We see it in Facilebook memes. It's evident in blog comments. It permeates Faux News, CNN and even on MSNBC. It's a simple dictum. If only people would follow the law, they wouldn't be harassed, profiled or shot. "Can't we all just get along", a statement coming from a man beaten nearly to death, but mimicked as joke by all who think that following the law is some kind of protection against 'the bad'. Think on that for half a second. If only people would follow the law as dictated by the Cop who stops them, they wouldn't be guilty. If only people who commit minor offenses would act guilty, they wouldn't be choked to death, or beaten into the morgue in a jail cell. If only people wouldn't be afraid and run from a gun pointed at them, they would be alive. If only they would be trustworthy, they wouldn't die. If only ...
I'm not going to belabor the well established point that "they" are almost always black or Hispanic, or with vastly unreported frequency, Indigenous Americans. They are not us, and they do not follow "our laws". The implication of this stupid and offensive argument is clear. They shouldn't misbehave and if they do, they deserve what's coming to them. Not because of race, oh no. They deserve it because "they" are them who misbehaved according to us who don't. That is the fine racist candy shell surrounding the gooey shit center of the "obey the law as us un-racist people judge *you*" argument that they should obey the law and all will be well. What the living hell is wrong with those who actually think that a good argument? Walter Scott was shot dead by an asshole cop because his taillights offended the asshole's sensibilities of working?
I had an argument last week with a Godly man who thinks the law is the "The Law", and covers all equally. In the most specious manner possible he is correct. Words on paper are meant to apply to all as passed by our august legislatures. Funny word that, "apply". It doesn't surprise me one bit that a white man with a white god with a white following would hold the idea that the white god is always just in its decree. But god doesn't have to apply judgment until we're dead, or at least it certainly doesn't appear so. So our laws are applied by us, by people, and this is what proves the lie about 'following the law'. It's application is obviously and horrifically different depending on the skin color of those questioned and at what level we meekly agree that "The Law" gets applied.
Application of law is a process. Contain and confine, trial by peers, judgment and sentence. That is the heart of law, and it has been famously said that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than that one innocent man should suffer. I seem to remember a certain 6th amendment that assures a trial and an 8th that protects against cruel and unusual punishment. What we are seeing with increasing frequency is Judge Dredd, where cops are allowed to be unconstitutionally all of judge, jury and executioner. Selling cigarettes becomes a death sentence. Suspicion of smoking cannabis is cause for being beaten to death in a cell. I could now go off on a diatribe about Black Lives Matter and all sorts of political complexity. But that isn't what I'm ranting about here, because that doesn't matter to me half as much as the worshipful and subtle racism we see in defense of our new judicially activated enforcement of what should be law that covers all.
This is the sad union of racial and class bias. Unless the person is homeless, obviously destitute or suffering the effect of massive drug abuse, cops don't shoot white people in the back for running away. Cops don't shoot white people at routine traffic stops. Cops don't beat white women to death for DUI. They don't tackle white high-schoolers in bikinis and grind them painfully into the turf for disorderly conduct. They most pointedly do to blacks and Latinos and Indigenous Americans. That is the racial application of "The Law" that is so offensively defended with the subtle dishonesty of good honest folk.
Don't get me wrong, some of those who are most irritating in this manner are friends and even family. Every time one points this sad fact out, we are reminded that most cops, MOST, are good people. That is, even though they seem remarkably incapable or unwilling to do anything about the bad people who are cops. They take an oath to uphold the Constitution, but when it comes to the authority of their fellows, they fail that oath and are defended by the subtle racist dishonesty that is inherent in the procedure of the application of law. The great white defenders buy into the myth that a uniform, a badge, a gun, and a 'will to serve' confers the authority of Judge Dredd, if not the discernment.
I buy into what I see every day. If broken taillights, mis-switched turn signals and/or arguing with cops was a death sentence, I heartily doubt Bozeman's population would last the year.
(For the record, I started writing this a week ago, but have been too busy to finish. Sue me.)