Five Policeman Dead- Is Empathy A Zero Sum Game?

As many may know, five Dallas policemen are dead after snipers fired on police during a peaceful protest.

The cases of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling got little sympathy as it was, and now their deaths are overshadowed. The death of the Dallas policemen is undoubtedly a tragedy, but it brings up another issue.

I was reading a cracked article that a man wrote about being raped by a woman. I am currently at work and I am hesitant to type rape into a search, therefore I will add the link later.

The man made the point that he understood women get raped and that he was not trying to use his issue to detract from their issues. He made the point that sympathy for one group is not always antithetical to sympathy for another. Empathy is not a limited resource that we must devote only to one cause.

I find people always try to derail arguments by appealing to this zero sum mentality.

“Black people always complain about racism, but what about the racism my people face.”

“Women say they’re victims of sexual assault, but what about men?”

If people apply the zero sum mentality to this week’s incidents, then all sympathy will go to the policemen, and the two men killed earlier this week won’t get any.

The five policemen deserve our sympathy, so do Castille and Sterling.

Peaceful protest against police brutality is not meant to imply that all cops are racist or poorly trained. The peaceful protests are seeking justice for what was done and better training and evaluation of police officers at an institutional level. I am sure none of them condone the shooting. Why would they? It detracts from their efforts and creates more sympathy for the institution they are protesting against.

As this issue unfolds, let’s see if the zero sum mentality reigns supreme.


The Black Death

“Heard about Philando Castille and Alton Sterling shootings and I’m not even surprised anymore. Let’s see if any of the cops are actually punished for it, or just end up getting paid vacation and a bonus through a gofundme like Darren Wilson did.”

I posted this status to my personal facebook page earlier. Honestly, I know I should be full of rage at the two police shootings of unarmed black men this week, but I think I’m sadly becoming numb to them. I already know all the excuses the apologists are going to throw out.

“The one guy was a sex offender anyway.”

Of course people think someone has to be a saint to live. No one is saying Sterling was an upstanding citizen. The question here is did he deserve to die at this point and time. Was anything he did at that point and time worthy of execution. He was not a known criminal who the police had the authority to kill on site, or someone who was already wanted in connection with another crime. Trayvon Martin may have been caught with weed at school, but that doesn’t convert to being deserving of death when buying arizona and skittles. We are dealing with human beings, not checklists.

“We don’t have all the facts folks, let’s not jump to conclusions.”

A good principle, but often not applied well. Even in the case of the Walter Scott, where there was a video showing Scott get gunned down in the back by a cop, people still used this excuse. Even when we see Castillo strapped into his seat, with a seat belt, and bleeding out, people will still say we don’t have all the facts and can’t judge the policeman prematurely. Castillo was pulled over for a BROKEN TAILLIGHT. He has no criminal record. There was no warrant for an arrest. Castillo told the cop that he had a gun, which he was licensed to carry. The cop told him to put his hands, up, then told him to get his identification. Then shot Castillo when he got his identification. You can hear the panic in the cop’s voice. He is meant to be calm under pressure, well trained. I don’t see that reflected here. I see a jittery man who is panicking more than Castillo’s girlfriend is.

I am grateful that she recorded the incident, because if she didn’t I am sure there would be a lot more people assuming Castillo deserved to die.

People generally think it is okay to assume the victim was guilty, but it is not okay to use the evidence at hand to argue that they were likely innocent.

“White people get killed by cops too, why do we have to focus on black people? That’s race baiting”

If people would be bothered to do a two minute google search, they would see that black people are killed at a disproportionate rate. 31% of police victims, while we are 13% of the population. Those numbers don’t add up right? Maybe apologists will say we deserve it. Do you think Castillo deserved it?

“The cop in the Castille shooting sounds scared and sorry.”

That doesn’t change what happened. A crime was committed, and being remorseful does not mean that the cop should walk free. That isn’t how the legal system works.

“Not all cops are bad.”

No one is arguing all cops are racist or poorly trained. However, there is a growing trend (as evidenced by statistics, not just news coverage) and it is time that a cop faces consequences for his actions. Additionally, changes need to be instituted for better training for policemen and less profiling. A stop for a broken taillight should not have escalated to the point where a cop shoots someone four times. Especially if Castille advised the cop that he has a licensed firearm.

I’m pretty sure some or all of the officers involved will have money donated through a GoFundMe campaign and there is a good chance that some or all of them may be acquitted or face little jail time for their crimes.

Our anger, our “prayers” mean nothing. We need real action. We need to see accountability in the system. If not, this will keep happening. More outrage will poor out and nothing will change. Apologists and gofundmes will reign supreme.

Darren Wilson and Colour-Blind Racism


Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in 2014, now lives on the outskirts of Missouri . After killing an unarmed black teenager, Wilson received support from the public, who raised nearly $500,000 for him through a GoFundMe campaign. Mike Brown wasn’t a saint, and it is possible that he did attack Wilson, like Wilson said he did.

People always love to say we should not let the media vilify someone. We should let the jury make their decision. However, this logic does not seem to apply for the people who raised money for Wilson ahead of his trial. There is a disturbing trend where police murders of black males are always defended and the public views the cop as a hero, even before any facts come to light. We are just violent thugs that needed to be taken down. That is how we’ve been viewed for a long time, and the continuing strength of this image is a testament to the power of America’s racist legacy.

I came across this New Yorker interview of Darren Wilson, where he discusses some of his views concerning race and racism in Missouri. I always expected that his racial beliefs, like those of his supporters, would be anchored in colour-blind racism. I was right. Colour-blind racism, as I have discussed before, is a post-Civil rights belief that racism is now eliminated and that all races receive the same treatment in society. Colour-blind racists will often isolate racism to a fringe, a few outspoken bigots or organizations, while denying the presence of lingering institutional racism. Well documented gaps in achievement between whites and minorities in America are entirely the result of minority work ethic, according to colour-blind racists. Wilson’s thoughts on race serve as a perfect example of this mindset.

Firstly, he believes that Brown was wrapped in a culture that is “everywhere in the inner cities”. “Inner city” is often used as a euphemism for poor parts of a city populated mostly by minorities. When asked if the lack of jobs in Ferguson contributes to crime, Wilson denies that and says the lack of initiative to work is the problem. In his eyes, the (mostly black) people in Ferguson are just too lazy to work hard and get jobs. Wilson also believes that the only people affected by racism are those who lived through the civil rights era. Everyone else is just using it as an excuse for criminal behaviour. First checkmark for colour-blind racism.

The next checkmark comes when the interviewer asks Wilson about the systemic racism highlighted by a Justice Department Report. The report includes statistics on how black drivers were searched for contraband at a higher rate (by percentage of blacks, not population) than whites. Meanwhile, they possessed contraband less often, 26% less to be exact. Wilson says he has never read the report, but also argues that the statistics could “fit whatever agenda you want”. As I’ve discussed before, bigots always view any move towards equality as an “agenda”. Meanwhile bigoted policies are viewed as natural. While Wilson concedes that there are a few racist cops, the proverbial bad apples, he simply does not believe that the Justice Department’s report has any merit. Although he has not read it and has no facts to support his view.

This is the man who was given nearly half a million dollars by the public so he could buy a new home with his wife, who is also a cop. This is the man who the public and other police officers continue to send letters of support to. Sometimes, I truly hate America.