Thursday, August 14

Ferguson, Missouri Rioters: You Missed the Problem

Michael Brown is Black. Which is entirely beside the point.

Your outrage about this week's events in Ferguson, Missouri, should be just as white-hot if Michael Brown were Hispanic. Or Chinese. Or Amish. Or a Golden Retriever.
Spot the thug.
(Photo of Ferguson, Missouri police in full military gear,
by Whitney Curtis / The New York Times)

Because the point ought to be: Thuggery is bad. Shooting people in the back is bad. Living in a police state is bad. Bullying cops are bad. And thuggery, not racism, is what killed Michael White.

You think I'm going to call Michael White a thug. You're wrong. Michael White is a sassy teenager. The cop who shot him is a thug.

I'm a law-abiding woman of Swedish extraction who has never so much as shoplifted a breadcrumb. Yet every time I see a police car, I slow down -- even when I'm below the speed limit. Each time I pass through security at the airport, my heart beats a little faster. If I see a security guard at the mall, I pull my bags, and my children, close.

I know that people with authority have a propensity to abuse it. And that authorities who give into that temptation overwhelmingly use it to abuse people who they believe will cower -- or worse, who they believe should cower. Women. Children. Teenagers. People with darker skin. Jews. Short people. Thin people. Fat people. Homeless people. Geeky people. Anyone -- in short -- who fails to show proper respect for their power.

So yes, they shot Michael White. He's a mouthy, overweight, Black teenager who had the audacity to talk back when informed he wasn't allowed to walk in the street. Four strikes. 

Bullying is a mental illness, and human society has a weird willingness to arm and empower people with this particular disease. Bullies are evil. They're evil when they wear badges. They're evil when they bully their employees, their students, or clerks. They're evil when they swing nunchucks or wave a gun or pull a knife. They're evil when they're pretty girls mocking awkward classmates in the cafeteria. They're evil when they're gay men mocking fatter gay men.

Bullies come in all colors. And the fact that lots of people are bullied more when their skin has more melanin is just a small part of the problem. The larger problem we should be addressing is Thuggery. Thug cops -- like the entire camo-clad Ferguson police force -- need to have their weapons and their power dismantled. Every power-mad thug needs disarming -- and some intensive psychotherapy. At least. Bullying -- because it's a manifestation of distorted pride -- is the root of all evil.

Solve that condition, and you fix most of the problems that bedevil this entire planet.