On April 29th I wrote a post titled "Reporting Crime While White". The reason for the post was a proposed law in Grand Rapids, Michigan that would make it a crime to call the police on "people of color" who were just "participating in their lives", whatever that means. As part of my post I pondered a hypothetical situation where a white woman calls the cops because she sees some men looking into cars and trying the door handles but ends up being the one arrested because the men in question were black. It was supposed to by hyperbolic but an example of how laws like the one proposed in Grand Rapids can go astray.
Then I saw this on social media, in the New York Times of course.
It was published about a week after my post. Here is a snippet of the question received by "The Ethicist" for The New York Times Magazine, Kwame Anthony Appiah.
Recently, I witnessed a young black male cut across my yard, duck between my neighbors’ two cars and try the doors of both, before “breaking” into the unlocked one. I opened my back door and yelled, “I see you getting into that car!” He took off running. I called the police and then posted to the (admittedly sometimes racially charged) Nextdoor app, in the hopes that my neighbors would check the locks on their cars and homes.
Break-ins are fairly common in my neighborhood, and this isn’t the first time that I’ve witnessed what appeared to be a theft and called the police. It was, however, the first time I was certain the suspicious person was a black man. I immediately felt a pang of guilt for calling the police and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, given the tragic way things too often end between police and people of color.
So this seems pretty straightforward. A man is acting in a furtive manner. He cuts across private property without permission, enters another yard without permission, is checking the door locks to see if the cars are locked and then finding one unlocked opens the car door. The person (presumably white and a woman based on the full question) shouts out a challenge and the young man bolts. She calls the police and then reported this on "Nextdoor" although she seems to regret it because it is often "racially charged", in other words it is used by her white neighbors to report non-white suspicious characters. In a sane world this is absolutely common sense. You see someone who is not from your neighborhood sneaking around and trying to break into cars. You scare them off and warn your neighbors. Your neighbors are thankful because you probably saved someone getting their car or stuff inside stolen. But we don't live in a sane world. We live in clown world.
The rest of her question was guilty white middle class woman speak. She hoped he wasn't arrested and after all people really shouldn't leave their cars unlocked (the guilty white SJW equivalent of "dressed like that, she was asking for it"). Apparently she thinks she would prefer to live in a neighborhood where thugs rampage all night and your only recourse is to seal yourself in your home and pray you make it to morning. It is like New York in "I Am Legend" but the pandemic is not a seemingly incurable disease, it is just out of control people. It probably just proves I am racist but I have no interest in locking myself inside the house and hiding in the bathtub, hoping what is outside doesn't get in.
|"At least no one will call me racist!"|
Where I live, worrying about the cops showing up is the least of your worries if you are lurking around a house in the middle of the night. That is why people don't break into cars around here.
So Mr. Appiah weighs in on her question. He starts off by pointing out that what the man was doing was indeed burglary regardless of the door being unlocked. He also tells her that reporting this activity is a civic responsibility. For some reason he then comments about Missouri's "lax gun laws". I guess if you live in New York, being allowed to own firearms at all indicates "lax" gun laws. He then makes an odd comment about the murder rate in Missouri.
Your state also has the highest rate of black homicide victims in the country (and most violent crimes are indeed intraracial).
So Missouri has the highest rate of black homicide and it is mostly (almost exclusively truth be told) black on black crime. So it sounds like he is OK with her calling because she might have stopped a black man from stealing a gun from a car and using that stolen gun to kill another black man. But then it goes off the rails.
Still, your anxiety that the police might overreact to your call is reasonable. In a 2015 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, about half of African-Americans reported being treated badly by police officers because of their race. (Fewer than 5 percent of white Americans said this.) Unjust policing is wrong; it’s also self-undermining. One problem caused by the flagrant abuses of police authority we see reported in the media — the sort of events that generated the Black Lives Matter movement — is that they weaken community support for the police, and such support is essential to successful policing. It’s possible to understand why so many police officers appear to be willing to turn a blind eye to misconduct by their fellows (solidarity develops naturally among people who face danger together), but the abuse of police authority makes their jobs harder. They’d be better off if they did more to root it out.
Let's break this down. First, the part about the survey where half of blacks reported being treated badly by police officers "because of their race" versus only 5% of whites. Blacks are far more likely to encounter the police than whites on a per capita basis. I won't bother to repeat the statistics showing the vast over-representation of blacks in violent crime. In Missouri, specifically St. Louis, this is especially true where virtually every murder suspect in the city is black. So if you are encountering the police more often, chances are you have more opportunities to be offended at your treatment. I might also gently suggest that some communities have a very different frame of reference that influences their interactions with police. I have been pulled over plenty of times. I am never happy about it, sometimes the cop is cool, sometimes not, but I have never been pulled over without cause. So maybe half of black people think they were "treated badly because of their race" but were mostly just mad because they got a ticket or were arrested while actually committing a crime.
Second, black lives matter was launched by the shooting of Trayvon Martin (A drug using black teen killed by a Hispanic man who shot Trayvon in self-defense) and accelerated by the shooting of Michael Brown (a criminal who was assaulting a cop and got rightly shot for it) and the death of Eric Garner (another man committing a crime who was 350 lbs and in poor health). From these events and a few others, the media and activist groups have launched a narrative of innocent black men being gunned down for no reason by the cops. In contrast, much of the interaction I see with cops and black suspects shows remarkable restraint on the part of the police. But this woman and Mr. Appiah seem to believe that if the cops caught the guy looking in her neighbor's car, they were likely to just shoot him on sight.
The bigger issue is that we have people that are conflicted about calling the cops on what is obviously criminal behavior because they have been brainwashed into thinking that that calling the cops on a black man is a) inherently racist and b) dangerous to the black man. The person writing this letter, assuming it wasn't a 4chan gag, really seems to be wondering if notifying the police of criminal behavior is a greater public safety risk than letting criminals browse through automobiles to see if there is anything they can steal.
When the law enforcement deterrent is reduced, it encourages criminal behavior. If this woman didn't call the cops, her neighbors might have lost some property that they would have to replace at their own expense and the criminals would mark the neighborhood as an easy mark. This can only embolden the criminals. Maybe next time instead of trying car doors, they check the doors on houses looking for one unlocked. In her misplaced guilt, she could have put the lives of her neighbors in danger and even that of her own family. A neighborhood with a police response and watchful neighbors is one criminals stay away from, the opposite is one that draws criminals and maybe one of these guys finds her back door unlocked when she isn't home but her kids are.
There is no limit to the suicidal brainwashing many of our fellow citizens have succumbed to. It is up to the few of us that have not surrendered to keep warning the rest until the inevitable happens.