There's still the strange belief among some people that police only do bad things to black folk. When I was on Chris Hayes the other night, some commentators thought the initial stop was racially biased. Chris himself questioned whether a white person would have been stopped for a seat-belt violation. I find that crazy talk. There was so much bad going on in that shooting that to be distracted by the initial stop seems to miss the greater point. I know the vast majority of cops don't give a damn about your race. And the idea that white people don't get stopped for seat-belt violations is also demonstrably false. (If you want to download and read a large and rather academic pdf report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the matter, knock yourself out.)
Bad things do not only happen to black people. Most bad shootings don't become issues till there's unrest and/or Al Sharpton raises a fuss. And sometimes, a fuss should be raised. (And the last time the Rev tried to help some poor white guy who claimed he was brutalized by police, well, Sharpton sure picked the wrong white guy.)
I've written a few times times about police killing white people, first on this blog in 2008. And then in 2009 there was the horrible police f*ck-up that resulted in police shooting and killing Rev. Jonathan Ayers. This was never big news. (In fact, to my dismay, my limited account of Ayer's death seems to be the most extensive on record.)
I'm not saying race never matters, but cops are not shooting black people because they're black. Cops are not stopping black drivers for seat-belt violations because they're black (though police may be searching your car for drugs after that stop because you're black). To believe that race is the issue in policing ignores and won't solve the problem of people of all races who are wrongfully shot (or tased, or maced) by police. The issues have less to with race than with bad training and police officers making bad split-second decisions.
So here's a black cop shooting Bobby Dean Canipe, an unarmed white person (and a 70-year-old disabled vet at that).
Clearly in hindsight this is not a good shooting. It's a traffic stop and an old guy with a cane. And yet when Canipe gets out of his pick-up truck, on the highway, and I see a long hard object turn toward my face -- and keep in mind I'm watching a youtube video and I *know* it's not going to be a gun -- I felt my ass pucker.
Would a reasonable officer have feared for his or life in that situation? Yeah, potentially, probably, I think so.
Sure it would have been great if the cop had known it was a cane. It also would have been great if the guy hadn't gotten out of his truck and reached for his cane.
A mistake. But I think a reasonable one. I'd let the cop off.
[Hat tip to a commenter for bring this shooting to my attention.)