Sunday, April 09, 2006

You've Gotta Make Some Noise

There's been a lot of talk about the so-called rioting by Orthodox Chassidim after the arrest of an elderly 75 year old man who was manhandled and abused after he asked for a police officer's badge number. Of course most of the 'rioting' consisted of people standing around their own neighborhood and not getting promptly out of the way when told to do so by police officers along with a few incidents of settings cardboard boxes on fire in the street; nevertheless Jewish leaders have hurried to condemn them, the liberal press that would be nodding sympathetically to stories of police abuse and public protest if the community in case had happened to be Black or Latino quickly tacked on lurid headlines to the whole thing. Jewish opinion as a whole leaned strongly towards condemnation, as Jewish opinion usually does.

But let's consider two cases. In 1986 a group of white teenagers chased Michael Griffith, who was black, onto the Belt Parkway where he was struck by a car and killed. The resulting press and racial tension from the Howard Beach case was the talk of the media for months on end, produced widespread condemnation and brought down Mayor Ed Koch and replaced him with David Dinkins who proved all too willing to tolerate racial violence, as long as it was black on white racial violence.

Only a few days ago, an NYU student named Broderick John Hehman, pictured above, handed a dollar to a homeless man in a wheelchair. Shortly thereafter he was chased by a gang of black teenagers shouting 'Get the White Boy' into the path of a car where he was struck and killed. Hehman had been taking a course on 'Urban Violence in America' before he was killed. His death has been a course in and of itself. The New York Times story did not mention either his race or that of the assailants. The case has barely appeared in the media. There has of course been no racial unrest.

The key difference in those cases is that the influence of the noise a community made resulted in justice given rather than justice defered. Under the Guliani era any restraints on the NYPD were lifted, the civilian complaint review board became a joke and most complaints were never even filed. The Bloomberg era hasn't been much different with politicians believing that fighting crime requires throwing away the rules. It is far from clear that the behavior of the police officers involved will be seriously investigated but it is certain that without the 'riots' there would have been no investigation at all and that is genuinely sad.

It is a sad state of affairs when the law doesn't apply to the authorities unless a segment of the public has to engage in dangerous confrontations with the authorities. It is a demonstration that a negative side-effect of the civil rights era is to reward the squeaky wheels while letting everything else fly. Such a situation transforms a civil society into a bantustan where no one trusts the authorities and protection requires belonging to a visible and voiciferous community willing to fight for its members rights. If Chassidim play by the rules that the liberal Jewish elite have forced Americans to play by, whose fault is that really?


Keliata said...

Great post.

I've read several accounts of these so-called "riots" and based on what I've read it seems more like disorderly conduct than anything else.

I can understand the reaction to hearing that an elderly person (of ANY race or religion) was abused, regardless of the circumstances or if he had been difficult. It's human nature to want to protect the vulnerable in our society such as the elderly and small children.

Asking for an officer's badge number is perfectly reasonable and the over-reaction by police unreasonable. The fact that police manhandled him does not mean he was being difficult and warranted such mistreatment. That's a common misperception people have towards victims of police abuse and misconduct.

Trust me, I am a very mild-mannered person and cops in my city have hassled me without basis in the past; violating all sorts of state and federal freedom of information and freedom of the press laws to making me wait more than an hour for a patrol car to show up after I was shot.

So, for others to say this elderly man somehow got was he was asking for by merely asking for a cop's badge number and asserting his right to complain against the officer is completely unfair.

I think the reason Jews are up in arms over the "riot" are two-fold. One, they feel contempt for Orthodox Jews, especially Chassidim in general. The other being they expect Chassidim to somehow behave better; they show contempt and yet are appalled when they don't live up to their expectations.

But they are human beings after all, and because of the way they dress they are easy prey for criminals of all types, be it hate crimes or crimes in general. The sight of an older person being mistreated might have been perceived as very threatening to them.

The public and police do indeed tend to regard race as a significant factor in how crimes are classified. Years ago, in my city, an elderly Polish couple was brutally murdered by a black handyman. The murders happened in a once Polish neighborhood that is now mostly black.

The couple's son wanted the death penalty. There were certainly the required "special circumstances" to warrant capital murder--double homicide, elderly victims.

The district attorney refused to consider the death penalty though.

Cops have told me of cases in which white crime victims are taunted with cries of "white boy" and similar racist remarks. Have any of the perpetrators been charged federally with hate crimes? No. As a police captain told me, a black person will never, ever, be charged with a hate crime.

Louis De Palma said...

You get a lot of readers.
Its very telling about the apathy of people in that most don't even bother to comment.
People today are not motivated to do anything until the fire is right under their own tuchus and even then its rare, they hope someone else will put it out for them.

Anonymous said...

500,000 illegal aliens marched in Calf. and people did nothing.
The government did nothing.
They allowed it !
People have gone over to the dark side .
Rotten people are getting away with murder and mayhem and its time people began to drop the cowardice and fight once more.

sultan knish said...

yes hate crimes charges have increasingly come to be a political tool for letting political figures demonstrate how tolerant they are, rather than to actually prosecute racially motivated crimes across the board

there has been a good deal of reluctance in attaching hate crimes charges to minority on minority or minority on white racial crimes because it doesn't get good publicity and because of a certain bias among law enforcement and politicians that such laws exist only to protect minorities

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