The US riots

The current situation in the United States deserves some comment primarily because of the greater context behind the riots. It is always easy to dismiss the actions of an individual or group as an indication of a broader stereotype of a people or society.

Further, it all comes down to “We are the good guys and you/they are the evil ones.” For example, it is both ironic and laughable to hear the government and people of China talk about racism and discrimination in the US. Forbes magazine, April 13, 2020: “Guangzhou officials announced that all residents of African descent—about 4,500 people—must quarantine for 14 days “regardless of their previous circumstances or how long they have been in Guangzhou, adding that African residents’ homes will be monitored with tracking devices that will alert officials if they “open the door.”

Of course, “China has denied these allegations of racism, saying that Africans in Guangzhou are not being targeted.” Except occasionally for Filipinos and, of course, always the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.

Data on US police shootings and killings along racial lines can be used on any side of the argument by selective interpretation. In the instant case, one of the four officers on duty during the death of George Floyd is Tou Thao, a Hmong American. Activists describe him as “a symbol of Asian American complicity in anti-blackness.”

Recently, “Asian Americans see racism and discrimination amid coronavirus.” So the Chinese “blame” the blacks. The “Americans” blame the Asians, and everyone blames the “whites.” Racism is complicated. To make matters more confusing, we have learned that race is actually a “social construct,” meaning not all blacks, Asians, or whatever “race” share the same DNA.

A person can pretty much legally and socially choose whatever “race” he/she desires. “Germans, Greeks, Irish, Italians, and Spaniards have all—either legally or as matter of public opinion—been excluded from the “white” category at some point.

In the US, law-enforcement officers are shielded by the court-established—not by law—“qualified immunity” doctrine. This states that government officials cannot be personally sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity, unless their actions violated “clearly-established” federal law or constitutional rights. Also, if they thought that what they were doing was legal, they are protected. In effect, qualified immunity automatically assumes the officer acted properly, which is much different than the legal concept of “innocent until proven guilty.”

The result is that unless a court finds their action illegal, law-enforcement officers can’t be held accountable for discretionary actions done in the performance of their duty. In the Floyd case, the police officer Derek Chauvin had 18 complaints for excessive force filed against him. In 2006, Chauvin was one of several officers involved in the fatal shooting of a man who stabbed others. The family of the deceased did not have any recourse because of Chauvin’s “qualified immunity.” While Chauvin may have acted properly—or not—the local prosecutor decided not to file charges, a grand jury declined to indict, and the case was ended.

US President Dwight Eisenhower said, “You cannot change people’s hearts merely by laws”; to which Dr. Martin Luther King replied: “It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated.” We teach our children that actions have consequences but they soon learn that bad actions do not necessarily result in bad consequences. A ticket for illegal parking violation might be solved by a generous bribe.

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