Because A New Law Will Change Everything

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.

9 thoughts on “Because A New Law Will Change Everything

  1. Ross

    We definitely have enough laws, what we don’t have is consequences to law enforcement for violating those laws. And, as Murray Newman so aptly out it in his July 21 piece on Fault Lines, it doesn’t help that DA’s are loath to go after the officer who is due to testify in multiple outstanding cases.

    Perhaps folks should spend less time whining about “we have to do something”, and more time working on the Smiter 2000, a tool that generates a hand from the heavens that slaps an officer about to do something stupid. That’s as likely to be possible as the proposed laws are to be effective.

  2. PDB


    This strikes me as one of those articles that is written for the sake of being written, rather than for the sake of being read. A quick look at H.A. Goodman’s website shows that this might describe his entire oeuvre.

    1. SHG Post author

      I think you’re right, but it’s also the sort of abject stupidity that, in the right environment of zealous passion and anger, gets legs and is repeated by dumbass after dumbass. Eventually, it becomes real. Best to nip the stupid in the bud.

  3. Mort

    people like Goodman immediately resort to the god-like magic of government

    While at the same time forgetting that it is that god-like power of government that lead to the situation where a cop could put boot to face in the first damn place.

    1. SHG Post author

      Their government is wonderful. Other people’s government is evil. It’s simple. How come you don’t get it?

  4. bmaz

    Unless I missed something, this cluck’s cite to Trayvon Martin, alone, disqualifies him as an idiot. Martin had nothing to do with cops.

  5. Frank

    IANAL but it seems to me that rolling back Screws v US (that citation just drips with irony) would probably resolve 90% of the issue. Too many goverment officials appear to skate by playing the “I didn’t mean to violate your civil rights. Really.” card. We ca probably leave “willful” in place but “specific intent” has got to go.

    Pity that Congress lacks the intestinal fortitude.

  6. Jack Colwell

    I could not agree more – new laws and regulations will not solve the current problem.

    Please endure an illustrative analogy with my apologies.

    In my home city there are two remarkable convenience store chains.

    Both chains exist under the same laws, ordinances and regulations. Each chain draws from the same labor pool and customer base. Neither chain is close to being perfect, however:

    Store A is generally staffed with courteous, helpful hardworking people.
    Store B is generally staffed with rude, unhelpful, apathetic people.

    Store A tends to attract and retain “A Mindset” workers and tends to repel B Mindset workers.
    Store B tends to attract and retrain “B Mindset” workers and tends to repel A Mindset workers.

    Ironically, both A and B Mindset customers tend to prefer Store A.

    I am NEVER surprised when I go to Store B and it is dirty and not properly stocked. Nor am I surprised when Store B workers are unhelpful and apathetic. If I wanted to provide feedback to the management, I find it to be very difficult and find management to also be apathetic.

    On rare occasion, I have a slightly negative experience at Store A. I find management eager to obtain and act on feedback.

    Employees of Store B do not see themselves as lazy or rude, they see themselves as working for a bad employer.

    Employees of Store A do not see themselves as remarkable, they see themselves as working for a good employer.

    Simply put, employees of Store A have one mindset, employees of Store B have another. The prevailing mindset in each organization is perfectly aligned to get the results they are getting.

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