I generally dislike chiming in on current events. Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one and no one thinks theirs stinks. I am no different and my opinions are my own. I feel compelled to write about these recent events because they are becoming so frequent and expected that the population is growing numb to these injustices. There are two things that this post will not contain. First, I will not have links to articles, images, or videos. You can Google all that stuff yourself. Second, I will not cite references, if you do not trust what I’ve written, then do your own research.
This post is not to bash America, no nation is perfect, but America has a dark history of oppression against minorities, women, and anybody who isn’t a heterosexual white male. In America, there has always been a social heirarchy that has everything to do with the color of your skin and your gender. Why this country values attributes beyond an individual’s control is beyond me. I once read a quote that really stuck with me. It goes something like “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” This quote goes hand in hand with another that goes something like “The news: super rich people paying rich people to tell middle-class people to blame poor people”. You can swap out “middle-class” and “poor” for any number of societal factions but the truth remains, rather than focusing on what we have the common, the lower and middle classes are frequently at odds with one another. Often, these lines are drawn through hateful, racially driven rhetoric. What really separates poor people from poor white people, is that poor people accept their situation and try to better their lives. They know the cards they’ve been dealt. Poor white people have a certain entitlement to them, as if they deserve to be better off just because they are white. The “Karen” mentality is especially fierce in poor white people.
My Own Experience
As an Asian American, I experienced two distinct forms of racism growing up. The first was the blatant, in-your-face kind; let’s call them type 1 racists. Where they insult you to your face, insult your culture, your looks, anything they can dig their teeth into. These individuals wear their racism on their sleeves and with pride, and launch these jabs to stroke their own egos and their own sense of worth.
My family immigrated to Canada when I was 4, I had to learn English, I had to learn the nuances of Western Culture. While this was a challenge, I never felt alone. My family urged me to befriend other Asians, to be cautious of whites, and to avoid blacks. Was this line of thinking racist? Absolutely. My family knew only the information they were given and had access to, so what did they know? They knew the incarceration rate of African Americans was disproportionately high, they knew that during the LA race riots, black protestors and looters specifically targeted Korean and other Asian owned establishments, they heard stories from close friends about being mugged by black people. They assimilated this knowledge and passed it on to a young, impressionable child. The difference is that there was no hatred towards those groups (except the Japanese but that is a story for another time). I was not taught to hate black people, I was taught to avoid them. I did not hate white people, I was taught to be cautious around them. I was taught to stay in your lane, obey the authorities, and you could live a peaceful and fulfilling life.
The second form of racism I encountered was much more insidious; let’s call them type 2 racists. These individuals will be friendly and cordial with you, they will never utter a racist remark and on the surface, they appear to genuinely respect you. However, it is these individuals that often harbor hatred with twisted intentions. When my family first moved to America, we had to exchange our currency. My parents were never very fluent in English and while their choppy speaking skills and accent used to frustrate and embarass me, I now see it as a badge of pride. To be willing to move to a new country and learn a new language, essentially resetting your life so your children can have better opportunities, that is heroic and bad ass. As an adult, I cannot express the depths of my gratitude. During the currency exchange process, they interacted with an individual who tried to pull a fast one on ‘em. They quoted us an exchange rate which we knew to be false. They thought that since my parents were immigrants with poor language skills, they could be taken advantage of. My father politely corrected the man and he acknowledged his error and apologized. But there was no error, and the apology was meaningless. These are the racists that my mother has frequently warned me about. These are the racists who come out of the woodwork when Coronavirus first began spreading globally. These are the racists who deny promotions and make hiring decisions based on race. These are the racists who perpetuate a system of oppression against minorities. These are the racists who perform mental gymnastics to justify the actions of Amy Cooper and police officers who murder innocent (mostly black) civilians. They can dress it up and present it any way they want, but in their heads and hearts, they know what they’re doing.
And so, we arrive at Amy Cooper. Amy is definitely a type 2 racist.
The Amy Cooper Incident
This past Memorial day weekend, a video went viral depicting a verbal confrontation between a white woman and a black man. The white woman, Amy Cooper, works as a portfolio manager for an asset management firm. She is presumably upper-middle class in terms of socioeconomic standing, but in modern day America, she is considered an upper tier individual sitting just below the white male. What struck me about the confrontation was that her behavior reminded me a lot of road rage. Road rage is an amazing phenomenom, we are capable of feeling such hatred and rage against individuals who we do not even know. Individuals who, if we were to run into each other on an elevator, would probably result in polite smalltalk, or at the very least, silence. However, in the cocoon and comfort of our cars, we berate others for not following the rules of the road, or for being selfish and inattentive, or for just not driving fast enough!
The events before the video recording began are now a matter of he-said, she-said. Amy, presumably knowing this would be the case, felt that her position on the social ladder would warrant acceptance of her version of events. This is likely why Amy was so upset that Christian started recording; she knew her version of the events could now be challenged by the truth. Had the recording not been made or released, that very well may have been the case. Even after the incident, as I read her recollection of the events, I am appalled at her explanation and attempt to victimize herself, have you no decency? The video clearly shows Amy, flustered for god knows what reason, acting more and more erratically as Christian calmly records the events. So sure of herself and the outcomes was she, that she lied to the police in an effort to bully an innocent man. She threatens him with the call, then proceeds to make the call, a disgusting shift in the register of her voice, perfectly prepared to convey her panic and fear. Do you believe she is afraid? She is certainly not acting like someone who is afraid. Fear triggers a fight-or-flight response, she did neither. She was most likely insulted that a black man would have the gall to tell her what to do. How dare he… I’ll show him, I’ll call the cops on him and they will teach him a lesson…
The Road Rage Analogy
This is kind of like when you are driving and someone honks the horn at you, you can respond in a number of ways. The right response is probably to do nothing at all, maybe you are in the wrong, and maybe they are, but the reasonable thing to do is nothing at all. You can also honk back, the ole “no you” response and a popular elementary school tactic. Another response would be to aggressively get in front of them and slow down or brake check them. That’s obviously a bad move but I’ve seen it before. Lastly, you could get in front of them, stop the car, and get out to confront them. I omitted the response of just smashing their car with yours to make my analogy more apt. When Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog and obey the rules of the public space, he was effectively honking her to tell her to move at a light that turned green. Maybe she was on her phone, maybe she just wasn’t paying attention, but that’s what he did. What she did, rather than drive on, was get out of the car and start a confrontation. Not only did she start a confrontation, she escalated it be involving law enforcement! No Karen, law enforcement is not your “personal customer service for bullying African-Americans” hotline.
More Than Just a Call
So why was the call to law enforcement so much more than that? If you’ve been paying any attention to news at all, you’ll probably recall several instances where law enforcement have abused their power in various ways and violently oppressed black civilians, often murdering them in what can only be described as cold blood. This has been happening for centuries! Lynchings never went away, they were just formalized and are now carried out by law enforcement as a means to terrorize and pacify the population. We should never forget, law enforcement is not there to protect and serve the population, they are there to protect the interests of the state and the wealthy oligarchs who control and influence society from politics to industry. When Amy made her threat to call the police, she was not doing so out of fear, she was doing so out of hatred and spite. She understood full well the overt biases present in law enforcement, she knew that by telling police there was a black man threatening her, that Christian Cooper’s life and well-being would be in jeopardy. Nay, she was hoping for that outcome. That’s probably what sickens me the most; she knew the current state of affairs and attempted to weaponize it to put someone in their place, and for what? For asking her to leash her dog in compliance with the rules? Imagine if police had showed up and arrested, or worse, assaulted and even possibly killed Christian. How would Amy have felt? Honestly, she’d probably feel bad for herself, as she is doing right now. Does she deserve to have her life ruined? Absolutely. She probably has not had to face consequences for any of her actions in so long that she assumed this would be no different. While I disagree with social media justice as a concept, this is just desserts. If you are a friend or family member of Amy Cooper, I hope you continue to shame her and remind her of what she did. This was not a reaction out of fear, it was a calculated series of actions designed to leverage law enforcement biases for the purposes of terrorizing an innocent, black, civilian.
The George Floyd Incident
Less than 24 hours after Amy Cooper made that call, a Minneapolis police officer murdered a black man on video. I did not have the stomach to watch a man get slowly asphyxiated on camera by a police officer. I only watched snippets of the video and that was mostly to confirm what commenters were saying about the incident. Prior to the recording, the police struggled to restrain and get George Floyd into their police vehicle. Their manhood and authority challenged and bruised, they proceeded to put George Floyd “in his place”. Handcuffed and prostrated, the police dug their knees into his neck and he exclaimed that he could not breathe. Rather than letting up or even acknowledging this, the officer remained, for 10 minutes. Slowly crushing his windpipe and snuffing the life out of him. As his life fades, he mutters “mama” with his remaining oxygen. That broke me.
Onlookers shouted at the police to ease up but they, simple-minded, arrogant, and quick to anger, would not be told what to do by civilians. They asserted their authority and needlessly took the life of another man. Having seen similar situations play out in recent years, I have no confidence that these officers will face any serious consequences. After all, in the United States, law enforcement is held to a lower standard than the general population. Armed police officers are apparently more easily frightened than little school girls. Easily triggered and overflowing with type 2 racism, these individuals occupy many ranks of law enforcement and have embedded the institution with their toxins. As of this writing, those officers have been fired but don’t hold out any hope for real prosecutorial action, they will most likely be transferred to another county and endowed with the knowledge they can kill with impunity, will likely continue enacting their agenda where they see fit.
Apologists will say, “it’s just a few bad apples”, how convenient for them to offer only the snippets of sage advice that support their agenda. The saying is, “A few bad apples will ruin the bunch” and that is perhaps a more appropriate summary of what is happening in law enforcement today. Law enforcement has become militarized and developed an adversarial relation with the general population. This “us vs. them” mentality is incredibly counter-productive to the job of policing. More importantly, law enforcement selectively recruit less intelligent individuals, with little individual agency, and a desire for power and control. These phenotypes are exactly the opposite of those we want in our police officers. Officers are expected to conform and all the “good” cops have quit, or have been silenced and are now part of the problem. Take any other individual and put them in the role of those Minneapolis police officers, I’d wager that 99% of the time, George Floyd lives.
What breaks my heart the most is how normalized all of this has become. As I get older, American exceptionalism is no longer a good thing. American exceptionalism, to me, highlights the vast economic inequality, the broken for-profit healthcare system, the systemic oppression of minorities, the political system built for the rich, by the rich.
What happened to George Floyd isn’t an anomaly, it is yet another data point in support of sweeping changes to our law enforcement structure. One day, America may grow the balls needed to enact these changes but after seeing armed white men storm the state house in Lansing, MI and suffer no consequences, then see police suppress and terrorize protestors protesting the unlawful death of George Floyd, I feel we are farther away than ever.