A good friend of mine recently included me on the recipient list when he forwarded a very disturbing video. After viewing all 14 minutes of it, I was left wondering what portion of the people who view it find it disturbing for all three of the reasons that I do.
The subject of the video – white Los Angeles police offers chasing a black suspect through a housing project, on foot – is the sort of subject we hear a lot about these days. And the reasons it’s disturbing are familiar.
This particular video combines audio taken from police communication channels with audio and video from a surveillance camera and multiple police body-cams. It appears on the internet courtesy of the New York based Sergeants Benevolent Association, an organization of cops. It’s narrated in large part by podcaster, commentator and author, Colin Flaherty. (Flaherty, whose focus is apparently on black-on-white crime, is the author of books with titles like “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry,” “White Girls Bleed a Lot” and “Into the Cannibals’ Pot.”)
The video shows what a difficult job cops have enforcing the law these days as a result of resistance and disrespect in communities they serve. This video makes that point very effectively – and (I think) disturbingly so. In the video, residents of the housing project call the pursuing police officers “M.**F.**’s. One of the black residents – seemingly nothing more than a by-stander – suddenly pulls out a pistol and shoots one of the pursuing officers.
It’s chilling. It’s disturbing. Today’s cops do face a tough job, and the video makes an important point.
At the same time, I am disturbed by the racist commentary that runs throughout the video. It mimics black accents. It refers to the housing project residents as scam artists and welfare queens, and to males who “bounce from baby-mama to baby-mama” to game the welfare system. It suggests that hostile communities typically take Obamaphone video of arrests because their videos will give them a “payday.” It says that President Obama’s administration granted crime to blacks as an entitlement. It concludes that the one thing a cop is never, ever, allowed to do – because it’s a “firing offense” – is to “make a black kid angry.” Hyperbole and racially charged rhetoric run throughout. I’ve never listened to Flaherty’s podcasts or read any of his books. But I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that his detractors, if not his supporters, accuse him of fomenting white supremacy. At a minimum, I have little doubt that he’s controversial, with both passionate supporters and angry detractors.
That the video is being distributed by the Sergeant’s Benevolent Union, and that it was passed on to me by a good friend who’s a retired cop – makes me wonder whether this is the sort of thing police unions are generally promoting these days – and if so, whether the cops and former cops who promote it see the same racism in it that I see.
Do they see a video like this as part of the problem, or part of the cure, for the abusive treatment cops sometimes get these days? Do they see the video as divisive? Do they see it as likely to increase, or to diminish, perpetuating black resentment of law enforcement?
Here’s a link to the video.
I hope that by providing the link, I don’t get accused of supporting white supremacy or being anti-cop. I feel moved to share the video because of the third thing about it I find disturbing: namely, my concern that among those who view it, some will find it disturbing for revealing the excesses of black communities, some for revealing the excesses of white cops, and hardly anyone for both reasons.
Is it possible to be disturbed by both sides? Have we become so polarized that in order to support one side, we can no longer see the other? I worry about that third thing — polarization –as much as I worry about either disrespect for cops or racial bias. Once again, I hope I’m wrong in thinking hardly anyone else is disturbed by both. If you watch the video and think I’m wrong to worry, I’d love to hear from you.