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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Letter to a "Racist" Nation


My new ebook, "Letter to a 'Racist' Nation" is now available on Kindle! It is priced to sell. The style is not measured or gentle, because I am not in a gentle mood, and I don't think America needs soft or appeasing words right now. The book can be compared to a loving slap in the face administererd to someone who is suffering dangerous delusions.

That, I argue, is the condition the US is in right now. No, the police are not racist thugs, by and large. They are being scapegoated under circumstances that Rene Girard, the brilliant student of the human condition, long ago prophesied. The accusation of "racism" is inevitable in our culture, for the same reason ealier generations of scapegoats were accused of "incest," "poisoning the wells," "counter-revolution," and other crimes considered especially vile in their cultures. The mentality that lodges such accusations indiscriminately, which one might call "Woke Fragility" (with no apologies to Robin DiAngelo, she owes them to us) has also consumed the Academy and Woke Big Business.
I argue that the Gospel helps us understand this moment, and lends us the chief hope we have for escaping from the ditch we have so foolishly dug for ourselves.
I have not studied this form of neo-Marxism so long as at least two of my Facebook friends. But I bring a few unique understandings or perspectives to the subject: (a) Cultures, which I believe matter more than Race today; (b) History of Religions; (c) a brother who served as a cop in Greater Chaz for three or four decades, and told me his stories; (d) living in Greater Chaz; (e) sharing a university with DiAngelo, which "awoke" me to the phenomenon of Woke Fragility: (f) experience as an educator, since it is from the public schools that much of the contagion has spread; (g) I have also done a bit of research, especially on police shootings.
Do enjoy the book. I'm letting Facebook and blog friends know first, hoping you'll post interesting reviews, and if you like it, pass the word along.
This is not an academic work: it is a cry from the heart. I have, however, done my best to get my facts straight, which I can't say about all those I criticize.
PS: Thanks to Michael Hunt for creating the cover image, and to The Stream for publishing early versions of Chapter 8 and Chapter 11. I neglected to include that note of gratitude in the book yet; I'll have to go back and add it later.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Do Blue Lives Murder? Report from Chaz

The great literary anthropologist, Rene Girard, wrote, "Human culture is predisposed to the permanent concealment of its origins in collective violence."  I just paid a visit to the Western Hemisphere's newest nation, the Peoples' Republic of Chaz (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), and found that, indeed, this new state is hiding the guilt of its bloody foundation.

The Martyrs of Chaz

Changsha, Hunan Province, holds four outdoor entertainments: the pedestrian mall, the Xiang River, a three mile long sand spit in the middle of the river called Tangerine Island, where a young Mao Zedong used to swim, and Yue Lu Hill, a peak about 700 feet high behind Hunan University and a huge statue of Mao.  I often met friends by that statue to climb the hill.  Some people would abase themselves before the figure of Mao.  As a young man, Mao studied at Hunan Teacher's College, and hung out at the Autumn Admiring Pavillion, just up the slope from his rocky image and the famous Confucian Yue Lu Academy, a precursor to the later schools.  It was at this academy that the Song Dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi, co-founder of neo-Confucianism, once debated a rival.   Zeng Guofan, the famous Hunan general who defeated the Tai Pings, also studied here.  

Hiking that little mountain on an almost weekly basis, I always wondered at the many graves on its slopes.  Why, in a place of great significance for more than a thousand years, all the memorials were to people who died after the communist revolution in 1949?  

After the revolution, China seemed determined to forget its national past, and set up idols commemorating the most recent tyrant instead.   Every city in China has a memorial to its revolutionary martyrs.  The most famous no doubt lies in Tiananmen Square across from the gate where Mao's portrait hangs.  Here, on Tiananmen Square, students have often died for the future of China, as I described in my first book.  (A Kindle version is now available!)  

America's Cultural Revolution of 2020, the so-called "Great Awokening," requires its martyrs, too.  Once you erase the past, tearing down statues of Columbus, Washington, Jefferson, Robert E Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant, you need some worthy image to take their place.   


The Martyrs of Chaz

"Human culture is predisposed to its permanent concealment in collective violence."  -- Rene Girard

On the fence in front of the East Seattle precinct front door hangs a poster entitled, "25 + Black Lives Killed by Police in Washington State."  

That poster actually names twenty-seven men and two women. 

Most of those killed by police in Washington State (even more than in America as a whole) are white.  According to The Guardian's interactive website, in 2016, sixteen whites were killed by police in the state, and three blacks.   Yet no White, Hispanic, Asian or Native American is included in this list of alleged martyrs.  (Though some are so light in skin, that one wonders how a racist officer would identify them as black.)  

Here are their stories, as told in local newspapers.  Most of these killings took place in the Greater Seattle area.  There is, if anything, an anti-police bias in these sources.  Not only al-Left papers like The Stranger and The Weekly, but "mainstream" papers like the Seattle Times, and probably most suburban papers, too, would tend to lean Democratic and be race-conscious.    

As you read these stories, ask yourself: 1. Do these men (mostly) deserve the status of martys?  2. Does race overtly enter into the stories of their deaths?  3. If you were in the position of the police, what would you do differently, often with a split-second to make your decision? 


Twenty-Nine Martyrs

Malik Williams (Line 1, figure 1) got into an argument in Federal Way, south of Seattle, in an apartment parking lot.  When the police arrived, finding Williams sitting in a parked car, he allegedly attempted to shoot them, and was killed in return fire.  “I’m disgusted that the Federal Way police department MURDERED my brother,” Monique Phelps wrote on Facebook the day her brother was killed. “What happened to be a 911 call for disturbance led to some POORLY TRAINED officers shooting my brother 45 times.  INSTEAD OF USING De-escalating tactics. I’m SICK. I’m in rage. And for those 7 officers that was involved, I hope you ROT IN HELL. You killed my brother.”   Williams appears to have wounded two officers in the firefight.  

What is emphasized in press accounts is that Williams used a wheelchair.  (Which, however, was in the back seat at the time, out of sight, according to the police.) 

Williams shot two officers with a 9mm hand gun.   He was a violent criminal who had served time for armed robbery, as even the Weekly admits

"In April 2018, Williams was charged with first-degree robbery after robbing two people at gunpoint on separate incidents at the Renton Transit Center. He was sentenced in January 2019 to concurrently serve 15 months in prison for second-degree robbery and nine months for first-degree theft for the crimes."

Dante Redmond Jones (Line 1, figure 2), a former Marine, died in a high-speed chase in the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington.  He allegedly was trying to ram police vehicles, and was shot.   Three deputies suffered minor injuries.  Jones had been brought up by a foster mother after his birth mother had abandoned him.  In a heart-breaking interview, his foster mother describes Jones' generally kind  and giving nature, and how he had been traumatized by the sight of children who had been killed by bombs, apparently in Afghanistan, called himself a "monster," and "would harm himself."  

One wonders if this was a case of "suicide by cop."  

Bennie Branch (24, Line 1, figure 3) was with his homeless mother when he was approached by police.  He was wanted for felonies, but precisely for what, is unclear.  His mother claimed he was shot while running away.  The police said a weapon was recovered, but his mother claimed it was just an airsoft gun and he had not been reaching for it.  Apparently Branch suffered from drug and mental problems.  

Hashim Wilson (Line 1, figure 4) of Spokane was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Tacoma.  He alleged got out of the car and pointed a gun at police.  

According to a police spokeswoman

"When the vehicle stopped, the driver got out," said Cool. "He was pointing a gun at the officer. The officer gave several commands. The suspect did not comply with them. The officer fired his weapon and struck the driver who was transported to the hospital with life threatening injuries."

I could find little further information about Wilson, or why he might use a gun in such a way.  I also found no disputes with the police account: neighbors apparently witnessed at least portions of the confrontation.    

Mantry Norris (Line 1, figure 5) came into a bar waving a knife and mumbling.   When he charged a man and stabbed him, the police shot him.  An eyewitness reported: 

"It was kind of strange.  He was lunging at people with a knife," said one Robert Powell, a black man of about 30.  "He charged the other man and police had to do their job."  

Kerry Brown (Line 1, figure 6) wife and three children hid when her husband began shooting the house up.  According to the Tacoma New Tribune, "His wife reported than he was shooting a gun and she had locked herself and three young children in the basement."  When the police arrived, he fired one shot, hid behind a building, then came out with his handgun.   A single rifle shot through the abdomen killed him.  

Russell Smith (Line 2, figure 1) was wanted for a series of robberies in Bellevue, bank robbery, and assault of a child.  When the police showed up at his house, he was in his Mercedes Benz.  He put the car into reverse, smashed into a Ford, then put it in drive.  Concerned that he was about to run them over, the police opened fire, killing the suspect.  

William Floyd McCord (Row 2, Figure 3), shot two Bremerton police officers in a "“firefight."   He had been barred from owning firearms after punching his wife in the head, then fighting and injuring officers whom the wife had called.  The family of one of the officers, Kent Mayfield, who was shot in the stomach in the later firefight mentioned above, released a statement: 

"If there is anything Dad wishes might come from all of this, it is simply that you will hug your own loved ones just a little bit longer and tell them how much they mean to you."

Martin Duckworth (Line 2, figure 4) boarded a Route 27 bus in Downtown Seattle, and was asked by the 64 year old driver, Deloy Dupuis, to pay.  Duckworth is described by the alt-Left Seattle Weekly as a drug addict and "chronic violator.  He opened fire, wounding Dupuis in the cheek and arm, before being shot by police.  Dupuis said "It's good to be alive," and made light of "dodging bullets," but his wife said he remained terrified.  

The Federal Way Mirror explains that Dennis Clark III, 27 (Row 2, figure 5),  shot his girlfriend in the head.   She cried out for help first, and he shot a 62 year old man who was trying to call 911.  He also turned his weapon on two men in the parking lot of Pinewood Valley Apartments, in an effort to clean the premises of eyewitnesses, for a total of four murders in one day.  Clark seemed to have a habit of beating his girlfriends: the police had visited at least once before.  

Damarius Butts (Row 2, figure 6) "was shot and killed by Seattle Police after exchanging gunfire with officers following a robbery," according to Seattle station knkx.

The Seattle Weekly says that William Stokes (Row 3, figure 1) was reported to have been armed with a machete and holding a hostage.  "Stokes refused commands to put down the machete.  The officer felt threatened at one point, fired his gun and killed Stokes."

Marvin Hunter, aka Che Taylor (Row 3, figure 2), "spent 22 years in prison for rape, robbery, illegal possession of a firearm, assault and drug possession and delivery," according to KIRO 7 in Seattle.  He kept a recently-fired gun in his car, which officers said they thought he was reaching for, and had large stashes of what appeared to be heroin and crack cocaine on his body.   

Officer “Jake” Gutierrez responded to a domestic dispute call in Tacoma and was shot "multiple times" by the next Chaz martyr, Bruce R. Johnson II (Row 3, figure 3).  Gutierrez sacrificed himself to save a partner.  His assailant, on the other hand, "barricaded himself inside the home and used two young children as human shields," before being dispatched by a Tacoma SWAT team.  

Omer Ismail Ali (Row 3, figure 4) attacked a gas station clerk, a woman in the same store, then a police officer, using a wooden club about five feet long.   (The creator of the "25 + Black Lives Killed By Police in Washington State" poster is shameless enough to show Ali with his club.)  This series of events is all on film: Ali struck the officer on the head, put him on the ground, and was preparing to attack again, when the officer, fired and killed the criminal, then rolled on the ground in pain from his own wounds.  

Charleena Lyles (Row 3, figure 5), suffered from mental problems but was, apparently, able to care for three children who were at home at the time.  Lyles called the police to investigate a burglary.  In an audio of the call, two officer first calmly and dispassionately discuss what they know of the family, then for two minutes, talk with the woman about the alleged burglary, also in a calm and businesslike manner.  Then suddenly, at the very end, you hear "Get back!  Get back!  Get back!"  Then the firing of a weapon.  Lyles was pregnant, the knife she was holding does not appear very substantial.    

Marcos Perea (Row 3, figure 6) walked into a care facility south of Seattle one morning early in 2016, and shot his 27-year-old girlfriend, who had recently taken out a restraining order against him.  (The town of Lakewood is famous for the cold-blooded assasination of four police officers in a coffee shop several years before.)  Perea then led the police on a chase down I 5, which ended in a shootout with twelve officers from three departments, one tribal.  The brother of the murdered nurse, Jessica Ortega, recalled: “She was all about her kids.  She had just got into nursing and was the sister that always kept a smile on her face and always talked about the good things.” 

MiChance Dunlap-Gittens (Row 4, figure 1), was killed by undercover police in Burien, who suspected his friend of a hit-and-run killing a week before.  It is alleged that Michance opened fire before being killed, but this is disputed by family, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit and were awarded more than $2 million.  The exact sequence of events is hard to determine from press reports.  

Giovonn Joseph-McDade (Row 4, figure 2) was allegedly trying to run over officer William Davis when he was shot and killed by Davis.   No alternative accounts of the shooting seem to be available.  Joseph-McDade was a student at Green River College, and his friends find the police account hard to believe.  

Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith (Row 4, figure 3) was shooting off guns in what a neighbor who called police described as a threatening manner.  Tinker-Smith was wanted for various drug infractions.  After a long standoff with a SWAT team, in the evening Tinker-Smith opened fire on the police, and was killed by a shot to the head.  

Dwight Steward (Row 4, figure 4) had served time for rape, robbery, and assault.  Several people reported that he had pulled a gun on them.  The Spokane Spokesman reports

"Steward was shot after he refused to obey orders to drop two knives he was holding while walking toward police near Andy’s Market on Monroe Street at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to court documents.

"Officers found six knives and a machete on Steward, court documents stated.

"Police received a call at 3:43 p.m. from a man who said Steward pulled a gun on him and his friend, according to court documents. A woman also called police and said Steward had pulled a gun on her husband.

"Officers located Steward between Andy’s Market and the Franz Bakery Outlet. They ordered Steward to get on the ground, but he pulled two knives from his waistband and approached officers. Officers fired six bullets, according to court documents, and two may have hit Andy’s Market."
Hussein Hassan (5, 5) was allegedly killed while attacking a police officer with a sword in Kennewick

"Hussein Hassan, 46, of Kennewick, was walking on Olympia Street near 10th Avenue with the sword about 6:30 p.m. Witnesses said he seemed to be trying to hide the weapon with a newspaper.
"When Kennewick Officer Jason Kiel got out of his car to talk with him, Hassan charged and started hitting Kiel in the head with the sword.
"Just then, a second officer, Joshua Kuhn arrived. Kiel managed to pull back and both policemen drew their weapons and fired at Hassan.
"Hassan was taken to Trios Southridge Hospital, where he died, said a police news release. Kiel suffered a head injury and was treated at Trios and later released."
Hassan was a Somali refugee who apparently had had mental health problems, though he had helped refugees in Kenya in the past.  Officer Kiel's injury required 17 stiches.  
D'Angelo Davis (5, 6) was shot by Tukwila police (near Sea Tac airport) in a shootout after an alleged armed robbery at a Cash and Carry food store.   Another account offers a few more details: 
"At around 7:30 p.m. an employee inside Cash & Carry called 911 whispering that there was a robbery in progress. The employee called 911 while the robber took the manager to the back of the store to get money.  Several officers rushed to the scene as the armed robber was walking out of the store. Tukwila Police say the suspect’s gun was visible. Gunshots rang out but police at this time are not sure which side fired first. The suspect died on the scene."
In a sympathetic account in Crosscut, Eugene Nelson (5, 7), a convert to Islam, is described from his brother's point of view as a giving young man who had just lost his mother and others close to him.  However, the account describes his death as follows:  
"According to the Kent police department, he had approached his ex-girlfriend’s business in a Kent strip mall, violating a no-contact order set as the result of a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge. When confronted, the department says he fled in a stolen vehicle, dragging an officer and a police dog who tried to stop him.  Two officers fired, killing Eugene.
"The officer and the dog sustained minor injuries.
"Court records show there was a $25,000 warrant for Eugene's arrest; he’d swiped the keys from a BMW dealer when the manager wasn’t looking. It was another tick in a growing list of legal troubles for the 20-year-old, mostly theft charges and what his family describes as a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend."
Manuel Ellis (Line 5, figure 1) died in a case that is being billed, including by Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards, as a parallel to the George Floyd case.  The police approached Ellis when they saw him trying to open the doors of occupied vehicles.  The main parallels seem to be that Ellis also said "I can't breath" while being restrained by police.  Methamphetamines were found in his blood: he had a record of drug abuse and mental illness.  Woodards mentioned "longstanding racism," but no evidence was given that race was a factor in this homocide.  An enlarged heart probably was.   He allegedly assaulted an officer and struggled as he was held down.  No weapon seems to have been used against him. 
The second figure in line 5 is not named, nor does a photograph of him appear.  
Shaun Lee Fuhr (Line 5, figure 3) had reportedly been beating on his girlfriend for hours.  He had a gun, and had grabbed their one-year old child.  The mother was in hysterics as she called the police and begged for help (she had had a restraining order against her lover):
“My baby's daddy has a gun. He's in the park. He shot in the park. He has my baby . . . I want my daughter. Please. She's only 1. Please I'm scared for her.”
A neighbor was impressed with the gentleness with which the police treated the young child after the shooting.  The audio of the mother's call, and a video of the police action, were released to the public. 
Tiffany Eubanks (Line 5, name four, no photograph) had been staying recently at the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima.  Sometimes she seemed friendly, sometimes agitated.  She had been imprisoned for a month for assaulting an officer in Oregon.  Suffering from drug addiction and mental problems, Eubanks was found weaving in and out of traffic in early June of this year.  She became combative with medics, and was placed in the police car.  She seems to have suffered a heart attack and died.  Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice explained: 

"Curtice said a drug overdose could be a possible cause of death as well as excited delirium, a condition that can cause agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death, according to a paper on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website. It can be associated with drug use or mental illness."
While this case is still under investigation, there does not seem to be any evidence that Ms. Eubanks was killed by the police. 
Finally, Said Joquin (Line 5, figure 5) was shot at a traffic stop in Lakewood (the city south of Tacoma where Maurice Clemmons had murdered four officers in 2009).  The officer, Mike Wiley, said Joquin had been ordered to raise his hands, but claimed Joquin seemed to be reaching for a gun.  Joquin's cousin apparently denies this is the case, and the family has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit.  I can find little further information about Joquin: his friends deny the police report is credible, but I have found little further about any criminal background or lack thereof.  
Summary
All 27 named civilians killed by police gunfire either had weapons, or were perceived as having weapons.  Two unarmed civilians died in police custody, apparently of a combination of drug abuse, heart trouble, and the stress of being arrested and struggling, or of being restrained.  It does not appear that anyone used what would normally prove lethal force on either of them.  
Of those with weapons, or thought to have weapons, eighteen had guns.  Three of those cases seemed to have involved either a non-lethal "firearm" (an airsoft gun), or cases in which it remains unclear (at least, from what I could find) whether or not the suspects had guns at all.  In one case the reporter records the police claim that the suspect was reaching for a gun, but does not say whether or not a gun was found, or whether or not the suspect had any criminal history.   But fifteen cases seemed to clearly involve a suspect making threatening actions with a firearm, either against police or against civilians, sometimes both.  About 16 of 27 suspects killed by police seem to have murdered or assaulted a civilian before being killed themselves, and seemed in danger of further violence.   
Aside from guns, suspects used other weapons perceived as potentially deadly: vehicles (3), knife (2), sword (1) machete (1), and a stout 5-foot club (1).  In one of those cases, the knife, a close look at the weapon shows that it may not have been very formidable.  The officers probably did not have time to carefully examine it before opening fire.  
Five of the twenty-seven cases in which police clearly killed a suspect, could themselves be called suspect.  All five seem to have involved an officer perceiving threat to his own life.  It is hard to tell for sure, from news reports, how reasonable that perception was from the officer's point of view, or in some cases, objectively.   Couldn't two officers disarm Ms. Lyles of her flimsy-looking knife?  Or did it all happen too quickly to react in any other way?  What really happened to Dunlap-Gittens?  Did this 16 year old boy selling booze really have a weapon?  Why did a 20 year old student at Green River College, or a visitor from North Carolina, die in traffic stops?  It may be that the officers in one or more of these cases made deadly split-second errors.  Did race play a role?  Given overall statistics showing that white officers are not more likely to shoot black suspects, and given the lack of positive evidence for any racial motive, there is no reason to think it did in any one of these cases.   
"Police brutality" does not seem to explain these cases any more than racism.  In most of these cases, violent police action was clearly warranted.  In those five, available details are insufficient to judge.  
What clearly did play a role was perceived danger and fear on the part of the police officer.  Could such fear be alleviated with more training, or stricter hiring?  Honestly, given the violence of American society, and the prevalence of weapons of all kinds, and the frequency with which civilians use violence against the police, I doubt any amount of training or screening will prevent occasional mistakes from being made.  Parallel mistakes are made vastly more often on the operating table, in the classroom, in the corridors of political power, and in the news room.  There must be some point of balance, beyond which stricter controls and more "fear of God" on the police, will result in far more harm than they bring good.  The Ferguson Effect describes the harm to civilians that results when the police become less aggressive in patroling.  
So this poster does not support the central claim of Black Lives Matter, that the police are a grave threat to innocent, law-abiding citizens, except in the rarest of difficult cases.  Nor is there a hint of evidence to support the claim that "Blue Lives Murder," spray-painted on a wall in Chaz.  
If we go by facts, rather than images, the narrative of BLM collapses.  I think we can safely assume that Washington State is not, in this regard, an anomale.