It may be the single stupidest idea ever proposed with the best of intentions, but it reflects a mindset that has killed more people than any other. And it’s always done with the best of intentions. At Huff Post, H.A. Goodman argues that we need new federal legislation “protecting black citizens from aggressive law enforcement tactics.”
His starting point isn’t to survey what laws currently exist. He seems unaware of the Fifth And Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, or 42 U.S.C. §1983. In fact, he never mentions any law at all. That would require a little research, perhaps even a little thought, but it would deflect from his litany of the bad things.
With the dash-cam video of Sandra Bland being forcibly removed out of her car, simply because she refused to put out a cigarette, some context is needed in regards to similar tragedies spanning from Rodney King and Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner and John Crawford. While police brutality affects people of all races and backgrounds in the U.S., it’s important to note that black citizens face a unique experience within America’s criminal justice system, just as they’ve faced a unique state of affairs for centuries in the United States.
He repeats the word “unique” throughout his post, though at no point does he make an effort to explain this peculiar word choice. Perhaps it’s the “say it enough and maybe someone will believe you” school of rhetoric. What he means to say, based upon his disjointed cherry picking of a dozen out of millions of examples, is that blacks suffer disproportionately.
If he thinks there is something unique about a police boot striking the face of a black man as opposed to a white man, he would be wrong. If he thinks the likelihood of that boot striking black skin is significantly higher, that would be a different issue. But by calling it “unique,” he suggests that it compels the need for a law to stop it. After all, doesn’t every unique circumstance demand its own law? People keep telling us that, which goes a long way in explaining why we’re a nation with tens of thousands of laws.
What would such a law look like? Goodman offers nothing. How can we have a law that applies only for the benefit of black people in light of our Constitution’s prohibition on laws that fail to provide equal protections? No clue. These seem to be insurmountable hurdles, for awfully damn good reason, but big thinkers don’t wallow in details, like the impact of the judicially manufactured concept of qualified immunity on police misconduct.
Even assuming such a law could be crafted without running afoul of the Constitution, another question arises: Who would enforce such a law? People have this peculiar notion of free-floating law, as if Congress pronouncing that “police shall no longer needlessly beat or kill unarmed black people” will magically cause it to happen.
Think of the cop on the side of the road, about to tase someone, when an invisible hand comes down from the heavens and points his Taser elsewhere, a stentorian voice announcing, “No, Officer Smith, thou shalt not tase this black person.”
Great law, right? Not particularly realistic, though.
But every time something bad happens to a black person (or any person, but more often a black person), people like Goodman immediately resort to the god-like magic of government:
When there are “no federal regulations governing the safety of prisoners in transport,” no federal regulations governing the streams of revenue that cities and municipalities derive from targeting black citizens, and no federal regulations ensuring an officer can’t pull a black woman from her car simply for smoking a cigarette, then America needs Congress to address the crisis faced by African-Americans.
Well, in fact there are, but not quite in the manner some would like at the instant bad things happen. There are plenty of laws governing the relationship between law enforcement and citizens, but they tend to be overarching laws, like “you can’t shoot people just because they annoy you.” No, there isn’t a law specific to smoking cigarettes in front of a cop. Or chewing gum. Or picking your nose. Or any of the millions of other activities humans engage in that could potentially be a problem.
Should we have laws governing every minute aspect of human behavior or interaction? You see, if we had, and some peabrain would point to the “you’re allowed to puff when a cop stops you for a traffic infraction” law, then it would suddenly be clear. Without that law, who knows?
Or instead of grasping at ridiculously idiotic ideas, using inapt words, and trying desperately to come up with a solution that fits within the paradigm of progressive magic of passing a law about everything, we could turn to those that currently exist and demand that our police honor and respect the rights of others, even blacks, and limitations on their authority and use of force.
The laws are there. They have been for a long time, but they’ve been ignored, diminished, with society’s blessing. Even Goodman can’t avoid his personal gertruding:
While I’m a huge supporter of police (I have several friends who are LAPD officers) and believe that most law enforcement officials are honorable men and women risking their lives on a daily basis, America must come to the realization that black citizens are being brutalized in a unique manner.
Are your friends one dimensional cartoon characters, all good or all bad? If this “unique” problem is so pervasive, yet most cops are “honorable” and risk their lives on a daily basis (papercuts are not life-threatening, by the way), who is doing all this unique harm to blacks, and what are all your honorable friends doing while that one bad apple is shoving broomsticks up their ass?
No doubt they could explain why good cops need qualified immunity to do their job and save people from harm, even if it means a few unique black heads have to roll.
There are problems. Very real, very harmful problems, that disproportionately impact blacks. The reason they persist in apparent uniqueness is that clueless buffoons fail to learn enough about what these problems are, how they happen, why the laws that should prevent them don’t work, and how a peabrain’s call for ever more laws compounds the problems rather than fixes them.
This ain’t magic. This ain’t feelz. This ain’t crying and hand-wringing. This is about where conflicting rights and authority clash, and deciding which prevails. Micromanaging people’s farts won’t save blacks from their “unique” experience at the end of a cop’s baton, but demanding that the police respect people’s rights may. Even then, people will fall short, whether it’s the cop or the citizen. Because they’re people.
You won’t be able to control every tiny bit of society to create your perfect world, because people are messy, confused and confusing, prone to error and inadequate to the task of perfection. No new law will change this. Ever. A new federal law to protect black people from aggressive police tactics is idiotic. We have that law. It’s called the Constitution. Use it.