By now everyone has seen the graphic video of Corporal Eric Casebolt stupidly drawing his weapon on a bunch of unruly black children in bathing suits. The cop resigned Tuesday as a tidal wave of criticism washed over his McKinney Texas police department.
See, doesn’t this prove how cops devalue young black lives? Isn’t this a thankfully less violent example of the hostility between black and blue? The tension that has led to bloodshed in Ferguson, Staten Island, Charleston South Carolina and Baltimore?
But then look again at that same video of the cop drawing his 9mm on the bratty kids. Why weren’t they obeying the cops’ demands to cease and desist? Without sounding too crotchety, in my day that kind of disrespect for authority would have been inconceivable. How much of the blame for many of these tragic deaths are the result of the victim simply disobeying and disrespecting the cops’ authority? Why didn’t Michael Brown listen when the officer questioned him? Couldn’t Eric Garner on Staten Island have easily avoided his fatal confrontation? Or even Walter Scott who got shot in the back in South Carolina. Why did he run? Why did Freddie Gray run in Baltimore? Where were they going?
Two powerful public figures spoke their minds yesterday with diametrically opposed points of view about what ails urban America, and more specifically, why are we suffering this growing gaping divide between cops and civilians? Why so much hostility?
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton waxing philosophical with radio's John Gambling yesterday blaming the disorder on a breakdown in traditional American family values.
“There is just less respect for authority…my average police officer in the street would tell you that he is encountering more resistance to his or her authority and that’s inappropriate because it ratchets up what they have to do to get acquiescence to things they are attempting to enforce.”
The other important public person speaking out on what ails us is the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama.
Peter Baker in today’s Times reports how she spoke passionately at a prep school commencement address Tuesday to the graduating class of black kids from King College Prep High School in her hometown neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
Mrs. Obama told the graduates how even being the first family living in the White House did not protect the Obama’s from the sting of racial misunderstanding, including the “insults and slights” directed at her husband and herself. “Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom? Not enough of a career woman?”
“Folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of uppity-ism. Another noted that I was one of my husband’s 'Cronies of Color'. Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s baby mama.’
The thing about Michelle Obama’s remarks and the police commissioner’s is that they are both right.
There has been a malignant erosion of traditional minority families leading to the kinds of disrespect for authority that Commissioner Bratton feels underlies a lot of the tension between African American youngsters and cops.
But there is racism, inequality of opportunity and racial stereotyping still in America including here in its biggest most important town, New York City.
Now the Commissioner and the First Lady have to join in sending the message that we’re not only going to join the fight for better educational and employment opportunities, but we’re also going to tell our children to respect the rules that have made our system the fairest on the planet.