Both Sides Of The Police Debate Have True And Faux Points

Both Sides Of The Police Debate Have True And Faux Points

Rhetoric is used on both sides of the aisle.

With two recent killings of black men by police and a mass shooting of police by a black man, the conversation of police brutality is back on the table in America. You have groups such as Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter arguing two very different things. The truth is, the propaganda and rhetoric is rampant on both sides.

Black Lives Matter is a group created after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. They have brought the conversation of police brutality into the national spotlight and advocate for police reform. Although Black Lives Matter has created a conversation in this country that needs to be had, it makes some questionable claims.

For example, on its website the group claims that every 28 hours a black man, woman or child is killed by a police officer or some other form of law enforcement. Police departments are not required to submit this data to the federal government, so anybody claiming they know how many people die at the hands of the police should be met with skepticism. However, the Washington Post has been taking a tally and around this time last year, 155 black people were killed by police out of 607 total. That is not nearly one every 28 hours.

Also, less than one-tenth of that total was unarmed, 24 being black. It is important to differentiate between “murder” and “killing.” To murder someone means to kill someone with a malicious intent. A police officer ending the life of someone who has a weapon, in fear for their own life, should not be considered a “murderer” and that person shouldn’t be considered to have been murdered. Yes, 607 people killed by police is a lot, but 85 percent of them were armed. That makes a difference.

That being said, the idea that police officers are murderers runs through the website. On the “National Demand’s” page, for example, they called for the immediate arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. A grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to indict Darren Wilson. Actually, the grand jury found that Michael Brown did in fact try to grab the officer's gun, so Darren was acting in self-defense. Even though a grand jury decided not to prosecute him, Black Lives Matter still wants him arrested.

Overturning the rule of law is a very, very dangerous way to win reform. The people asking for this violation of the rule of law are the ones who should be absolutely against it. You started a movement to protest against the disrespect of rule of law for your own people (that black people are being arrested and unfairly treated by police) and to fix that you’re going to overturn the rule of law for someone else? That makes no sense and completely shatters your argument. Also, police shooting black people isn’t just a matter of prejudice. Roughly 29 percent of Americans killed by the police are black, but so are about 42 percent of cop killers whose race is known.

With all this being said, something still needs to be done. This level of police violence is unique to the United States. In 2013, England and Wales had virtually zero deaths at the hands of police. The Black Lives Matter movement would argue for less police in minority neighborhoods and put that money into improving the community. However, these communities do not need less policing. These people desperately need the police. It should not be considered a right-wing talking point that far more black people are killed by other black people than police officers. What these communities need are less-confrontational, less-institutionally racist policing.

First, America needs to fix its gun problem. Police have to be more careful because there are more guns on the streets of America. In 2014, 46 cops were shot dead and the year before that 52,000 were assaulted. Cops being shot is also unique to the United States. Simple fixes like universal background checks, preventing people with restraining orders filed against them from getting guns, and banning assault rifles could be a huge help. With fewer guns on the streets, cops will be less confrontational.

Second, police precincts need to be more transparent. As of right now, police precincts do not have to report to the federal government how many people died at the hands of their officers. This needs to be changed. Reporting this information would give the federal government a better picture of how many people actually die due to police action and locate where it is unusually high. The federal government could also locate where it is unusually low, find out why that is, and use that information to help other cities. Body cameras should be put on all officers to help both sides. If a body camera was on Darren Wilson, we would all have immediately knew what happened.

Third, police need to be held more accountable. It needs to be easier to fire bad cops. Many of the 12,500 local police departments are tiny and interdisciplinary panels consisting of three fellow officers, one of which can even be appointed by the officer under investigation. If a cop is accused of a crime, the decision of whether to indict him lays with the prosecutor who often works closely with the police, attends barbecues with them, and depends on the support of the police union if he/she wants to be reelected. To be held accountable, complaints should be held by independent arbiters who are brought in from the outside.

Lastly, and hardest, is reversing the militarization of the police. Too many officers see their job as a war on criminals and too many poor neighborhoods see their streets occupied by police. There needs to be more training and less weaponry. A good start would be for the Pentagon to stop handing out military kits to neighborhood police.

In 1980, the amount of raids done by high-security SWAT teams was 3,000 per year and that number has climbed to 50,000 a year, yet crime has fallen over the same period. Police precincts need to understand that their job is less about settling violence but more about social work. In the era of relatively low crime which we are experiencing today, cops are needed more to settle domestic disputes such as house-egging, rather than violent crimes.

Force is also used in low-level offenders. At least half of all Americans shot and killed by police each year are mentally ill. Police officers also spend a lot of time dealing with drug addicts and the enforcement of civil penalties against people who have not paid motoring fines or child support. Such people are not killers or rapists, yet cops often treat everyone as a threat.

Changes are being made. Sue Rahr, the director of Washington state’s police academy, says, “When you approach a situation like RoboCop, you’re going to create hostility that wasn’t there before.” Since 2012, Washington State’s training has emphasized that people can be persuaded to obey commands, not just forced to. Military-style drills have also been ditched.

Ideas like this need to be made in police precincts across the nations. Training police officers to properly adjust to today’s crime climate is a win for individual freedom and we the people. Once again, society works better when people are generally left to their own devices...not living in a police state.

Cover Image Credit: Boing Boing

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The Aziz Ansari Situation Is Called Sexual Coercion, And It's Way Too Common

It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about.

Since the publication of Babe.net’s account of an anonymous woman’s bad date with Aziz Ansari, media, and social sites have been throwing out opinions on what this means for the Me Too movement, and for Ansari’s career.

Many of these opinions range from accusing the woman – referred to as “Grace” in the account – of taking away from actual rape survivors to outright calling her out for being bitter about not being treated like a future girlfriend by Ansari. While this story is very different from the New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein and its discussion on workplace assaults and rape, the story by Babe brings up a more common issue that many women and men who have been in a sexual encounter with another man can relate to.

In the account, the writer talks about how “Grace” felt increasingly uncomfortable as the night went on at Ansari’s apartment. He made sexual advances that were aggressively pushed upon her without her active consent. The article goes into detail about how every advance he made seemed to be rushed and gave her no time or opportunity to feel comfortable and safe enough to decline. She states that she had tried multiple times to non-verbally express her discomfort, but Ansari either didn’t notice or chose to ignore those signs.

“Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points, I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”

Now, this is where things get tricky and many people have put her situation up for debate on whether or not it was an assault. While it may not follow the so-called guidelines that society has set up that define a rape or assault, the way she describes her situation certainly is not consensual in any way.

Sexual coercion is a form of sexual assault and it is harder to identify and prevent it from happening. The reason for that is because we as a society are exposed to sexual coercion almost everywhere, especially in the media and in films.

As shown in many romantic films, the man portrays the go-getter character who’s one goal is to win the girl’s affections, even after being told to back off many times. This kind of harassment is romanticized in a way that shows men that even if a woman says no, they can still eventually get what they want if they try long and hard enough.

The movie "Grease" is a classic and more outright example of enforcing rape culture in this way when one of Danny’s buddies ask, “Did she put up a fight?” in the number “Summer Nights”. The notion that it is more sexually appealing to pursue a woman who might not be interested in having sex, instills patriarchal ideologies into our culture and has men feeling like they are entitled to sex.

When we talk about how something so common and seemingly ordinary is actually problematic, people can’t understand why things need to change. With the Ansari situation, critics of Grace’s story ask why she didn’t just say no and walk out of the situation, or that its normal for girls to feel this way during a hookup, and she should’ve had thicker skin and moved on instead of going to the media. Critics like HLN Anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, brought up victim blaming points like these in an open letter, while also saying that her workplace harassment actually deserves the media attention.

This isn’t some competition on who has been more assaulted than the other. This is a discussion about how we should have a higher standard when it comes to sex, and that standard should be consensual and communicative. There are extreme power dynamics at play that allow men to use that privilege and power over women (and other men) as a way to have sex, even if it’s not explicitly consensual. As a very powerful, influential and supposedly feminist man, Ansari should have understood the responsibly he had and simply asked Grace if she was ok. The absence of a no does not equate an active yes.

As a response to many of Grace’s critics, TBS comedy show host Samantha Bee stated on her show that Ansari’s actions may not be defined explicitly as rape, but that still does not make it acceptable.

“It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about. Any kind of sexual harassment or coercion is unacceptable!”

It really shouldn’t be too much to ask to be treated like a person and have your emotions be validated during something as intimate as sex. If men can't be mature and communicative enough to handle that, maybe they should take some of Samantha Bee’s wise advice and go fuck something else: “May I suggest a coin purse? Or a Ziploc bag full of grape jelly?”

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Donald Trump Is Not A Populist

Trump's style of politics is not even close to populism.

On 8 Jan, President Donald Trump announced that he would be attending this week’s World Economic Forum. The three-day meeting takes place in Switzerland, the banking capital of the world. The W.E.F. “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest,” according to its mission page. Over its 48 years of existence, the forum has become synonymous with the global financial elite.

Attending the meeting in Davos should bite at the fabric of Trumpism. Many have said that Trump ran as a populist, assailing everyone from immigrants to the executives of Goldman Sachs. He won the 2016 election primarily by beating the polls in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that normally vote for Democrats but that sided with Trump’s harder line on free trade that Hillary Clinton’s.

So why would Trump want to be seen with the likes of the CEO of the largest hedge fund in the world and the former president of the European Parliament? He would be the first president to R.S.V.P. to the W.E.F. since Bill Clinton; Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama were concerned that attending would hurt their images. Last year’s speakers railed against protectionism; Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” The globalists in Davos might moderate their talk with Trump, the epitome of protectionism, in the room, but they might also take the opportunity to speak to him directly.

The root of the confusion at Trump's plan to attend is the assumption that Trump is a populist. The phrase “populism” is broad and hard to define. Google defines “populism” as “support for the concerns of ordinary people.” Populists tend to be called extremists, whether they are as far right as French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or leftists like Senator Bernie Sanders. Generally, populists favor a stronger government and distrust all other institutions, including foreign governments. While anti-immigrant sentiment is common among populists, it is more central to populism to rail against the economic elites and globalization. Most of all, populists are stubborn to a fault; they hold true to their positions to the bitter end.

Trump famously began his campaign complaining that Mexican immigrants were overwhelming the country with crime. He also denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) and accused Clinton of being too tied to Wall Street banks. But these are words, not actions.

In a meeting last Tuesday with members of Congress from both parties, Trump said that “we’re gonna do D.A.C.A.,” referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order that Obama signed but Trump rescinded, “and then we’re gonna move on to phase two, which is comprehensive immigration reform.” This seems to cut against Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiment; he more or less assured Democrats that he would sign a bill that translated D.A.C.A. into a law instead of an executive order. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stepped in and informed Trump that the Senate had tried to pass a D.A.C.A.-esque bill before, which then-Sen. Clinton had voted for.

Two days later, Trump had invited Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), both favorable to a humane approach to immigration reform, to further discuss immigration. When the Senators arrived at the White House, they learned that they would be joined by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and White House adviser Steven Miller, two immigration hard-liners. At the meeting, Durbin suggested a way to scale back the diversity visa lottery that Trump has assailed. In return, Durbin suggested favoring third-world nations in Africa and Latin America. Trump, in response, wondered why the United States was so focused on bringing in people from "shithole countries," according to both Graham and Durbin. He said the U.S. should accept more Norwegians and the like.

Many have reflected on whether those comments reflect racist sentiment on Trump's part, but consider this: Cotton, the far-right Senator, was at the Tuesday meeting, but was outnumbered by lawmakers closer to the center on immigration (Miller was not at that meeting). The second meeting saw Graham and Durbin become the smallest voices in the room. It is possible that Trump was simply appealing to his audience, acting tough on immigration, especially from developing countries, simply because he wanted right-wing legislators and advisers to think he was on their side. (On Sunday we saw the benefit of making borderline racist comments only with borderline racists: Cotton and Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.) denied that Trump had suggested that the U.S. should limit immigration from the developing world.)

On his first full day in office, Trump withdrew the United States from T.P.P., a trade deal crafted by Obama binding together twelve nations representing 40% of the world economy. But that didn’t kill the deal; in fact, the other countries might have an easier time negotiating without concerns that Republicans in the American Congress will obstruct it, always a fear in international relations. The Trump administration is also renegotiating N.A.F.T.A. instead of throwing it out like he promised.

In regards to Wall Street, the President has not exactly kept bankers at arm’s length. Five members of his cabinet are alumni of Goldman Sachs. On Wednesday the administration began scaling back regulations authorized by the Community Reinvestment Act, which mandated that banks had to do more to alleviate poverty. And then there's the W.E.F., expected to be attended by leaders of some of the world's biggest banks.

When Trump announced his run for President, the media had become accustomed to labeling candidates: Obama was a reformer, Clinton was establishment, Sanders, by his own admission, was a democratic socialist. Trump was labeled as a populist for lack of a better term because he talked the talk. Now that he has been in office for a year and accomplished remarkably little of the right-wing agenda he espoused during the campaign, many are starting to realize that Trump may not be the populist they thought he was.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any -ism that accurately describes Trump’s ideological engagements because he says different things to different people. In public, he tells his supporters he wants to round up all the immigrants and throw them out of the country; to legislators, he says he wants D.A.C.A. to be enacted as a law. He assures the working class he is on their side; he assures the world economic elite he wants to attend their rich people party.

So what do we call this new style of politics? Perhaps we should call it approval-ism, after Trump’s desire for approval from whomever he is speaking to.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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