Dallas and Baton Rouge: One Off Events or Chickens Coming Home to Roost?

We can condemn the killing of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. The assailants were deranged, perhaps psychopathic. Their actions were beyond horrific. Demonize them, and nobody will argue with you.

That’s the easy part.

Then there’s the stupid part, where white people connect those violent acts to the Black Lives Matter movement, or even Black America at large. I had it whitesplained to me a few times today: “They’re really not helping their cause by killing police officers, you know?” No, morons, I didn’t know that, and for you to think that is f’ing racist. You can’t attribute the acts of two lone wolf assailants to an entire movement or an entire race. The BLM activists I converse with on Facebook did not have a hand in the killing of police in Dallas or Baton Rouge. How dare you suggest they did.

Last, there’s the tough part.

It’s tempting to treat the killing of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge as one-off events, since the assailants here were unbalanced and likely psychopathic.

Tempting, but wrong. Yes, the assailants were unbalanced, but there are thousands of unbalanced people out there, and thousands more who could lose their balance given the wrong stimulus.

We’re not witnessing one-off events. We’re seeing the chickens coming home to roost. For decades Black America has seen cop after cop after cop commit murder and not be brought to justice, with the last several years of such murders caught on video. For decades, mass incarceration in America has devastated Black communities, destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of Black men. For decades now, Black communities have been impoverished by over-enforcement against petty crimes and traffic violations and ghastly civil forfeiture programs, all so wealthy white Americans can be spared the tax dollars needed to pay for government services.

At some point, sooner or later, the explosions would start. It was bound to happen. A group only can be oppressed for so long before some of its members snap.

The world has seen this play out before, countless times.

It’s as predictable as Winter following Autumn, yet sets the stage for frightening demagoguery. Consider two historical examples: Israel for the past several decades, and Germany circa 1938. In Israel, Palestinians are subjected to brutal oppression, day after day, year after year. Periodically, the explosions occur. We call those explosions terrorism and Palestinians writ large are demonized, first by Israelis, then by their U.S. supporters. Only recently have efforts to expose the demagoguery for what it is begun to succeed (and only in a limited way).

In Germany, the phenomenon, and the evil associated with it, are easier to see. The Nazis took power in 1933. The persecution of Jews began immediately, with a steady ratcheting up of the pressure. But it wasn’t until 1938 that the Holocaust began with what’s known as Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass.” Did the Nazis plan Kristallnacht? Of course. But did they just set a date? No, they needed a triggering event. They couldn’t have planned the triggering event, but they likely knew one would come along. And sure enough, a young, desperate Jewish man killed a German official in cold blood. A day later, Kristallnacht.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting here that the killing of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge will be invoked to justify state-sponsored terrorism against Black Americans. At least not yet.

But I am deeply concerned that the explosions we all knew or should have known would happen will be demagogued in a fashion designed to derail the Black Lives Matter movement and allow the oppression of Black America to go unaddressed. Which will also mean more white police officers losing their lives.

The bottom line on Dallas and Baton Rouge? America waited too long. We let too many violent cops walk. We incarcerated too many Black Americans unnecessarily. We inflicted too much financial misery on poor Black Americans. And now we’ve paid a terrible price.

6 responses to “Dallas and Baton Rouge: One Off Events or Chickens Coming Home to Roost?

  1. Bob, I hate to say it, but I detect a certain “I told you so” smugness in this blog. I have to disagree with you about these Police shootings being the possible start of “payback” for past Police wrongdoing. I think it is simpler than that…it is the expected result that the current national focus on Police shooting blacks can have on the minds of people who are mentally unstable and looking for a way to achieve what they perceive to be respect and admiration. I just don’t see it as being much more complicated than that.

    • I didn’t say they were payback. I acknowledged the shooters were crazy. You may be correct about the personal motivation of the shooters, but isn’t that my point? If cops were facing justice more consistently for unjustified violence towards Black Americans, there would be far fewer incidences of violence and the incidences that still occurred would be understood as unfortunate and tragic, but not something that can be entirely eradicated, and therefore not the cause of a national focus on Police shooting.

      Look at what happened with drunk driving. A few decades back, the activities of Mothers Against Drunk Driving were all over the news. They’ve not gone away, but they’re less active and no longer covered in the news. That’s not because drunk driving has been eliminated, but because our handling of it has been corrected substantially. Few people believe it would be possible to eradicate it entirely or, even if that were possible, that the trade-offs would be acceptable.

      • Your comparison to drunk driving is a good one. I am sorry for attributing the idea of “payback” to you. You did not imply any such thing.

        Perhaps with the increased awareness, we have reached a point where more justice will be meted out for Police abuses when such abuses occur. At least that is my hope…

  2. Another way to look at the escalating racial violence in our country, and whether continued government escalation/enforcement will ever solve the problem is to consider what it took to end the Cold War.

    Decades long escalation — with a view toward capability for mutually assured destruction — ONLY ended when Gorbachev decided to take a stand for de-escalation by offering for the former USSR to take the first steps.

    Police agencies and their labor unions MUST take the first steps. Those steps must include willingness to hold officers committing unwarranted killings and other violence accountable for their crimes. And it must be done in a high profile manner all across the country.

  3. Make no mistake, neither Lincoln nor the Civil War ended slavery as an American institution. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution states:

    “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

    We have consistently for more than 150 years been taught, as even the Library of Congress prefaces it’s posting of the amendment, “Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.”

    Anyone with critical thinking, reading and analytical skills should be able to discern that the official language of the amendment actually and literally makes the institution the exclusive provenance of Congress and of governmental bodies (i.e. state legislatures generally, and perhaps some city, town or county councils) that are empowered to enact laws requiring incarceration for crimes.

    In Arizona, you have heard and read of Maricopa County “chain gangs” as a publicity gimmick of America’s most narcissistic sheriff. If you’ve spent much time at the State Capitol, you’ve also seen workers in bright orange clothing doing maintenance and groundskeeping. These “workers” are paid extremely low wages (much less than a dollar/hr each).

    We (taxpayers) tolerate this slavery because of propaganda that paints the inmates with broad brushes that make us believe the labor is noble and provides character and skill building experience.

    It’s generally all hogwash. Those people are slaves. The government gets away with it because Americans have been brainwashed from an early age to believe that slavery has been abolished.

    That’s just not true.

  4. captain*arizona

    I would not be a police officer in arizona under republican rule as I would not be a police officer in nazi germany. who should? no one until the state behaves its self. the newsman sings his same song three more …