More thoughts on the police riots and protests

It’s never exceedingly wise to pour your half-baked policy and philosophical mode into the public as a place where one can stick his flag on some probably-worthless mole hill to die on, if attackers dare. So I will preface this as I am definitely open to other opinions and really I am seeking those who can, in good faith, propose some legitimate and vetted solutions, points of views, what have you. I don’t have the most open mind but my position is not immutable, and I would rather have a better if not the best opinion. I mean, wouldn’t you?

Given the lax attitude about police brutality from those who can hold them accountable, it is probably out of several or all of these reasons, and including others I missed. First, the laws are tilted one way versus another. That relates to the qualified immunity bit, insurance and what not. Second, police is organized into unions and other organizations that are not directly beholden to the people they serve. This is most notable in the Minnesota situation with the Trumper union chief. Third, there is that “a few good men” thing in which culturally there is a “us and them” that makes “good apple” cops toe the line. This is most notable in the Buffalo NY situation when the one 75yo man’s literal pusher’s firing solicited the boycott of an entire riot squad.

Then there are the systemic (if those weren’t already systemic enough) issues in regards to race relations in the USA. Of course none of it is so simple, and there are plenty interplay between them. The above issues only make sense if we think of it in the right context. That hit me when I read Banksy’s recent IG post earlier today, and it’s basically a rehash of another idea I heard earlier. The purest form of this idea is laid out by Chris Rock some years back. In an interview with the New Yorker he said:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.[]

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

[For completion, here’s what Banksy said.

At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine.

People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs.

This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.

Here goes hoping he doesn’t build a shredder into this one.]

In America, I think it’s fair to say that minorities live and play in a white world. They are our leaders, they are our billionaires, they are our bosses and managers, they are our teachers and cops. They fight our fires, prescribes our medicines, and pretty much set the rules for every position of power, and is also the make up of majority of people in power. They are judges and lawyers, legal scholars and lawmakers, and whites make up even far majority of the members of the press. And in a democracy with a majority white voter base, the country is literally being driven by white people. That is everything working by design. Numbers being what they are, there will always be pockets of exceptions. For example there are more non-Whites than Whites in my town. My dentist is Chinese. My coworkers is half white and half non-white? You get my drift. I suppose there are a lot of Filipino nurses? You think Chinese food chefs are still going to be mostly Chinese people (although there are, uh, an alarming number of hispanics at this job in the US. It’s probably still less alarming than the number of Chinese chefs making Korean and Japanese foods at US restaurants though).

Strictly speaking, black people don’t have a say how things turn out. The only power they have is the power everyone has–the power to disrupt. Of course, individually, each of us is capable of changing the world through what we do or not do, but collectively humanity generally is a brick of stupid. But just because we may be stupid, it doesn’t make collective action less powerful. Maybe think of it as the difference between a screwdriver and a sledgehammer. I believe that is a good analogy for both individual action and collective action. If you want to swap out your old lightswitch with a fancy IOT one that you can talk to, you might want a screwdriver and not a sledgehammer. That is how we affect the changes, say, to fire a police chief. Or get rid of the New York Times Opinions editor. But if you wanna kick down the door upstairs in a hurry, a sledgehammer is going to be slightly better.

But that still is missing the forest for the trees. We still live in a white person’s house. Yes, maybe now that the lightswitch is no longer an unabashed racist, because we swapped a haunted one that can shock you with one that can pay lip service, but if the rest of the house is still haunted with Nazi ghosts trying to lynch every black person spending the night there, I don’t think it matters much. And that is the problem BLM, MLK, and other Named Historical Things have tried to address in the annals of America’s racist past. All of it is just because the white leadership and the system they have created do not give a damn about other people who might not be the same as them. Yes, we have asked the white landlords to make the house less deadly, and they have, but people are still dying, gassed, whatever. And the whole understanding behind democratic systems and guaranteed human rights, is just to provide the escape hatch in case the lightswitch is trying to kill you again. In some ways, I see it more like, building these levers of balance into the structure is more like building a fire escape for black people so when the ghost of Adolf Hitler comes, we have a way to deal with that.

But that is not the real structural change. The real change comes from, like what Chris Rock puts it, having nicer white people. Fact remains even with massive waves of immigration from Asia, America will remain a white people’s house. And the only way to really deal a fatal blow to systemic racism is to address every level in which racism happens. Thankfully this is just, well, dealing with racist white people. I mean that is the blessing and curse of democracy. In an fascist dictatorship, if the leadership is actually black, maybe we won’t need to go down this route? Well there will be bigger problems than racism at that point.

Just like trying to make a police department not racist means rooting the racists out of the group, trying to make a country not racist means rooting the racists out of the country. That is the ultimate and possibly the only real solution. After all, the Church is not a building but its people, and so is a nation. Although that sounds just as untenable as asking people who disagree with your interpretation of some Americana principle to move to Canada, that is what the ghost of Adolf Hitler is trying to do–get you to leave the house.

Otherwise you are just going to bottle in these in-power racists who, just like black people, are entitled to their voting rights, their speech rights, and they probably have long-established platforms able to reach more white people than black folks and their black platforms, and thus reach more ears in high places. It will never be fair. Sure, we can punish, deplatform, and remove them, but that does not deprive them any of the tools blacks have to affect change in the past 150 years when they were the subjects of censure, indifference, Jim Crow, what have you. If a bunch of slaves (and they were all slaves back when) can change the world, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Let’s be honest here–on average, white people have, to their credit, become less racist and nicer over time. But they are still responsible for the horrors they have done and continue to do.

The road to improved race relationship is on the backs of white people fixing themselves. That is the takeaway. Sadly blacks and minorities are here only as poster children to make the rest of us feel bad–because unless the whites cooperate and listen, only the suffering of minorities will gain traction. I mean, we all felt bad when Floyd was senselessly murdered, and maybe after enough blacks die in the hands of the police, one of the deaths might convince enough white people that this has got to change. Again, white people are the ones who have the power to change, because they are the ones who are responsible for this nonsense. It’s not like we can ban whiteness from America either. Removing the individuals is just going to allow another one to take that place sooner or later, so real systemic change is not just replace the lightswitch or staircase, it’s exorcising the ghost.

Racism is ultimately tied to a set of ethnocentric beliefs that has to be removed from the public consciousness. I am thus all for good racial relationship as a means to improve the kindness of whites and to help whites understand what it means to be non-white in America. That is the only persistent, permanent, and meaingful solution. How we manage this will vary and it is not a matter of sledgehammers, but of screwdrivers. Or maybe both, because you need some way to hammer them into shock and incapcity, and threaten each one individually with something sharp? Joke aside, I think just saying that racism is the problem and not racist is not a helpful distinction. But there you have it. Sometimes it’s nation-wide protests, sometimes it’s better K-12 curriculums, sometimes it’s just being a good person, and sometimes it’s good policy changes implemented by elected officials who the people can hold to account.

It’s like what this video essay says about Ip Man, that racists never think they are the bad guys or are racists. Racists tend to cling to the belief that they are good people. If you are white and you think Chris Rock is full of shit, well, you just proved his point.

And sure, there are blacks and asians and other minorities who are also racist just like white people. But there are two key distinctions–one is that in America, Minorities do not run the country. I mean, they are minorities, by definition in a democratic society this is necessarily the case. Second, in discussion of systemic racism, leaders ultimately have to take responsibility for the success and failure of whatever they are leading. If 44 of 45 US Presidents were white, I would think white people (and 44 people is a pretty large sample size all considered) ultimately need to put the issue of racism in their pocket.

This lead me to think about another thing, which is more in line with what Banksy said. Ultimately, if police brutality ain’t a thing, does it really matter if cops are racist pigs? Maybe the MInneapolis PD would have had a easier time staying in existence. If the pipe isn’t broken, the people living in the basement won’t be up here and trying to kick the door down. It makes you think if we can sufficiently nerf all the sharp, racist edges in the system in order to keep the current order to things. Well, it’s not a line in the sand to say what is the new order and what is the old order. It still comes down to America continue to produce ever-nicer white people. But if I was a fascist, my reaction to civil unrest (say, in HK), is going to come down to a measure of competency over than systemic issues bubbling to the fore. It is an internal weakness to become corrupt to power–different people have different resistance to it. If I was a powerful white man in leadership of a gang, I would probably terminate the goons who screwed things up and made the public pay attention to whatever gang activity. Just like how it is incompetence of Minneapolis PD union/leaders to not fire that dude who already had repeated violations and a prior murder. But as they say, it’s systemic, so fixing bad apples is not going to fix all bad apples, eventually some edge cases will happen that you did not account for. What i could say about this is that corruption and opening doors for incompetent managers into the system (like #3 in the second paragraph, but also, uh, Donald Trump) only accelerates this process.

In a nutshell, the past week we saw both extremes–nationwide (and internationally, thanks errbody) protest and also nationwide police brutality. For some reason nobody realizes unless you are Turkey and China, as countries with fully fascist political and media systems, plain brutality just won’t work. People armed with wireless networks and cell phones will know what is true and what is up, because a troll army can only overpower so many people in so many places in the same 7-day period. There hasn’t been a real count but the amount of protesting done is going to overwhelm any lamebrain 50-cent-army system in Russia or China. Nobody scales humans that fast, at least without being noticed. This is also on top of the mainstream press obviously putting these horrific footage in the mainstream broadcast channels. Zuck-chan from FB may hand-wring about blocking Trump’s post but that is low stakes versus amplifying fake news and trolling to overpower legitimate, organic citizenry signals, which thankfully algorithmically is at least undesirable. Outrage sells both ways and it is really outrageous to see innocent people being screwed over by police in military gear. It is not an over-exaggeration to say that it took a genocide in SEA and multiple homicide in India for FB to learn this lesson.

Which seems to be the kind of price to teach white people anything these days. Sad.

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