Saturday, October 5, 2019

Land of the Blind

I will admit that I find the case of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to be interesting. Ms. Guyger was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean, who lived in the same apartment complex as Officer Guyger. Part of me is curious as to why Ms. Guyger was convicted of murder, rather than manslaughter, given that it's pretty much understood that the incident was triggered by Ms. Guyger not realizing that she was on the wrong floor, and thus, not in her own apartment.

And now a new controversy has appeared; one that wouldn't otherwise have occurred to me. At the end of the trial, Brandt Jean, Botham Jean's younger brother, offered Mr. Guyger a hug, which she accepted. The presiding judge, Tammy Kemp, also gave Ms. Guyger a hug. She also gave Ms. Guyger a Bible and took some time to pray with her before she was taken away. This prompted internet commentors to opine on the nature, and the appropriateness, of Black compassion and forgiveness. And the BBC article showcased a few of the likely many Twitter responses to the situation.

This one in particular stood out for me:

The problem is less Amber Guyger's tears than the fact that similar tears from black mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters count for so little. Comforting white pain is a reflex. Rationalizing black pain is too. Until the latter stops the former will deserve condemnation.
If you've been reading Nobody In Particular for any length of time, you likely already know where I'm going with this, so I'll cut to the chase: What good does responding to the comforting of White people with condemnation do? If anything deserves condemnation (and I'm unsure that anything actually does here), I would think that it's the rationalization of Black pain. Is scolding the younger Mr. Jean or Judge Kemp, both of whom are Black, really going to make White people any less likely to rationalize in the future?

True, one can view Mr. Jean as reflexively succumbing to the American cultural norm of condemning overt displays of anger in Black people. And a case can be made that Judge Kemp's actions reflect on a criminal justice system that has been noticeably more lenient on Whites who kill Black people than the reverse. But what will leaning on either of them do to alter those factors? Would withholding hugs from Ms.Guyger make it any more likely that the United States would find "angry Black people" any less threatening, or hold Black people convicted of crimes to the same level of accountability as Whites? I'm dubious about that.

So I don't really see the point of attempting to lever people into a "compassion strike" by smacking them down for the crime of taking "the moral high ground." Although I suppose that it's more likely to be successful than attempting to get everyone else up onto the high ground with them. Which, in the end, may be the problem. The executive director of the Howard Law Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, Justin Hansford, notes that White America doesn't grant the Black community the right to be angry with them for past or current injustices, real and perceived. It's difficult to see why this will change anytime soon, given that accepting Black anger as justified, rather than as acts of aggression, doesn't earn them anything. Casting Black compassion as equally unjustified won't change that calculus.

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