Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Words to Fear

I wonder, is there a dialogue of the deaf here in that, very often, African-Americans will say "we feel jeopardized, we feel we're in jeopardy in the presence of police if there's a traffic stop," and the police say, "but by your very saying that, you are jeopardizing police officers on the job." And we can't seem to get off that spot often.
Robert Siegel. Week In Politics: Deadly Sniper Attack On Dallas Police
Mr. Siegel's comment, made to Jonathan Capehart and David Brooks, caught me off-guard. I'd never heard that police felt that fear of them was itself a reason for them to be afraid of others. And so I went looking for some reference to the phenomenon online. I didn't find one. But I did find some other things, like a chart that shows that taxi drivers and chauffeurs have significantly higher rates of on-the-job homicide than police officers do, claiming the top spot for "job you're most likely to be murdered doing" by a wide margin.

By the same token, I don't worry too much about being shot by a police officer. Mainly because I'm well of the fact that traffic accidents kill many more people than homicides in general do, let alone bad shootings by police officers. And do my share of driving, easily spending more than an hour on the road every weekday, and often racking up that much or more on weekend days. I also live in a neighborhood where there is little police presence. I think about the only time I've ever made eye contact with a local police officer was the last time I had jury duty.

But killings of Black men that later (or immediately) turn out to be suspect, and the killings of police officers make headlines. And although I have taken to heart the idea that you have to worry about something once it stops making the front page, for many people, the fact that these events take over the news cycles for days and weeks after they happen becomes defacto proof that they're constant threats. And I wonder to what degree that that, in and of itself, drive the problem.

So never found the evidence that I was looking for of Mr. Siegel's dialogue of the deaf. But it seems that there's good reason to suspect that the dialog of dread is very real, and very overstated.

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