The video of a McKinney, Texas, police officer slamming a 15-year-old black girl to the ground and pointing his gun at unarmed teen boys has, unsurprisingly, elicited strong reactions. Here are a few that might help you make sense of this incident.
Kirsten West Savali at The Root comments on gender dynamics at play in the video:
"Yes, it was painful to watch the boys restrained in handcuffs ... Still, it is the young girl, forced by her hair to the ground as she screamed for her mother, that chilled me the most. It's the pleasure the white officer seemed to take from exerting power over her black body — as adult men, both black and white, stood by and did nothing — that enraged me."
Stephen W. Thrasher at The Guardian also expressed feelings along these lines:
"The video made me cry because it showed me how black children are not allowed to play. How they're not allowed to just be fucking kids. How their play becomes criminalized and how they're socialized to become black adults who internalize that their very breathing selves are criminal."
Over at the Daily Beast, Arthur Chu writes about the white teenager who filmed the incident and the privilege of being "invisible" to law enforcement:
"In the 'heat of the moment,' when cops come to assess a potentially dangerous situation, they'll target whomever seems disruptive or out of place. And when you're the privileged race, you're never the one who's out of place.
Privilege means getting arrested is a matter of choice.
You can get arrested if you stand up and confront cops who are arresting the protesters — or the 14-year-old partygoers — next to you. But, otherwise, you can wander around as you please, observing events as a 'bystander' at your leisure.
Privilege means being presumed not dangerous until proven harmful, not innocent until proven guilty, and not shoved down to the ground and restrained, in Casebolt's words, 'until we get this figured out.' "
Emory law professor Dorothy Brown has an answer to those claiming that race has nothing to do with what happened in McKinney:
"Here's how the white movie would play out. First, it is quite possible that the 911 call is never made. Second, if 911 is called, Casebolt doesn't view the kids as thugs, but he sees them as his own children, or his nieces and nephews and talks to them appropriately. If the teenagers don't obey his command, nobody thinks anything of it. What teenager ever listens to authority?
Nothing to see here; no video; no movie; and most importantly no cop suspended, no career in jeopardy."
A few weeks ago, many compared the seemingly lax police response to the biker gang shootout in Waco with militarized police tactics on display in Baltimore. Similar observations are being made this week. Here's Jon Levine at Mic:
"The behavior shown by officers would, however, be almost unthinkable toward a group of white suspects as the example of the Texas biker gang clearly demonstrates. These kinds of disparities delegitimize police everywhere and a better approach is sorely needed."
Our own Gene Demby wrote about the racially fraught history of public pools, as captured in the book Contested Waters by historian Jeff Wiltse:
"Whites in many cases literally beat blacks out of the water at gender-integrated pools because they would not permit black men to interact with white women at such intimate public spaces," Wiltse writes ... Campaigns by civil rights groups like the NAACP to integrate public pools often turned very, very ugly. "Groups for and against segregation threw rocks and tomatoes at one another, swung bats and fists, and even stabbed and shot at each other," Wiltse wrote.
Over at the Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum writes about how the sales of private pools boomed after bans on racial segregation like the type Gene describes:
Whatever took place in McKinney on Friday, it occurred against this backdrop of the privatization of once-public facilities, giving residents the expectation of control over who sunbathes or doggie-paddles alongside them. Even if some of the teens were residents, and others possessed valid guest passes, as some insisted they did, the presence of 'multiple juveniles ... who do not live in the area' clearly triggered alarm."