extraordinary process

Offensive, Maybe, In Which Case Just Deal With It

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 1 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.I would like, if I may, to ask that you imagine a simple scene. Everyday Americana. A parking lot, for instance.

There is nothing unusual about parking lots in these United States. Indeed, we hear of them here, there, and everywhere, along roadsides and outside of stores. Even gun stores, like this one. And in this particular parking lot there is a car. And in this car is a seven year-old boy.

At least, he was a seven year-old boy.

Until his father shot him to death, allegedly by accident through negiligence, with a handgun illegally in his possession.

And you know, we’re not going to charge that guy with any crime. He’s suffered enough.

Yes, really. Same country as the one where they shoot black men to death for looking like black men scary, a word that here means “not white enough”.

It’s the best criminal defense in the history of America: I swear in good faith I thought he’s a dirty nigger come’a kill me! And, you know, dead guy’s black, so what spiked grand jury is going to indict?

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Tomorrow, Tom. “Black and White”. This Modern World. Daily Kos Comics. 1 December 2014.

“What Happened in Ferguson?” The New York Times. 25 November 2014.

Something About Justice

Detail of cartoon by Matt Wuerker, 27 November 2014 (via Daily Kos Comics)This is what it comes to. This is the problem. And no, it is not so simple as black and white.

Jenny Durkan, formerly a U.S. Attorney from Seattle, offered some insights recently, in the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson with any crimes related to the shooting death of Michael Brown, about why it is hard to secure any sense of justice when police officers have the appearance of being criminals. “I know firsthand,” she writes, “how difficult it is to prosecute police officers.” And then she recounts a really awful period in the history of the Seattle Police Department, a force whose misconduct demanded and received federal attention, a story that is still playing out, a hyperdrama that includes the police complaining that they cannot do their jobs properly and safely without excessive force.

There comes a point at which some might argue that of course the police are going to fight for every last scrap of force, and it really is properly arguable in the context of how the laws of our society operate and intermingle with diverse customs. Trying to identify a threshold between what is tacitly known and accepted—officers can customize their incident reports, omitting or rearranging details as they please to make for a more prosecutable narrative, and the state is allowed to destroy the evidence that would support or contradict those narratives—is an abstraction both peculiar and common. It is customarily inappropriate to speak ill of the police in any terms, which is its own bizarre question insofar as we should not hold our breath for any explanation of just how one applies to become black.

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