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04 December, 2014

Loosies, Not the Sky of Diamonds

Plenty of people are posting about racism in law enforcement, as they should. Black and brown men have reasons to worry that don't really affect a white guy like me.

"Like me," including Middle Classness, and it's class and money that I want to speak about, to add to the conversation. Plenty of poor white people also have reason to worry about law being selectively enforced, and force selectively applied, but this post is not about saying white people suffer too.

No, I just want to ask why Mike Brown (alleged cigar thief) and Eric Garner (alleged seller of single cigarettes, or "loosies") met with deadly force in the course of their alleged crimes. Even assuming that the one guy was stealing smokes and the other selling them, it's hard to imagine that these were the most serious crimes of the moment, much less offences so heinous that the perpetrators needed to be shot multiple times or choked to death.

At the same instant when Eric Garner was executed extrajudicially in a part of New York where selling single cigarettes is a survival strategy, in another part of town men who stole billions of dollars, crashed the economy to an extent where selling loosies is a thing, and then extorted the US government for bailouts walk free. Not just free, but assured that they not only will not be stopped and frisked (or, in the 1%-er analogy, forensically audited), but that were a cop to ever lay a hostile hand on them, massive lawsuit-induced windfalls would follow.

Racism is real, even if race is not. White cops using superior numbers or firepower to overwhelm brown suspects is a shame and a problem; ultimately, it's a threat to democracy.

But so is the fact that police attention is strangely affixed on petty crimes. Call in four cops to take down one alleged cigarette seller, but leave the corporate executives alone. Hell, offer the oligarchs any out conceivable: from paying fines with shareholder money, to bankorruptcy protections, to failing to convene a grand jury identify individuals for indictment. They have diamonds on the soles of their shoes, so the criminal justice system shall not touch them; the sky's the limit for them.

Meanwhile, in the mud beneath the lowest societal rungs, poor people die at the hands of the police.

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