Thursday, March 22, 2018

Police Shooting of Stephon Clark and Exoneration of Mark Anthony Conditt: Two Stories We Need to Read Side by Side

There are two stories here. These stories unfolded more or less simultaneously in the past several days. We need to read these stories side by side. They are two stories that are part of one story.

If we expect to understand who we are as "the American people" and why "we" have placed the moral monstrosity in the White House, we need to put these two stories side by side and make them talk to each other, ask questions about each other — and highlight the role of white Christianity in placing the moral monstrosity in the White House and sustaining him there, something the media do everything in their power not to discuss intelligently and critically.

Michael S. Linden responds to the New York Times' spin on the story of Mark Anthony Conditt in the preceding tweet:

Manny Fernandez, Adam Goldman and Dave Montgomery quote Jeff Reeb, a neighbor of the Conditt family, on Mark Anthony Conditt's bombing spree:

Jeff Reeb, 75, a neighbor of Mr. Conditt's parents, 
"My summation is it doesn’t make any sense."

The Times reporters sum up Mark Anthony Conditt's story this way:

Mr. Conditt grew up as the quiet, socially awkward oldest child of a devout Christian family that held Bible study groups in their white clapboard house, where an American flag hangs from the front porch.

Here's Amanda Marcotte, who knows Austin well, since she spent quite a few years living there, on the story of Mark Anthony Conditt:

The Austin Stone Community Church, which Conditt and Jensen reportedly attended, is a multi-campus fundamentalist megachurch featuring lots of sermons about sexual morality, arguing that only heterosexual married people should have sex, homosexuality is wrong and abortion is evil. One sermon from the period when Jensen said he and Conditt had attended Austin Stone, for instance, features the preacher railing against women who read "Fifty Shades of Grey," comparing them to the "cows of Bashan" -- a Biblical reference signifying beautiful, pampered possessions -- and telling them that marriage "is not for your happiness." (The church says it can find no record of Conditt or his family.) 
Admittedly that was several years ago, when Conditt was a teenager or a young adult, and it's possible he later changed those views. Still, it's unlikely that a similarly situated Muslim, who had expressed hardline religious beliefs and an aggressive attitude in his youth, wouldn't immediately be regarded as a terrorism suspect after being implicated in a spectacular series of violent crimes. 
Before the bomber's identity was known, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said, "There is no apparent nexus to terrorism at this time." Since then there has been total silence from the White House, which is usually quick to drop the T-word and spread panic anytime an apparent perpetrator is Muslim or foreign-born.

Texas Republican representative Michael McCaul went on television this morning to inform us that Mark Anthony Conditt could not have been a terrorist because, well, he was white . . . and an evangelical Christian from a God-fearing and loving family. He was obviously mentally disturbed — that's the explanation of his otherwise inexplicable behavior. To which one might well respond, 

I don't even know why we're having this conversation. We already KNOW he couldn't have been a terrorist. 
He was a nice quiet nerdy white boy from a good white evangelical Christian home. 
That is the antithesis of everything that terrorism is about, or the antithesis of the breeding ground of terrorism. 
The kind of places that breed terrorism indoctrinate young people from very early on with verses from their scriptures that make them react violently to those who are other and different. 
How can that possibly happen in a good white evangelical Christian family that home-schools its children? 
Just another disturbed young (white, white, white, can't say it enough, can we?) man acting out. Nothing to see here. Move along. 

And then there's the other story that needs to be placed alongside the one above:

Abby Zimet on the recent shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in the backyard of his house in Sacramento, California: 

Police in Sacramento killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark, nicknamed Zoe, Sunday night as he stood in his own backyard behind the house he shared with his grandparents and siblings. Police were responding to a call about someone breaking car windows in the neighborhood when they confronted Clark; because they "feared for their safety," two officers shot him 20 times - 10 times each - within seconds of shouting for him to show his hands and then frantically screaming "Gun! Gun!" After they murdered him, they muted the audio on their body cameras and talked for five more minutes before approaching Clark and handcuffing him as he lay on the ground. They offered no medical help. Once reinforcements arrived, they questioned Clark's grandmother for several hours before telling her that her grandson was dead. He left behind two sons, 3 and 1. 
Newly released footage from the officers' cameras and an overhead helicopter shows a harrowing scene. Police later said the two cops believed Clark had a gun in his hands. Then they said they thought he had a "tool bar." Then, an "object" he "extended in front of him." In fact, Clark had a cell phone. 

Here's Erik Loomis today at Lawyers, Guns & Money on the juxtaposition of these two stories:

P.R. Lockhart on what happened to Stephon Clark in Sacramento: 

Research has shown that there are significant racial disparities in police use of force. While these disparities are most commonly attributed to issues like implicit bias and systemic racism, recent research has also noted that specific factors like high levels of housing segregation and economic inequality also play a role in where police shootings occur and who they affect. 
“It’s not just about how individuals interact, but how society is structured,” Michael Siegel, the author of a recent study examining the relationship between housing segregation and structural inequality to police violence, told the Intercept earlier this month.

CBN News, 17 July 2017

Some people's lives count more than other people's lives. This is a fundamental assumption, an Ur-assumption, running through American culture, and it's related in the most direct way possible to the fact that the moral monstrosity now sits in the White House — and was placed there by white Christian votes. Until we get to the bottom of this, understand this, and, most of all, do something about it, the conditions that placed the moral monstrosity in the White House will continue radically to unravel American democracy, sooner rather than later.

No comments: