Rush to Judgement
We hear on the TV that most arrests in Ferguson Missouri are of African Americans but we don't ask if the percentage given relates to the percentage of African Americans living there. I don't know the answer, but I'll bet few people bothered to ask themselves because it complicates things and we're looking for "proof" of something we know a priori. Most of us would be very disappointed at anything in the way of opinion or conjecture or documented proof that things aren't the way we thought and perhaps not the way we hoped. We want that cop to be guilty and his whole department complicit. It's plausible after all and that's enough for most of us. Thank god for the law and the courts or we'd become what we think we oppose.
It's well documented by many scientific studies that people will believe a simple, plausible story with few selected supporting facts, or even fallacies for that matter, before they will take the trouble to sort through all the verifiable facts and analyze how they relate to our chosen opinion. Occam's razor cuts both ways and after all, our brains have evolved as machines for jumping to conclusions, not as calculators or statistical tabulators. Hell, I suspect most people simply latch on to the opinions of the mobs they belong to, or aspire to belong to. Far more witches have been burned than have been burned by witches.
I think there's great wisdom that comes with self doubt -- the ability to ask oneself "what if everything I believe is wrong or absurd, or not worth consideration." What if the case is far more complex and the certainties for less clear? If we're lucky we have one of those epiphanic moments when it becomes obvious that we were wrong and we learn from it. We find out someone we were sure was guilty is innocent or vice versa. We find out we're not who we thought we were, that something we believed without question is demonstrably false, that someone or something we had confidence in didn't merit it. We find we've misjudged someone and we're forced, to go out and rage in the storm like Lear. We suffer into truth and the truth is that if justice is to be served, we wait for the evidence and we look at all of it without prejudice. It's not easy.
The simple plausible truth behind the acquittal of O.J. Simpson was that he was the victim of racism. He's black, the LAPD has a history of brutality against minorities, one of the investigators was once heard using the N word and so when his defense attorney told the jury they had to send a message to "the Man" all the endlessly damning evidence was forgotten.
When Trayvon Martin was killed, so many of us, so well aware of racism in small town police departments instantly assumed that a "child" was murdered by some racist intent upon hunting innocent black children and were appalled by the jury's decision, because after all it was impossible that the innocent child jumped out of hiding in the dark at a "creepy guy" 4 inches shorter than him. Teenaged boys never do impulsive things, do they? Impossible because we don't want to consider anything but black and white both in a real and metaphorical sense. We wanted to tie it to our mistrust of guns and laws that had no part in the trial and so we did rightly or wrongly, guilty or innocent -- case closed, minds closed.
When we heard some "child" was shot in Missouri. We saw the inevitable graduation picture wearing a mortarboard hat. It was just so obviously a racially motivated murder to consider otherwise and of course if we want to pause and wait for more than confused and conflicting eye-witness reports we display endless anecdotes about racism in Ferguson. So just as we as good liberals shouted "rush to judgement" at the lengthy Simpson trial, we turned about and rushed to judgement even before any investigation in those other two affairs. Who wants to suffer? Who wants to be seen as a racist?
For those of course, of a different political persuasion, quite the opposite is true and Timothy McVeigh is a hero but Dr. King is not. But enough about Fox News. Enough too about questioning the need for the National Guard to stem the violence -- it's necessary because we think the situation is obvious and we are sure that nothing will be done if we don't demonstrate and exhibit our credentials as racism fighters before we really know what happened. We don't. We've just assumed and just decided what's obvious. We get angry because we assume a cop assumed and because we assumed that cops always assume and we make sure that everyone knows every thing that might be construed as evidence of racism so that we don't pause to reflect that sometimes we're wrong when lives hinge on our being right.
No, it's absolutely certain that someone reading this will call me a racist or apologist for racism because I'm attempting to temper your crowd-sourced certainty. If you do, you're not a liberal nor a defender of human rights or of justice but a prejudiced partisan a long way from wisdom.