I used to be at least somewhat of a fan of Lou Dobbs. I cannot remember why anymore, but what I can tell you is that I began watching his program on Fox Business Network this evening for the first time in a long time, and I will not be doing it again anytime soon. His program this evening mostly centered around the Eric Garner case, and the failure of its grand jury to indict. I am writing this post to vent, and to share some thoughts and perspectives.
First, my disappoint in Lou Dobbs is centered around the firmness of his mental framework for the case. Earlier today, I made a promise to attack ideas instead of people, so in a fragile attempt of holding myself to that, I am going to try to avoid insulting Dobbs while I explore this.
Lou Dobbs seemed adamant to decry the racism concerns in the case by acting in a manner that could be construed as painfully defensive. He attempted to refute the inexcusable brutality of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) repeatedly by re-focusing the blame on the black community. I understand a bit of what could drive him to speak so blindly, because I have felt uncomfortable being portrayed in the role of “oppressor” in the type of rhetoric that has become popular on university campuses. I grew up very, very modestly. My family had no money to send me to college, and I dropped out of high school in my junior year, partially because I was a horrible student anyways and partially to work full-time to help my family pay their bills. It hurts to be told that I am racist because I enjoyed privilege. I was a factory worker until laid off this past October, and I reject that broad application of the term.
All the same, what Lou Dobbs said was incredibly off-base, and alienating to me. First, how are the people existing in the urban enclaves of the black community supposed to be convinced to place their trust in an organization like the NYPD? We have a pretty good idea that it is not the case that black males commit crimes at a rate commensurate to their arrest and incarceration when compared to whites and others. The main difference is likely that they are abjectly persecuted on the streets due to a popular perception that they commit more crimes, propagated by their higher rate of being policed than white kids. I will grant exemption from that particular downward spiral as an example of white privilege.
Another thing that Lou Dobbs would do well to consider, is that with great power, comes great responsibility. If the authority of the NYPD is so compelling that Lou Dobbs thinks Eric Garner “asked for it,” then he should also conclude that NYPD has responsibility commensurate with their authority. They have the tools to not kill the people they try to arrest. The attitude of a person being arrested should never, ever be considered justification for their death, and the authorities conducting the arrest should never be excused for failing to have the humanity to stop choking someone who could not breathe. For that 2,000-year-old philosophical tidbit from Luke 12:48 of power remaining commensurate with responsibility to survive another generation, the NYPD needs to accept that they cannot have only one of the two.
Lou Dobbs provided some benefit this evening, however, as his defensive attempt to blame black culture for Garner’s death laid bare a common failure in the Right wing of politics. He did not try to imagine someone he loved in Garner’s shoes. If he had, it would have been obvious to him that the conduct which killed Garner was horrendous.
For black people to feel safe around police, and for police to earn that trust back, all these things need to stop immediately. White people do not need to accept individually being oppressors to have a d*mned heart and decry blatant injustice towards fellow human beings.
Lou Dobbs went on to criticize Rand Paul for making comments tying in the taxes on cigarettes in New York. While Dobbs jumped on the opportunity to deride Paul as having used Garner’s death for personal gain, he missed the point badly. Paul was basically arguing that people are going to sell cigarettes without tax stamps on them, when the taxes exceed the cost of the cigarettes themselves, and that what Garner was accused of doing was pathetic for police to be pursuing in the first place.
Blog by Brian Whittemore
Photo Courtesy of Penn State – flickr License