that of course a woman shouldn’t have been raped, but what did she expect, wearing that skirt/getting drunk/partying?

    Take your time away from here to really ponder what you sound like.

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