Blogger, Please

Over at The Root, Jerry Bembry thinks thinks the cop who pulled his gun is getting a raw deal:

The officer overreacted, and he should be reprimanded. But he wasn't the biggest idiot on the scene. The biggest idiot was the guy who, snowball in hand, reared back and took aim at an armed officer. With Mariano Rivera-like accuracy, he fired a snowball and connected with the officer's face.

Did I mention that the officer, already pissed off, was holding a gun?

In throwing a snowball at an armed, angry man, that man callously put his life--and the lives of everyone else around him--in jeopardy. It's doubtful that he knew, as he threw the snowball, that the guy was a cop. What if he hadn't been a cop, but a passing thug who didn't take too kindly to being disrespected? A thug might have been inclined to light up the clown who threw the snowball at his face, and everyone else around him.

In an era where everyone has a camera, the video of the incident has gone viral. The reaction of the officer has outraged many people. As I read several comments at the end of some of the stories and videos relating to the incident, some of that outrage is misguided.

The officer involved is black, and quite a few commentators thought race had something to do with the incident. One of the comments described it as a typical reaction to an overzealous black cop.

Another called the cop "racist, picking on those white kids. If those kids were black he would have let it go."

My favorite reaction was from someone who wrote that had the incident "been reversed, i.e. a white off-duty cop and a predominately black crowd of snow ball throwers, I'm sure Al Sharpton would be in D.C. right now blowing things out of proportion and making it a racial incident."

This is a textbook case for why I really dislike anything that smacks of strawmanning. Counterarguments that begin with "One of the comments" or "Another" but don't actually cite the commenter, or in this age link to them, leave you to grapple with a paraphrase from a biased party, as opposed to engaging the argument as it was made by its proponent. It's really impossible to take the "racist" charge seriously. Who made it? In what context? It''s like taking a drunk off the street, and making his inebriated blathering the face of your opposition. It's lazy. It's cheap. And from the New York Times to the Washington Post, it happens all the time.

Lazy tactics prop up lazy arguments. I think we can all agree that throwing a snowball at an armed man--cop or otherwise--is dumb as fuck. It's a reckless, arrogant, stupid act that endangers you and everyone in the vicinity. I think we can also agree that yelling "Fuck you pig!" or some such is the kind of thing that makes those of us who live in fear of the police chafe. Lastly, I think, for black people, and especially those of us who've had friends killed by the cops, it's particularly grating to be confronted with the fact that we live under different rules.

But that said, an argument about who was "the bigger idiot" is really beside the point. One idiot lacks home training. The other idiot lacks professional training. One idiot is a dumb-ass kid. But the other idiot is a salaried, pensioned employee of the state, whose job specifically entails not acting like an idiot. One idiot thinks he's empowered to throw snowballs at cops. The other idiot is, as a matter of law, empowered to throw hot-ones. One idiot might ruin your Hummer. The other idiot might ruin your life--and then go to work the next day.

They aren't the same, and soft-peddling the act of drawing a gun in snowball fight in hopes of spiting some stupid kid, is the kind of dumb-ass tribalism that ultimately hurts the tribe. D.C. is a majority black city, and this guy has been on the force for over a decade. If he's acting as he was--on camera--toward a group of predominantly white kids, imagine how he's acted toward black kids over the years. Imagine how he'll act towards your kids in the future.