Home/Rod Dreher/The Problem Is Not Racist Authority

The Problem Is Not Racist Authority

Which of these two videos do you find more disturbing? The first one was taken recently at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy. Look:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLP1GHpijpk?rel=0&w=520&h=330]

The second one, which you have no doubt seen because it has received national media attention:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBSrccdaqXo?rel=0&w=520&h=330]

The sheriff’s deputy, Ben Fields, was later fired. From the NYT:

The deputy’s dismissal came after department officials conducted an internal review that, according to the sheriff, found that Deputy Fields had used a maneuver that violated the agency’s training and procedural standards. But Sheriff Lott also criticized the student, a sophomore, in harsh tones for “having started this whole incident with her actions.”

Deputy Fields, who could not be reached for comment, was called to an Algebra 1 class on Monday morning after, according to witnesses and law enforcement officials, the student refused her teacher’s requests to stop using her cellphone. After the student refused to leave the classroom, Deputy Fields forced her from her desk by flipping it before he pulled and threw her toward the front of the room.

Now the out-of-control Obama administration is conducting a civil rights investigation into the deputy’s actions, which could result in federal charges lodged against him. According to the sheriff who fired him, Fields has been in a long-term relationship with an African-American woman. Some kind of racist he is.

Two black TV personalities, Raven-Symoné and CNN’s Don Lemon, faced a huge social media backlash for criticizing the teenage girl. If my smart-aleck daughter had behaved that way in a classroom, and refused a deputy’s orders to get up and leave, I would buy him dinner for treating her that way.

Which of these two videos represents the greater threat to society, the behavior of the Chicago students, or the behavior of the South Carolina cop?

Even if one concedes that the cop overreacted, there’s no question in my mind which one is by far the worst. God help that poor Chicago teacher, Ms. Cox. You would have to be crazy to want to teach (“teach”) in a school (“school”) like that.

We can’t deny that the racist use of power by authority exists, and is a problem. When authority — the authority of law enforcement, of educational institutions, of religious institutions, and so forth — is abused by those who hold power, then they must be held accountable. The worse problem, though, as we see in the Chicago video (the fear in the eyes of the teacher is both heartbreaking and infuriating) is a total lack of respect for authority. Any authority.

UPDATE: A reader responds to this post in an e-mail, which I’ve ever so slightly altered with asterisks:

I hope your children are taken away from you very soon and placed with someone who does not condone assaulting them.

Christ, you’re an a**hole.

Dan Adams
Systems Administrator
Hawley, LLC

Thank you, Dan Adams, for showing your hand. I am pleased to know that you would have the state seize my children over my having expressed hypothetical sympathy for the cop. Left-wing tyrant that you and your ilk are.

UPDATE.2: Dan Adams writes back:

Left-Wing Tyrant checking in here. I am at a complete loss how you can claim to follow “The Prince of Peace” and yet condone this vicious, unprovoked *assault* on an orphaned black teenager.

The fact that you laughingly consider rewarding someone for throwing your own children to the ground in that manner is incredibly disturbing and frankly, unhinged. I stand by what I said and I advise you seek professional help before you ever do that to those who call you “Father”. How would your wife feel if she read this post?

And yes, if parents will not protect their own children from physical harm, the State should.

As an aside, people like you who claim Christ but condone child abuse are why I lost my faith.

And people like you are why even though I have big problems with organized conservatism, I have no faith at all in liberalism.

UPDATE.3: “Jones” shoots to the top of My Favorite Commenter list:

Wow, this is an insipid conversation. Have resisted the urge to comment but can’t anymore. Lesson one of this thread is that most Americans now lack the rudimentary understanding required to maintain a civilized society. They have no idea what it takes. They believe civilization simply springs forth like blossoms after the rain. They should read, or re-read, Nietzsche.

Worse, these attitudes are morally disgusting. They’re morally disgusting because they refuse to even acknowledge, let alone make, any hard choices. Instead of acknowledging hard choices, the American citizen uses his social media capacities to loudly declare that he is good and to show that he can express outrage at the right moments with the rest of the herd. This is not moral judgment, it’s just self-gratification.

There’s an incredible quote from Tolstoy’s War and Peace that sums it all up. Rod, you should really find it, because you will find yourself having to reach for it over and over again.

Somewhere in the book, almost as an aside, a character observes about upper class women that they would be really upset over seeing the slightest harm done to an animal first-hand, but would later that same night enjoy a steak dinner with great relish.

Our society is now rife with that same kind of moral failure, that incomprehension of what it really takes to create this little world you enjoy so much, that is only forgivable in young children.

Most of these insipid comments are about the precise degree of force the officer should have used. As if that has any bearing on anything. In practice applying rules requires discretion. There is no way to eliminate it completely. Sometimes officers will go over the line. They are human beings.

If you resist the orders of law enforcement, you invite the use of force against yourself. If you don’t know or understand this, you deserve to find out. In every court in the land, if you violate the orders of the court and create a disturbance — irrespective of anything having to do with the outcome of your case — you will be found in criminal contempt of court and thrown in jail. If you pull a Kim Davis and defy a court order, you will be thrown in jail.

Courts have great power and discretion over finding people in contempt, because it is essential to make the system work. Making the system work is a goal that is completely independent of, and far more important than, any particular substantive rule. Therefore disobeying a police officer is a grave offense regardless of the situation or context. And if you do it you invite force in response. What did you think police officers were for, giving directions?

Anyone with an ounce of g*ddamn experience in public schools sympathizes with the cop. The rest don’t have the decency to keep their worthless opinion to themselves.

If you make it miserable for people to do things they have to do anyway, if you make it impossible to be a police officer without putting yourself at serious risk just for trying to do your job, people will stop wanting to do that job. They will stop wanting to police your sh*tty society.

If you go down that route, you will only get what you will deserve. You will find out what life is like in my country, Pakistan, where if someone robs you, you don’t call the police, you round up a bunch of guys on the street to go after them. Except you won’t be in this situation because it’s a third-world country. No, it will be for the far stupider reason that you were too f*cking squeamish to run a civilization.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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