by Shawn Meyer
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
I counted. The police yelled over forty times, “Drop the gun. Drop the gun now or we’ll shoot.” When words failed, they tried bean bags. The battered man still wouldn’t release the weapon. Eventually, he was shot in the abdomen, but not until he pointed his gun at an officer. Many will contend, “They would have shot him instantly, without warning, had he been a black man.” There’s only one problem: he was.
So why did officers from Montgomery County, Ohio wait so long and give so many warnings to gun-wielding, black man, James A. Wright in the early morning of Dec. 27, 2014? Is it the same reason a white Down Syndrome man from Maryland who snuck into a movie without a ticket was piled on by police until he died from positional asphyxia? Is it because, as everyone knows, police favor blacks over whites?
Cardinal Richelieu asserted, “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” Indeed, by extracting a sentence from a paragraph, many an honest man has hung.
Extend the principle. Can we not prove practically anything about the world or our country by taking one event out of context? By selecting a single case and universalizing it we could prove the police are racists. Or we could prove they are benevolent servants to all. We could prove that all young black men are thugs. Or we could pull an honor student out of class, put him on display, and demonstrate that young black men are model citizens. It simply depends what or whom you choose to showcase.
It also depends on how you interpret an event, on what particular details you fixate, and what you choose to ignore. One expert race analyst posted these helpful insights to his website, “From what we have ascertained, Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy, Joshua Haas is a racist beast, but all Montgomery County sheriffs deputies are, like all Ohio sheriffs. . . racist hypocrite conservatives think it’s ok for them to carry gun[s], but when a black man exercises his right to carry a gun, it’s pow!” (I’m sure these comments came only after extensive interviews with Officer Hass and members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.) So, in this case, not only do we have broad general denunciations flowing from the interpretation of a single event, the interpretation which supports the generalization is demonstrably dubious.
Now, you may not care that white police and black citizens exchange polite “sir”s, “please”s, and “thank you”s every day with no beatings involved. It might mean zilch to you to learn your neighbor has enjoyed nothing but positive encounters with law enforcement for five decades. Go ahead and stand by your generalizations if you insist. But do the world a favor and realize in the same moment that your generalizations based on anecdotes and video clips don’t have the power to overrule the opposite generalizations of others based on happier anecdotes and video clips.
And while you are realizing things, add this realization in: You could be wrong. Those who wish to manipulate people and distort reality are having an easy time of it. Hit the “record” button for 60 seconds, trim some damning footage from the beginning and maybe some from the end, drop in music to activate the emotions. Now it hardly matters what words you insert. We’ve all read the comments, right? “WTH, dude!” Our epistemologically-handicapped generation will lap it up like hounds on gravy.
Click “play”. Another expert is born.
How euphorically trendy it is for lefties to blurt out charges of systematic racism in the law enforcement community based on watching a half dozen YouTube videos! But, in fact, to make truthful generalizations requires far more effort than most Facebookers wish to exert and more perceptive skill than the average ten of them combine to possess.
A curse of the information age is the assumption that we are entitled to make near-instant judgments on whatever we see and hear. It is as arrogant as it is ubiquitous. For the surplus of information, there is a dearth of prudence. Bits, details and particulars spilling over. Temperance, reason, and caution shoved aside. Do we foolishly imagine we always have everything we need in order to draw valid conclusions? Partner, you don’t know the half of it.
The cleanup crew in Ferguson hadn’t yet hosed the blood out of the street when a leftist acquaintance scowled at me, “With all the historical injustices against blacks, you dare ask me to reserve judgment?” Yes, I do. If you can’t sit still for the facts, you are part of the problem. It’s no small offense to contribute to the erosion of respect for police and the ultimate destabilizing effect on society.
Bumping into a breaking story or viral video, I try to remind myself: Self, I am getting a partial account, possibly produced and edited by someone with an agenda so as to elicit conclusions in the mind of the reader/viewer that may or may not be accurate. Furthermore, any attempt to universalize my interpretation of this particular event is almost certainly unjustified.
Before they foist sweeping generalizations on us, might it be fair to ask the same of those self-identifying progressives who like to chide conservatives for our lack of nuance?
Shawn Meyer, father of seven and husband of one, pastors a small nondenominational church in west central Ohio. As a public speaker with diverse interests, Shawn has trained and lectured for schools, churches, camps, and charitable groups on topics ranging from bioethics to bow hunting. He is also the author of a pair of politically-incorrect children’s books: “Conner’s Big Hunt” and “Conner’s Spring Gobbler.” Boisterously active in politics and cultural reformation from his youth, Shawn’s fighting spirit is inspired by love of God and country.