Comment Response on Race Relations and Ferguson Rioting

The following comment was left after my last blog, the first part of the question was easily answered in the previous blog comment, the second part of the question has had me pondering to such a degree that my response somewhat exceeds the scope of a simple comment.

I was just browsing through your weight wallpaper and wondered why it skips from week 17 to week 31, just curious. I was also wondering what your thoughts are on how the rioting in Ferguson will affect race relations in the St. Louis region and across the country.

There were two things that immediately came to mind regarding a response to this comment.  The first thing was that I haven’t necessarily seen the riots and protest going on as being specific to black/white race relations.  Although that may be a component, my perspective has seen the gist of protest as unfair treatment between law enforcement and the black community.   The main reason I haven’t seen the protest as being a purely black & white race issue is because I’ve always seen white people participating in the protest whether in Ferguson or the other main crowd of people which persisted in South St Louis city along Grand Avenue.

What really struck me when watching the overhead helicopter views of the crowds gathered in front of the police station in Ferguson was how few people actually showed up.  Reporters put the estimates at 400-500 people on South Grand and it didn’t look like much more than that in Ferguson.  This blog started as a running blog and as such, in the past year, I’ve ran in races with crowds ranging from 500 to close to 30,000 people with most of those runs being done in St Louis simply because that’s the area I’m from.   Even the Go! St Louis marathon with say, 10-15,000 people packs the roadways from curb to curb and goes on for miles.  The crowds in Ferguson weren’t anywhere close to that.

Ferguson is a little over 8 miles North/Northwest of St Louis city.  I live about 12 miles east of the city.  Collectively, both places make up what’s known as the Metro St. Louis Region.  The population of the St Louis Metropolitan Region is about 2.8 million.  This means that even if as many as 2,800 people showed up for the protest that we’re still only talking about 1/10th of 1% of the population.  This also means that about 99.9% of the people in this area did not participate in the protest.  However, about 100% of the news I saw the night the verdict to acquit officer Darren Wilson was ultimately focused on the destruction.  Here again, not all of the protesters caused damage to property, that was a subset of the protesters.  How many?  I don’t exactly know but, say 10% of that generous 2,800 figure participated in destroying property (280 people),  that would mean 99.99% of the population in this area did not destroy anything.

I remember reading about this incident the day it occurred from the St Louis Post Dispatch (via stltoday.com)  at that time the headline simply read “Ferguson Police Shooting”.   A few days later there was news & subsequently the video released of the robbery which occurred prior to the shooting.  Once the story went national, the headlines were pretty much homogeneous and were along the lines of, “Unarmed Teen Shot by Cop”

The 2nd thing I thought of in response to that comment was that I believe things are better today than they’ve ever been.  Keep in mind, the perspective here is of somebody who’s been around close to half a century.  I interact with people from the black community pretty much every day of my life and never really thought much about it but, after all that’s happened I was curious and a bit more aware of the possibility of my interactions being adversely influenced by these current events.  I would rank the demeanor of the people I encounter in this area to range between nice and extremely nice, with the majority being in that extremely nice category.

From personal experience, I think things were more tense in the 1970s.  I can recall incidents from that time of my life which I remember to this day which I would never classify as being nice.

Again, there is a perspective component to all this and I would argue that overall, things are better today than they’ve ever been.  Go back in time a little more to the 1960’s when you had Civil Rights and the riots in Watt’s.  What happened in Ferguson doesn’t even begin to compare to the destruction that happened in Watt’s, Los Angeles.

Then, go back to the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Back then you could still see segregated bathrooms, segregated water fountains & segregated restaurant seating.

Go back to the 1920’s.  I recently saw a program on the History Channel regarding the Ku Klux Klan which, in the 1920’s had a peak membership of over 4 million people and this is back when the population of the US as a whole was around 106 million.   Fast forward to the early 90s and with almost triple the population the membership level has dropped to between 6,000 and 10,000 active members.  Percentage wise, that’s a reduction of 99.75% (more if you factor in the increased population)

I’m not saying things these days are totally right, perfect or ideal …just better.

I would also hope that the overall trend of history will continue and things will continue to get better.

Anyway, that’s a pretty good fraction of my thoughts which were elicited by the comment.

 

These days, you have to be 18 to vote, 21 to drink so maybe …you should have to be at least 30 years old before being allowed to be employed in a position where part of your responsibility may include taking another human life.

I’m going astray from my original comment response thoughts but, the Michael Brown shooting occurred on August 9th and less than two weeks after that on August 19th, about 4 miles east of where Michael Brown was shot another man by the name of Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by St Louis police.  Unlike the Brown shooting there is full video available of Mr Powell being shot & killed.  Two things that stand out to me in that video is the fact that from the time the police SUV pulled up and first opened their doors until the first shots were fired is about 16 seconds.  The other thing is that I counted 9 shots being fired.  Some reports have cited anywhere from 10 to 12 shots so, maybe some shots audibly overlapped and I missed a couple.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice the police draw their weapons immediately after getting out of their vehicle.  From another stltoday.com article, I’ve read this is due to a 21 foot rule.  Studies have indicated that a physically fit individual with a knife can close 21 feet before an officer can get his gun out which, presumably was why the officers who shot Kajieme Powell pulled their weapons when they did because Mr Powell was holding a knife.

I don’t know anything about police training.  I do know a bit about human neurology and I have read, more than once, that the frontal lobes of the male brain aren’t fully developed until around age 25 (or “well into the third decade of life“) which is why I initially mentioned that age requirement.  The part of the brain we’re talking about is sometimes referred to as being the “executive decision making” part of the brain.  It’s where planning and impulse control take place and are among the last areas of the brain to develop.

If police can remember a 21 foot rule then maybe they could also implement a 2 shot rule.  Maybe once you’ve hit your suspect twice then police can be trained to stop, pause and think.  I don’t know what the stats are here but, Mr. Powell was shot at least 9 times and the last two shots fired were after Mr. Powell was already on the ground.

Dare I say retreat?  Mr Powell wasn’t holding a bazooka or an Uzi, it was a knife.  Maybe after a suspect is already hit twice by gunfire and while the stop, pausing and thinking portion is occurring the police could back off a few feet to help maintain their safety distance.  I’d like to see human life valued as much as possible.  Call it a Respectful Retreat for the sake of Human Life.

idk.  Like I said, zero police training on my part.  I recall in karate that we’re taught that an opponent may be on drugs or crazy and simply inflicting pain may be insufficient so physically breaking or killing the opponent may be necessary but we’re also taught the maxim, karate ni sente nashi, which means there is no first attack in karate.

From this layman’s outside perspective, shooting Mr Powell 9 times 16 seconds after arrival seems excessive.  I think people shot twice probably have a better chance of surviving than people shot 9 times.

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One thought on “Comment Response on Race Relations and Ferguson Rioting

  1. It is important to realize how far we’ve come, awesome that you mentioned that. Some good ideas, I especially like the slowing down to reevaluate the situation (after a shot or two has made contact) and being a certain age before you can be a police officer. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on a difficult situation.

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