Prickett: The Response of the Oppressed

Ed. Note: Greg Prickett is a former police officer and supervisor who went to law school, hung out a shingle, and now practices criminal defense and family law in Fort Worth, Texas. While he was a police officer, he was a police firearms instructor, and routinely taught armed tactics to other officers.

In 1862, in Minnesota on the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation, the Santee Dakota Indians were starving to death. They had agreed to cede land to the United States and move onto the reservation, and the government agreed to provide for their needs, including food.[1]

In 2020, blacks had suffered for years with young blacks being killed by police officers, culminating in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, without officers being held accountable for misconduct.[2] In both cases, the affected population did what people do when they have taken all that they can take and have no other readily available options—they reacted with violence.[3]

In Minnesota, 158 years ago, the Santee forced the Indian Agent to issue them partial rations, and then broke out of the reservation, waging war against the whites. And the government reacted as one would expect, sending the Army against the tribe.[4] In Minnesota, riots broke out, as they also did in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the shooting of Jacob Blake Jr. by a police officer at a domestic violence call.

In this latest officer-involved shooting, about which Scott Greenfield wrote and posted cellphone video, Blake is shown being shot seven times in the back at point blank range. Blake was unarmed, and from what I can tell, not a threat to anyone. I simply cannot see how the shooting can be justified, but we don’t have all of the information yet, so we should withhold judgment.

Even with the additional cellphone video, there is no indication of danger that I could see. But, as Scott noted, Kenosha is burning, just like Minneapolis burned, and Ferguson, Missouri burned before that. And just like towns will burn in the future, if we don’t get a handle on things.

But the dominant community is reacting in the same manner today as they reacted in 1862. The problem is obvious, that those who were starving to death were at fault and shouldn’t have rebelled. The military commission had sentenced 303 to be hanged, but they had to get President Lincoln to sign off on it. He originally said that only those who raped white women would be executed, but found only two Santee met that criteria.

In the meantime, the voting public of Minnesota was calling for the entire tribe to be put to death.[5] So on December 27, 1862, in the largest mass execution ever conducted in the United States, 38 Indians were hung from one large gallows in Mantako, Minnesota, in front of 4,000 spectators and 1,500 soldiers.

In the current day, we’re not hanging them, but we are doing next to the same thing. President Trump has declared that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “Marxist” group who want to kill police officers.[6] PragerU[7] released a video, “Black Lives Matter is a Marxist Movement,” that has garnered over a million hits. At RallyPoint, conservative military service members and veterans site, the same is occurring, primarily focusing on Seattle and Portland, all with comments about how BLM wants to destroy the American way of life, meaning the white American way of life.

OK, for the sake of argument, let’s say that BLM is a Marxist organization. What other options do blacks have at this point? Blacks are dying at the hands of police but no one is interested in stopping it. And because of that, conservative whites are attacking the character of the movement.

So let’s look at who’s actually doing something, versus who is just criticizing and who’s actually in the arena. If you don’t want oppressed people to flock to “Marxist” organizations, you have to give them a viable option.

The Santee didn’t have an option in 1862. They could stay on the reservation and starve, or they could break out and try to survive. Today, blacks have the same option. They can either do nothing and continue to die at the hands of the police, or they can join a group that will actually do something.

Think about that—and what would you do in their position?

[1] Gregory J. Prickett, Here Were Hanged 38: Using the Image of Law to Terrorize and Subjugate American Indians 7 (July 26, 2014) (unpublished J.D. rigorous writing assignment, Texas A&M Univ.).

[2] Gregory J. Prickett, Prickett: Taking a Knee, Simple Justice (May 31, 2020).

[3] As I’ve stated before, numerous times, I’m opposed to rioting and the destruction of property or the injuring of people. Those who riot should be identified and prosecuted.

[4] Here Were Hanged 38, at 7. The Army also illegally tried the Santee and sentenced 303 to death by hanging.

[5] Here Were Hanged 38, at 8.

[6] Some of the leaders of BLM have stated that they are Marxist, like Patrisse Cullors.

[7] PragerU is funded by two Christian Nationalist brothers, the Wilks, who want to install Biblical law in the United States.

67 thoughts on “Prickett: The Response of the Oppressed

  1. Dan

    “Blacks are dying at the hands of police”

    In minuscule numbers. In smaller numbers, in fact, than are whites, as Scott posted just yesterday. And in far smaller numbers (by a factor of about 20) than those who are dying at the hands of other (non-LEO) blacks. The entire premise of the movement (specifically, the magnitude of the problem) is a lie. They’ve done a great job marketing it, but it remains a lie.

    Yes, cops kill people–some black, more white. Sometimes it’s with perfectly good justification. Sometimes it’s iffy. Sometimes it’s a downright bad shoot. When it’s a bad shoot, they need to be held accountable, and this isn’t an area where the country has generally done a very good job. Agreed that needs to change. But BLM is playing a dishonest game.

    “PragerU is funded by two Christian Nationalist brothers”

    That’s rather curious, given that Prager himself is a Jew. Ah, your source is–I think that’s all I need to know about that.

    1. Greg Prickett

      In Chicago, where blacks and white are about equal in numbers, the black man is 27.4 times more likely to be killed by police. That’s simply based on the number killed compared to their number in the population of the city.

      Now, is that a problem or not?

      1. B. McLeod

        OMG, we’re doing math. This percentage-of-population shtick is used to market the “racism” argument, but does not account for factors other than race. If we were to look at people shot by police in economic terms, say, people with personal incomes below $30,000 annually, it might provide a better fit. Then we could look to see if blacks were overrepresented in shootings compared to other members of that class.

        1. SHG Post author

          There are a great many salient questions buried within the proportion of cop killings by race, making it unhelpful as a stand alone number. And it would be a problem if it was only one black person needless killed by a racist cop, and it’s far more than one. But does this inflame passion or clarify facts?

      2. Dan

        That does identify a problem, but to determine where it is would need quite a bit more data. If black people are 27.4x more likely than white people to pose a legitimate lethal threat to a LEO, then the fact that they’re killed at a 27.4x higher rate does indeed reflect a problem, but it isn’t on the police. I don’t accept the assumption that disparate impact is evidence of discrimination, particularly when I know that on a national level, blacks are about 6x as likely as whites to commit a homicide.

        1. Gregory Prickett

          I’ll point out that over the years, about 20% of those shot by police are unarmed. That’s one in five, and it transcends racial classifications.

          Second, if you don’t see that a disparate impact is evidence of a systemic racial bias, then frankly you’re part of the problem.

          Third, I can tell you that a black man on trial in Texas is treated differently than a white man, especially in front of a jury.

          1. Joseph

            So when police shoot people they think are dangerous, 80% of the time they are right, and 20% of the time they are wrong. Ideally, that 20% would be zero, of course. Every unnecessary shoot is a tragedy and some are criminal. But what’s the systematic fix for this? Should demand that police are ninety percent sure that they are facing someone armed before shooting? A hundred?

            This is semi-facetious. There are real, serious reforms that have a chance of remedying the issue, but those are not likely to be the same ones being called for by those burning buildings. And it’s not clear using a litany of genuinely terrible statistics to justify political violence gets us any closer either.

            1. Gregory Prickett

              Joseph, it’s very simple. When a police officer shoots someone who shouldn’t have been shot, you arrest him or her, prosecute him or her, and if convicted, incarcerate him or her.

              And years ago, the Air Force required that its Security Police personnel go through a computerized firearms training system where the officer was presented with various scenarios and could either “shoot” the target with the system’s firearm, or not.

              The only passing score was 100% accuracy, no mistakes.

          2. Will J. Richardson

            Over ninety percent of convicted criminals are men. Does that prove that the justice system is “systemically” biased against men?

          3. jfjoyner3

            “If you don’t agree with my proposition that disparate impact is evidence of the systemic racial bias causing black men to die by the police abuse, then frankly you’re part of the problem.”


            And Trump called BLM Marxist because its spokespersons self-identified as such. He’s not smart enough to label someone a Marxist.

            1. Gregory Prickett

              I don’t have a problem with people quoting what I said, if they actually quote what I said. I do have a problem with people paraphrasing what I said or wrote, and then sticking it inside quotation marks.

              Doing so takes away from the point that you are trying to make.

              I said: “Second, if you don’t see that a disparate impact is evidence of a systemic racial bias, then frankly you’re part of the problem.”

              If you are going to edit part of the quote, put it in brackets, like this:

              “[I]f you don’t see that a disparate impact is evidence of a systemic racial bias, then frankly you’re part of the problem.”

              That lets the reader know that you altered it.

            2. SHG Post author

              A brief digression into disparate impact analysis, held by the Supreme Court to apply to Title VII employment discrimination in Griggs v. Duke Power. It gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of racial discrimination. It is evidence. It does not prove discrimination. The assumption is that “but for” discrimination, the racial percentage in society would be reflected in the workplace. The problem is that there are myriad external factors which get in the way.

              Take, for example, a law firm with 7% green people, whereas the general population has 14% green people. Discrimination? Maybe, but if only 7% of green people graduate law school, the universe of green lawyers is insufficient to negate disparate impact. Why do only 7% graduate? Only 7% apply. Why not more? Who knows? There are reasons reflecting discriminatory inputs, and there are reasons reflecting personal choices. You can’t force people to apply to law school, graduate and become lawyers if they don’t want to. Maybe being a lawyer just isn’t considered a cool thing to be?

              Outside of the employment arena, where the assumptions of immutable characteristics (are there such a thing anymore?) provide the basis for disparate impact, the external influences become broader and harder to define. While I hate the facile use of “systemic racism” because it glosses over actual problems and the reality that disparate impact can be explained by legit non-discriminatory reasons, it isn “evidence,” but it isn’t always relevant or helpful evidence. And sometimes, it’s dangerous evidence because it’s very easy to show but entirely unreliable to prove its point.

            3. Gregory Prickett

              Exactly Scott. If we want to discuss how relevant the evidence is, I’m all for that. If we are just going to make a conclusory statement after misquoting me, not so much.

            4. SHG Post author

              Misquoting is dishonest and inexcusable. It’s my fault for allowing it to happen here rather than catching it in the first place. I apologize for missing it.

      3. Avi Burstein

        > the black man is 27.4 times more likely to be killed by police.

        Sorry, but that’s a totally misleading statistic. Blacks were 80% of homicide victims in 2017 (from [Ed. Note: Under the circumstances, I’ll allow the link]. That means a) that police are going to be policing black neighborhoods a lot more than white neighborhoods, thereby likely to shoot at a black person more than a white one, and b) much more likely to be shot at by a black person.

        Do you really expect the rate of black and white people shot at by police to be equal when the rate of black and white gun violence is so massively different?

  2. shg

    Your analogy to the Santee Dakota is curious. Every needless killing of a black person is inexcusable, but is it fair to compare a tribe starving on a reservation with so small a number of deaths that most of us can recite the bad shoots from memory?

    There is a problem and it’s a terrible problem, but black people aren’t being slaughtered in the streets, and it’s the false perception of that driving the riots and destruction, which in turn will drive the reaction that will produce more mayhem, destruction and death.

    What I would do in their position is to do the hard work to find effective ways to fix the problem, not invite more death and destruction.

    1. Greg Prickett

      Apparently I didn’t adequately communicate the point. When a group of people feel helpless, that they have no other option, that’s when they rise up and resist. In 1862, the Santee weren’t being slaughtered on the Rez, they were slowly starving to death. So they fought back. In my view, that’s what the blacks are doing now. And they have tried for years, without success, to find effective ways to fix the problem.

      1. SHG Post author

        I agree that’s the perception giving rise to the protesting, rioting and looting, but it’s a lie, just as it’s a lie that they’ve tried to find effective solutions. I know, because it’s guys like me arguing for years for effective solutions, and outside of a few of us, no one else gave a shit, black, brown or white.

        1. Gregory Prickett

          I disagree, and you know that I have been there with you arguing for change in the way officer-involved incidents are investigated and prosecuted. And there have been some positive changes, but not nearly enough.

          I’ll also point out that some 5 years ago I said that there was going to be an equivalent to the Nguyễn Văn Lém execution at some point. I believe that George Floyd was that equivalent.

          1. shg

            When I said “guys like me,” you are included. But then, we never had as much public support for reform as exists now, and instead of seizing the moment for smart, effective and sustainable reform for everyone, we’re left with violent rioters and simplistic unsustainable ideas like “abolish police.”

            What a shame to see this opportunity squandered. I doubt I will ever see it again in what’s left of my lifetime.

  3. John Regan

    I don’t think it’s all that complicated. We have a third branch of the government that is supposed to provide an avenue for the peaceful resolution of disputes. It doesn’t do that in any meaningful way, and hasn’t for a long time. Any time people in significant numbers take to violence over incidents that are supposed to be readily addressed the third branch of government is implicated.

    This isn’t on the police. It’s on lawyers and judges.

    1. SHG Post author

      When concerns are limited to preferred outcomes without regard to facts and law, the courts will never suffice. People don’t want resolution; they want the people they hate punished.

      1. John Regan

        But “preferred outcomes without regard to facts and law” is exactly how the courts themselves have been functioning. Every time a cop who is obviously lying, for example, is deemed by a judge to be telling the truth it turns the system into a lie, bit by bit. When it happens enough, a lot of damage is done and the seeds are sewn. When it happens effectively all the time, people will inevitably turn violent, and the provocations will be random and incoherent and, as you say, exclusively outcome driven.

        But the point is we have shown them exactly that, when our job is to show them exactly the opposite.

        I guess I’m arguing that a free people do not turn into a violent mob out of nowhere. I think that’s the author’s point, too, though he seems to identify a different cause. Or maybe he doesn’t. I’m not sure.

        1. Drew Conlin

          “ ..without regards to facts or law”.. isn’t that what juries and Judges and appeals are for? Our judicial system is fair, but often from what I hear and read it isn’t meted out fairly… but it’s still fair. I would not want to be in front of any other system of justice.

          1. DaveL

            The judicial system is “fair”, in the sense that’s not effective enough to be called “good”, and too expensive to be called “poor”.

  4. DaveL

    Your historical examples are not on point. Black people in America today are more likely to suffer obesity than starvation. In many of the areas where they’re the worst off, like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, or New Orleans, they have effective control of local government. In many cases this control goes back decades. They have loud and effective advocacy from journalists and academia. It isn’t that they have no options, it’s that they’ve been trying to find an option that works for decades and failed.

    I’ve got another historical example for you. I’m thinking of a certain Black population that was systematically subjugated and forced to labor for their conquerors. That state of affairs ended many decades ago, and they ended up in control of a democratically elected government. That control persisted for 30 years, but still inequalities persisted in wealth, in education, in employment. They weren’t out of options, their own leaders just didn’t want to admit they had failed, or that it was their fault. So at last, with the full blessing of government and local media, the angry, dispossessed black men took to the streets with weapons. They kicked down the rich man’s door, and they cut down the nanny to get to the child behind her.

    I know of this story because that nanny bought that child enough time to escape out the window. He, a young black male, fled the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and came to Canada, where I went to high school with him. The genocide did not result in righting any historical wrongs. The slaughter only ended when Tutsis invaded from outside and put down the angry mobs by force. They keep them down, by force, to this day. So don’t fool yourself that violence is justified by the failure of policymakers to find a non-violent solution. Violent solutions are quite as capable of failing as non-violent ones, if not more so. They’re just a lot harder to reverse.

  5. Bob

    The federal government was preoccupied with invading the confederacy in 1862, so the Dakota took the opportunity to… launch a race war against white people, murdering the men, carrying off the women, and looting their belongings. How many civilians did they murder—five hundred? A thousand? Genocidal attacks on civilians were something Indians did regularly to each other and to whites when they could. Everyone at the time knew their excuses were pretext, but now they’re unquestioned truth because they fit The Narrative.

    At first I was offended, but the more I think about it the more I think the analogy to BLM is apt.

    1. Gregory Prickett

      I’ll be happy to talk about genocide with you, but it is not from the tribes side. It’s from the whites side. Second, you whites still don’t honor your treaties with the nations. Ever. Why should the Santee trust the whites? The Indian Agent, Gilbreath, refused to comply with the treaty. And when the Santee pressed the issue, pointing out that they were starving because the government wasn’t making their payments to the tribe, the tribal elders were told by Agent Myrick ” if they are hungry let them eat grass or their own dung.” When the outbreak started, Myrick was one of the first killed, and his mouth was filled with grass.

  6. paleo

    OK, so now the citizens of places like Kenosha and Portland and Seattle are being attacked nightly by their own group of oppressors. The attacks are being done with the blessing of the dominant media and the authorities in charge of the cities and the states. So now THEY get to rise up against their oppressors, right?

    People were shot to death in Kenosha last night. You’re cool with that, too, aren’t you?

    I personally don’t believe that attacking innocent people can be justified under any circumstances. You and I disagree on that point.

      1. Paleo

        I read this as Greg justifying the BLM violence. If I misread it, I apologize. And reading it now my comment seems a bit harsh.

        But Greg and I are both correct in our comments. Violence leads to more violence. Now we’re reaching the point where the target of the BLM/Antifa violence is striking back. Now what?

      2. Gregory Prickett

        Thanks Scott. I’m not going to respond to idiocy like that. If Paleo can’t take the time to actually read the post, including the footnotes, I’m not going to engage with him.

  7. Erik H

    Today, blacks have the same option. They can either do nothing and continue to die at the hands of the police, or they can join a group that will actually do something.

    Think about that—and what would you do in their position?

    Most obviously? Organize politically without resorting to violence.

    BLM has–at least for now–multiple open supporters in the US Government including presidential candidates, Senators, and Congressmen. And of course BLM also has the support of much of the mainstream media. And this runs across race lines, too.

    This situation–which is not as bad as BLM may imply, though it’s pretty damn bad–is changing about as rapidly as anything so complex can reasonably be expected to change.

  8. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Greg.

    I’m not sure your analogy to the Santee works, for two reasons. One, though the situation of black people in America is undeniably a bad one – not only by comparison to Americans of other races, but even by the standards of poorer countries – they aren’t faced today with an existential threat, as you say the Santee were. Two, these riots are not a “war,” which is what you say the Santee were waging. These rioters stand no chance whatsoever of overthrowing even a municipal police force, and that police have stood by as rioters torched cars and looted stores is not the same thing as a battlefield surrender, as the Seattle cops proved when they made short work of CHAZ.

    These riots aren’t a fight-or-die scenario, but a political choice being made by people and organizations who claim to be acting to improve black lives. Whether the riots will have that effect, I suppose, remains to be seen. It’s possible that a popular backlash will frustrate police-reform goals – which, I hasten to add, aren’t necessarily the same as BLM goals. It’s also possible that the political capital BLM seems to have won itself among certain Democratic politicians and the media will do some good.

    Who knows? I do doubt anything will unloot these stores or untorch these cars. But to portray what’s playing out now in the streets, which will ultimately have most of its effect in city halls, Congress, and on the property of working people and small-business owners, as a ‘fight to survive’ strikes me as plain wrong.

      1. David Meyer-Lindenberg

        It’s 2020, man. I’m alcohol-dependent already, and if I were running for office, I promise you I’d make Self-Medicate For All the cornerstone of my campaign.

    1. Gregory Prickett

      My point is not to compare an outright war to the riots, but to point out that people who see no other viable options are going to react differently. There are obvious differences. The Santee were a tribal nation with sovereignty. A treaty was broken and the government agents didn’t care, so they went to war.

      In the case of the BLM and the riots, there’s evidence that some of the violence was encourage by white supremacist groups and individuals, like the “umbrella man” in Minneapolis, the Boogaloo shooter in Portland, the three white supremacists in Las Vegas and so on. But there is no other group besides BLM that is stepping up and organizing the black community.

      And we need to remember that political violence is how this nation was formed. If we want to stop it, as we should, we need to step forward with solutions.

  9. Jake

    Great post Greg. I’ve run out of steam trying to convince people that mobs, as a phenomena, are a problem that require more than criticism and more violence to resolve.

      1. Jake

        Accept that there are things worse than mobs. Communicate and examine the underlying causes and conditions of civil unrest and alleviate them. If that’s what you call capitulation, then yes.

          1. Jake

            That’s unfair. I want the violence to stop. It’s become abundantly clear meeting with force with force no longer works the way it did when people scoffed at protesters in the 60s. What’s your suggestion? More violence? Should the National Guard open fire on American Citizens to quell the unrest?

            1. Miles

              You might want to consider, for the first time in your life, that there isn’t a easy answer to every problem.

              And if capitulating to the mob worked, you might want to think about what other mobs might do. You know, the mobs you don’t like.

            2. Jake

              What Miles? Like Armed mobs storming government buildings to protest wearing face masks in a pandemic?

              I certainly didn’t waste my time for weeks scoffing at them while just wishing the problem would disappear.

            3. SHG Post author

              That’s the point, Jake. Yours isn’t the only mob out there, and if mobs get their way, you might be on the losing end of mob tyranny. I realize this might seem inconceivable to you, but your mob might not end up being the winning mob.

            4. Jake

              I’ve been on the wrong end of mob justice. At the hands of the mob around the protesters I happen to agree with.

              That didn’t change my belief that it is possible for us all to take a step back, communicate, understand the underlying conditions causing people to go out and risk life and limb on the streets, and take action to alleviate those problems.

            5. Jake

              Sorry Scott, but that’s bull. I’m not going to waste your time on what I’ve learned about the causes of looting and rioting. There’s more than enough data out there.

            6. SHG Post author

              I would tell you that I’m amazed at what horseshit the properly deluded mind will believe to avoid any responsibility for their actions, but I’m not.

  10. Jardinero1

    I think that there is a problem of perception by the advocates and followers of BLM. I paraphrase an interview of Coleman Hughes, which I saw recently. It’s on you tube: Something like 55 unarmed men were killed by police in 2018 and fewer than half of them were black. I think that 23 were black. The rest of the victims were white, or hispanic. For the balance of the police killings, the victims were armed. So there is no epidemic of cops murdering innocent blacks, or at least unarmed blacks. The black community faces many challenges, but an epidemic of cops murdering innocents is not one of them. The leading cause of death among black males, aged 15 to 29 is homicide. Ninety percent of the time, the perpetrators are black. Even if you ended all police killings today, you would barely scratch the surface of the homicide problem in the black community.

  11. Mr. B

    This has got to be the worst comparison I ‘ve ever read. I am not a fan of police nor prosecutors and, in fact, have a bias to word the defence (since in my life I have been on the side of the latter far more than the former). For this gentleman to compare famine to a few bad actions by cops is disgusting. I love to read your blog and will continue to be a fan (and if my financial condition improves to contribute). But I will never read any contributions by this writer, whatever his qualifications. Keep up the good fight SJG!

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s fine to disagree with a post. No need to read anything more into it than a disagreement. This is America and we’re allowed to disagree.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        I disagree and your comment is now the cause for my rioting and looting of that sweet OLED TV I’ve had my eye on. Shame on you.

        1. Grum

          PK, if you think you can loot a sweet OLED, you are sadly deluded. I have one, and there is no fucking way you can tuck that under your arm and run away with it.

    2. Gregory Prickett

      I’m not comparing famine to bad actions by cops. I’m comparing bad actions by government actors in both cases. In 1862, it was the Indian Agents withholding or diverting funds and food supplies that were promised to the tribe in return for their ceding their land to the U.S. in a treaty of 1851. That’s not famine, that’s government misconduct, and the attitude of the agents (“let them eat grass or dung”) conveyed the same arrogance that is often involved in police contacts today.

      Having said that, if you don’t like what I have to say, don’t read it.

  12. Natalie

    The analogy falls short, but Greg makes some important points here. When a habitually oppressed group continues to struggle without effective recourse or relief, violence is predictable and should be anticipated. Violence in those circumstances can have the effect of grabbing attention and spurring reform. I’m not condoning the violence, only making an observation.

    In the current situation, however, the violence has taken on a life of its own, and the underlying grievances are fading from consciousness. That’s a shame because we really do need police reform, and this looked like it might be the time and place for that to happen. The riots and looting have definitely diluted the urgency of that need. Heck, Trump is even using this opportunity to campaign on “law and order” like it was 1992. So sad when the times could have been a spring board for police and criminal justice reform.

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