Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Black Florida Man Shot By Cops While Not Saying N-Word Or Sagging His Pants

Sometimes, the universe is trying to tell you something, if you'll just listen to it. On the very same day that CNN anchor Don Lemon laid out his 5-point plan to "solve the problem" of black people scaring Bill O'Reilly, an unarmed 60 year-old Florida man named Roy Middleton was shot down by police in his own driveway, even though there was no evidence he had violated any of Lemon's tenets. Lucky for Middleton, the cops who responded were so panicked by him, they only hit him with two of the fifteen shots they fired at him. Here's how Mr. Middleton, who was shot twice in the leg, says it went down:
Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home. A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call. Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, “Get your hands where I can see them.” He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway. He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire. “It was like a firing squad,” he said. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
Of course, there are two sides to every story. While I'm inclined to believe Mr. Middleton, who didn't get to be 60 years old by not knowing how to act around police, even if you take the cops at their word, backed up by the neighbor who called them in the first place, this is still a ridiculous story, redeemed only by Middleton's miraculous survival:
(Escambia County Sheriff David) Morgan said the deputies reported that, after they'd made multiple commands to Middleton to show his hands, he eventually lunged out of the car and spun toward them, causing them to "fear for their safety." "As much as we are trained and as much as officers -- which have Type A personalities -- like to say we are in control, we are not," Morgan said at the conference.
Unfortunately, no video of the incident is available, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the terrifying "lunge" maneuver, here's a visual aid that might help:
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan held a surreal press conference on Monday, which included his assertion that Middleton (to whom he referred as the "suspect, or victim) didn't show both of his hands even after the deputies shot him, because nothing improves your ability to respond to commands like being shot twice. When Morgan explained that Middleton said he thought it was a neighbor playing a joke on him, he added "I don't know why," omitting the end of the sentence "maybe because he was in his own driveway doing nothing wrong?" But the best (or worst) part of the press conference was when Morgan inexplicably tried to challenge Middleton's claim that he didn't know they were cops right away by observing that the deputies were "dressed as law enforcement officers," and were "illuminated," and plainly visible to the neighbor who was looking at them, and to Middleton after he had exited the car. A reporter asked Morgan if it's possible that when the deputies first began shouting at Middleton, while he was in the car and had his back to them, that he didn't see them. "Anything's possible," Morgan replied. Cue Rod Serling.
There are many questions that remain in this case, such as how the deputies managed to show up before Roy Middleton could even find his cigarette. If this had happened in Detroit, he could have died of cancer before the cops showed up. But the real burning issue here is what the black community, or black culture, did to get Roy Middleton shot. He's 60 years old, so he doesn't pass the Mark Omara/Washington Post/Geraldo Rivera "young black man" test, no matter how good he looks for his age. I'm not sure if he was wearing a hoodie or sagging pants, but surely that glaring red flag would have made it somewhere into the reporting. The reports don't say if Middleton was born out of wedlock, but even so, 60 years is an awful long time for that chicken to come home to roost. Roy Middleton himself, however, is described as a "married father of two," so surely he gets some credit for that. He doesn't appear to have used the n-word, or been listening to any rap music at the time of the shooting, although the deputies were apparently engaged in a performance art rendition of 911 Is A Joke. He was inside his mother's car, so the only littering that occurred was the deputies' discharge of 15 shell casings, which I'm sure they picked up after. In fact, Roy Middleton didn't even live in a black community. The 15,000-member Warrington community he belongs to is 72% white, just like America. Maybe that was his mistake? The deputies who shot Roy Middleton have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, so we'll see if that "lunging" defense holds up, but the fact is that it doesn't matter how slowly, deliberately, or unarmedly a black man gets out of a car, all a cop has to do is think (or say) he "lunged." Roy Middleton said he thought a neighbor was playing a joke on him, and although he wasn't that far off the mark, it's not a "ha-ha"-funny joke. The neighbor who called the police on him had lived in the neighborhood for about a month, according to Sheriff Morgan, but in the end, it was Roy Middleton who was judged not to belong there. That's the joke, that whether you live in a black community or a white one, whether you engage in all that black culture pant-sagging and n-word-using and Skittle-buying or not, if you're black in America, there are people with guns who will think you don't belong, and you can die for that.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rover-Compensating: Don Lemon And Ted Nugent Compare Black People To Dogs

CNN anchor Don Lemon incurred the wrath of many people when he not only agreed with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's indictment of "black culture," but asserted it hadn't gone far enough. It's an interesting coincidence, then, that both Lemon and Ted Nugent, another member of the growing cadre of media figures attempting to normalize racial profiling in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing, have recently employed canine metaphors to describe the black community.

The reaction to Lemon's commentary was swift, and at times brutal, but rather than respond to the concerns raised by critics, Lemon put together a panel segment with people who agreed with him, and mischaracterized the backlash as a reaction to common sense fashion and linguistic advice. He failed to acknowledge the laundry list of legitimate criticisms of what he said, and how he said it.

 The main thrust of the criticism has been that Lemon's rant was simplistic, ignoring the root causes of the symptoms his advice was meant to treat (like the effects of arrest and sentencing disparities, or employment discrimination, or being murdered, on families), and was made in the context of agreement with a segment of white America that explicitly promotes the legitimacy of the racial profiling that cost Trayvon Martin his life. Even on a topic on which many, myself included, would philosophically agree with Lemon, he fails to recognize that if black people had a nickel for every time a black person used the n-word, it would be because white people gave the other 95 cents to iTunes. He also claimed that white people don't litter, which is some bullsh*t.

In order to promote his upcoming segment on criticisms that no one actually made of him, however, Lemon tweeted this tease:
Ever heard the expression 'a hit dog will holler?' I'll discuss 5-7pET tonight on #CNN #NoTalkingPoints
Lemon's tweet, although divergent in intent, bears an illustrative similarity to remarks made by Ted Nugent last week, during a Nick Cannon podcast that Media Matters flagged. Like Bill O'Reilly, Nugent has been arguing that racial profiling is not only reasonable, but essential, due to a "mindless tendency to violence" in the black community. In making this argument to entertainer Nick Cannon, Nugent went to the dogs.

 Earlier in the show, Nugent repeated his boast that he has been "fighting racism" for years by generously thanking the black artists he and the rest of white rock ripped off, and by employing a black bassist. He then addressed remarks that President Obama made, in Nugent's imagination, about white ladies on "helicopters" clutching their purses, before getting to racial profiling.

"I think when you use the word profile, if a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we're going to look for a black and white dog," he told Cannon, later adding that "over and over again I watch the news and here's a rape and here's a burglary and here's a murder in Chicago. 29 shot. 29 blacks shot by 29 blacks. At some point you got to be afraid of black and white dogs if the Dalmatian's doing the biting."

 Media Matters cuts their clip off a little too early, though, because rather than pointing out that racial profiling necessarily entails treating the innocent (including the victims) as offenders, Nick Cannon tries to argue the effects of poverty, but ends up detouring into arguing that black people have no choice but to become "vicious animals."

"Obviously, this is just a reaction to the way society has... our place in society," Cannon said, "and expressing years and years of not being treated properly by the establishment, or the white community, especially in impoverished...you're from Detroit, you know when a city is downtrodden, of course there's gonna be violence, there's gonna be frustration, there's gonna be anger, and if all you, to use your analogy, if you have two dalmatians in a cage, and all they have is each other to go after, that's what they're gonna do, they're just gonna become a victim of their circumstance. No one's giving them that opportunity to step up, or given them the alternative to operate, then they're gonna become a vicious animal, as you call it."
It's worth noting that Nick Cannon is not a respected journalist on a prestigious cable news network, but one of the many problems with Cannon's response is, of course, that the vast majority of black people aren't "going after each other," or anyone else. Hadiya Pendleton wasn't going after anyone, she was minding her business, but the "black-on-black crime" narrative insists that her death is her problem, as a member of the black community. Don't talk about racism, talk about how these people are bringing it all on themselves. These screeds about black crime and out-of-wedlock births are all presented, explicitly, as critiques of "the black community," and so was Don Lemon's rant.

Neither of these men actually thinks of black people as dogs, but their shared use od the metaphor is instructive. In Lemon's case, it was a way to dismiss the legitimate, well-reasoned disagreement of #blacktwitter as so much reflexive, mindless howling, while Nugent used it to dismiss the humanity of people whom he sees as legitimate targets of suspicion. That bit of common ground should give at least one of these guys paws.

Original Version: The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore Is Wrong, Bill O’Reilly Is Not ‘An Asshole’

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has been taking a lot of heat lately over his assessments of the black community in the wake of President Obama's Trayvon Martin speech. One standout among the anti-O'Reilly barrage was Daily Show Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore's judgment of O'Reilly as "an asshole," but despite my own criticisms of O'Reilly, I've come around to the notion that Larry was wrong, Bill O'Reilly is not an asshole.

It's true that Bill O'Reilly has spent this week using the same statistical arguments to demonize black people that are used by more overtly racist people, and explicitly argued that people are right to suspect young black men like Trayvon Martin because they belong to such a violence-prone community. In O'Reilly's defense, he is not alone in this trend toward normalizing racial profiling, which has made the species jump to mainstream American conversation.

It's also true that, even within his blame-the blacks frame, O'Reilly has been all over the place. This week, it's black girls who are to blame for black crime, a pivot from his weeks-ago position that it was young black men, but he has been consistent about blaming black leaders like Jesse Jackson for ignoring "black-on-black crime," a common refrain from those seeking to ignore the racial issues embedded in the story of Trayvon Martin's killing.

However, Bill O'Reilly is nothing if not a man. In February, Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march in Chicago to protest the death of 15 year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed the week after she performed at President Obama‘s inauguration. Despite 13-degree weather in Chicago that day, Rev. Jackson was joined by dozens of marchers, who went from the school that Hadiya attended, to the park in which she was shot and killed. Rev. Jackson demanded action from President Obama to stem the tide of violence in the city.

Bill O'Reilly could have simply ignored Rev. Jesse Jackson's march because it didn't fit his narrative. It's not as if Hadiya Pendleton's death was a frequent subject on The O'Reilly Factor, where Bill only mentioned her twice since her death. But Bill O'Reilly, man that he is, actually did cover that Rev. Jesse Jackson-led march on The O'Reilly Factor, and doubtless praised the civil rights leader for caring about the thing that O'Reilly accuses him of ignoring:

"Few attended."

Larry Wilmore is wrong, Bill O'Reilly isn't an asshoole. He's a fucking asshole.