Mike Kueber's Blog

July 31, 2015

Sandra Bland

As with most the white-cop, black-victim stories on Facebook, I initially don’t devote enough energy to learn the details (conveniently, that help me to avoid rushing to judgment), but if stories don’t go away I eventually find myself commenting.  That happened a few days ago regarding Sandra Bland when one of my Facebook friends (and law-school classmate) posted her disgust with some macho cops.  Before I provide our Facebook thread/stream-on-consciousness, I suggest these take-aways:

  1. The race card.  Liberals and the media prefer a narrative of white-cop, black-victim.  If the cop is white, then race is relevant.  If the cop isn’t white, like the Bland case, the Staten Island case, or going back to the white Hispanic neighborhood cop Zimmerman, then race isn’t mentioned.
  2. Resisting arrest. The vast majority of the incidents involve the victim resisting arrest or a lawful order.  A simple solution would be to teach people to not resist arrest.  Instead Bland was taught that she didn’t need to cooperate with a cop other than giving her name and driver’s license.
  3. Black-on-black crime.  Most people believe that cop-on-black violence in only a small fraction of black-on-black violence, yet the media provides only a small fraction of its energy in highlighting and examining the issue of black-on-black crime.  No wonder that race relations in America with a black president are the worst they’ve been in years.

I wonder if any of the people who are so critical of the policemen in these situations have every had a family member who has served in such a capacity.  I’m not sure whether I would sleep easier with a son soldiering in Afghanistan or policing in a rough part of town.  But perhaps most people aren’t as critical of the policemen as the media suggests.  Ordinary people on juries and grand juries often absolve the policemen who has already been convicted in the media.

Facebook thread:

My friendly law-school classmate:  My mama always said something along the lines of big guns on their hips make them think they are big men everywhere. wink emoticon We were talking about this troubling issue about the whole Bland video at work this week. As CNN Commentator Mark Lamont Hill stated, “I refuse to legitimize police violence against people by telling them that if they behave differently, maybe they won’t die . . . maybe you won’t end up on the ground. Yes, there are strategies we can use to survive. But the fact that we live in a world where we have to deploy strategies not to be murdered or killed or assaulted by police unlawfully is absurd.” Trooper Encinia’s attitude that he is entitled to submissive, obsequious, blind obedience to his every comment is what was so disturbing. And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died. His arrest of her was wrong. Plain and simple. And these kinds of arrests happen all the time, but they are not on the national news.

Kueber:  I’m not sure this is much of a story if Bland hadn’t subsequently committed suicide. And I don’t know if the arrest caused the suicide.

My friend:  Did you read what I said? “And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died.” It would not have been “much of a story” unless it was you or one of your kids who was arrested on this bogus stop. She was arrested because the trooper had to prove his dominance and that all should fear and respect him whether he’s being an ass or not and then she was held on a completely made-up-after-the-arrest charge and then she was held in a jail cell for 3 days and then she committed suicide. You want to argue the precipitating event. That is avoiding the point here. The point I was making in this particular post was that we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet of every single police officer no matter what they do. Surely you can agree with that.

Kueber:  A black CNN commentator used terms very similar to describe his view – i.e., you said we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet, while Marc Lamont Hill said we shouldn’t have to kiss the officer’s butt. Of course, I agree with that, but….  about a year ago, I had an experience very similar to Bland’s initial encounter.  Some gruff, old white cop was directing traffic for a massive cop-funeral procession and he suddenly started yelling at me for being in a lane that he wanted empty.  As a lawyer, I knew he was in the wrong and I was mightily tempted to elevate the argument (as lawyers are wont to do when they know they hold the winning hand), but instead I followed the cop’s belittling instructions with only enough talk-back to maintain my self-respect without escalating the matter.  Lamont Hill went on to say, “Black people have a right to assert their dignity in public.”  I felt like asserting my dignity, too, but instead I backed off and came home to write a blistering post to my Facebook wall about the unprofessional cops in SA.

Kueber:  As I thought some more about this matter, I wondered how I would feel if one of my kids was involved, and I’m not sure whether I would be more disappointed in my kid as the cop or my kid as the driver.

My friend:  Mike, spoken as a person of privilege, my dear.  [She loves to accuse me of white, male privilege.] And the reason for noting the race of the CNN commentator? Does that make his statement less or more valid? I just don’t think that the trooper would have been insisting, first of all, that you tell him why you were irritated. That kind of question is manspeak to the little ladies who are supposed to be pleasant to the big man at all times. Okay. You want to argue about whether she should have answered his question about why she was irritated? Or why she wouldn’t put out her cigarette? Or why she was scared of getting out of her car when he was acting like a bonkers macho pig? And I don’t mean pig as in police-speak but in macho-speak. And let me tell you that I actually do have friends who are police officers. And I would be very, very disappointed if they acted like this. And I would be very unhappy if my kids argued with a police officer because I want them to live. Pretty stunning support for why this was such a bad arrest.

A friend of my friend:  Tell it, girl. I’m with you 100%. It seems so obvious to me. We shouldn’t be pointing at Sandra Bland’s behavior as causing this disgrace, both her treatment and the racial hatred that animates so many people in Texas. I can’t even imagine living my entire life with the fear and outrage she must have felt, while smiling and being a “good girl,”

Kueber:  Refusing to look at Sandra Blank’s behavior reminds me of the Bush-43 comment about the soft bigotry of low expectations. “Scared of getting out of her car!” R u kidding?

My friend:  And I am not refusing to look at Bland’s behavior. I looked at it. I watched the video several times. And he had absolutely no reason to threaten to drag her out of her car. She had broken no law that required that kind of response. She hadn’t even “cussed” at him yet, if you want to consider that an arrestable offense WHICH IT IS NOT. Her later outraged response to his outrageous behavior was understandable to me. Not the wisest or most Godly behavior. But understandable. Perhaps if she had licked his boots after she had offended him BY HONESTLY AND DIRECTLY ANSWERING HIS QUESTION AS TO WHY SHE WAS IRRITATED by his bogus stop, then maybe she would have just been humiliated and not arrested. Yeah, I can sure see why he had to abuse, humiliate, and throw her on the ground FOR PULLING OVER BECAUSE HE WAS APPROACHING FAST BEHIND HER and failing to signal a lane change. We need to stop trying to be apologists for what is clearly bogus behavior by the trooper. His arrest warrant was even more bogus because he knew he did not have any real justification for his behavior. NONE. And every time someone supports this arrest by blaming her “behavior,” they add another nail in the coffin of our civil liberties. Now, to go back to the beginning of this string of comments, my post was about how Encinia’s behavior and reactions are reprehensible regardless of whether Sandra Bland died. And yes, this is getting publicity because she died. It is a shame that someone has to die before this kind of issue is discussed. And for those who are posting all those “I support the police” statements, the implication is that police are infallible. They are not. They have hard, scary jobs. I deeply admire the ones who do it well. And when the others screw up they should be called on it. Because they have scary power. So we the people have to make sure they use that power fairly and wisely. And off of my soapbox now. G’nite.

Kueber:  I watched the video for 17 minutes and the crux of the matter seems to be when he asked her to put out her cigarette and she refused.  Although she had the right to refuse that request, he had the right to ask her to get out of her car, and she had no right to refuse that.  From that point on, most legal experts agree that the officer was entitled to take the actions he did, even though Brand sounded confident that she was entitled to sit in her car and say nothing other than “you’re doing all of this because of a traffic ticket.”  This altercation didn’t happen because of the lane change; it happened because of how Bland responded to the traffic stop.  Encinia did not threaten to drag Bland out of her car until she refused his polite request that she get out of her car. You mentioned the danger to our civil liberties; do you consider an individual’s right to immediately challenge an overreaching authority figure (cop/fireman, teacher/principal, captain of ship or plane) to be an important civil liberty? Both you and Lamont Hill express your distaste for kissing the ass/boots of an officer, but I wonder what that has to do with an officer politely asking you to put out your cigarette. And finally, I noticed that the officer’s name is rarely used, and I wonder if that is because it doesn’t fit the preferred liberal/media narrative of the privileged white authority figure abusively dominating the oppressed black person. Reminds me of the media’s need to characterize George Zimmerman as a white Hispanic.

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