Category Archives: crime

Bloodlust

This project was rather falling by the wayside even before I went and got myself a full-time job, but I’ve not forgotten about it.

For now, though, I just want to quickly mention this post at my other blog, about the frightening levels of venom, hatred, and bloodlust that have recently been directed at someone merely implicated in the disappearance of a young girl.

The fact that the man hadn’t been charged with any crime, and it hadn’t even been determined whether the missing child’s body had been found, make this case all the more disheartening. But even if it becomes known with certainty that Tia Sharpe died at his hands, he doesn’t deserve to be tortured to the extent that many are already planning for him.

It may be the case that there must be consequences for his actions. But whatever he’s done, he remains a human being. So do those Facebook commenters who deny his humanity and delight in the thought of such “scum” suffering immensely. There are no “others”.

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Trayvon Martin

His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman.

You’d think that when a seventeen-year-old black kid gets shot dead, we could all agree that the situation is unequivocally tragic, even if he hadn’t been both innocent and unarmed.

In case you’re not up to speed, Trayvon Martin was an innocent and unarmed seventeen-year-old black kid who was shot dead recently in Florida. George Zimmerman is the “neighborhood watch captain” who shot him. The hoodie was an item of clothing worn by Trayvon at the time. And the above quote was one of a series of tweets made by Geraldo Rivera about the incident.

He expressed similar sentiments on Fox News, explaining:

I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was… You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta — you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe, well people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant, reflexive action.

The list of situations under which firing a gun directly at somebody is justifiable as an “instant, reflexive action” is, I dare say, an exceedingly short one, and “a young black man wearing a hoodie walking into your line of sight” is not one of them.

Maybe this particular clothing style does have an association, in some parts of the world, with a certain violent gang culture. But even if that’s true, the only acceptable solution is one in which we try to change that culture, not just abandon people to their fate and tell them they should have acted differently to stay out of trouble.

Geraldo has never said, “It’s a simple fact that black people get shot more often, they should learn to adjust,” but the callous victim-blaming is no less insensitive here.

He professes to have seen Trayvon Martin as a “wonderful kid” who “didn’t deserve to die”. But he must have abandoned a certain measure of human empathy a long way behind, to see this kind of senseless killing as inevitable on the basis of some clothes and an accompanying stereotype.

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Lock ’em up and throw away their rights

Yet more plans are being suggested by the British government which will actively widen the gap between the privileged and the unfortunate.

These latest proposals suggest stripping those in prison of even more of whatever rights and human decency remain to them. Convicted criminals may be banned from “claiming compensation for injuries sustained in attacks, in prison or after release”, as well as being denied the right to vote while serving time.

As The Justice Gap points out, the language used by politicians around these issues often serves to place “criminals” in some external category, as being separate from the rest of us and wholly defined by the fact of their having been convicted of some crime. The fact that these are still people we’re talking about is easily forgotten, making the idea of denying them compensation if they’re physically assaulted easier to swallow.

This othering and dehumanisation is even worn as a badge of pride by the people who run the country. The Prime Minister was quoted last year as saying:

It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.

Now, that’s a very unusual thing to have your stomach literally turned by. It seems far more likely that David Cameron is merely strongly against the idea, and used this common idiom to emphasise his point. But the fact that he was so keen to exaggerate his feelings makes it clear that he expects to be praised and admired for taking such a strong, no-nonsense attitude. He finds it a courageous and powerful aspect of his character, to be so sickened by this entire demographic of the citizens whose interests he’s supposed to be serving.

Rights are called rights for a reason. They’re things we’re all supposed to be entitled to, not things we are only granted by the magnanimity of the state.

Clearly there are some individual instances in which restraining some of those rights is currently the best we can make of a bad situation – I’m not arguing that every violent offender should be allowed the unmitigated right to walk the streets.

But to sweepingly deny basic individual liberties to an entire swathe of the population, generalising about every one of them, regardless of personal circumstances, and marginalising this out-group even further for the good of the “society” you’re trying to pretend they’re not a part of? That’s some fine othering, right there.

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