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117 Responses

  1. amandaw
    amandaw April 25, 2008 at 1:02 pm |

    On the one hand: holy shit. On the other: not fucking surprised. My (white) family grew up in poverty and has had its bundle of run-ins with the police and the justice system, so I knew on a personal level how fukked up the police and courts are from a very young age. But, our problems weren’t fucking shootings. It wasn’t violence. I suppose it was the white privileged family’s version of police brutality — without the brutality.

    Just, what the fuck? How can any person with any one drop of compassion in their rotted soul honestly say that no wrong was done?

    Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be.

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  2. Astraea
    Astraea April 25, 2008 at 1:05 pm |

    Crap, I lost my comment.

    Great post. This is just sickening, but as amandaw said, sadly not surprising. Police are out of control. And the Judge? It’s like he was just looking for reasons to rule as he wanted. “Carelesses is not a crime”? WTF!? Where did he get his law degree? Thanks for posting about this and bringing it to our attention.

    (One nitpick: “The black men . . . and all their women . . . ” it looks like just accidentally awkward wording, but it was jarring.)

  3. punkrockhockeymom
    punkrockhockeymom April 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm |

    Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be

    Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

  4. kiki
    kiki April 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm |

    Too much, too damn much. Okay….it’s Friday night and I’m going to get a drink. I’m living out side of the US right now and every time I read news from home I wonder what I’ll be taking my kids back to. Come on people, we can do better than this…can’t we? Please?

  5. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm |

    On the Canadian news they said he was shot FIFTY times. My boyfriend and I were like, wait, how can that *not* be excessive force?

    What a cute baby. What a horrible story.

  6. brendancalling
    brendancalling April 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm |

    disgraceful. I hope the family appeals.

  7. shah8
    shah8 April 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm |

    I really wonder about Hillary Clinton’s supporters sometimes on exactly this topic. A just society reaches everyone, and feminism is a useful tool to percieve institutionalized injustice–which is, in one way or another, about unrighteous control of the masses by the few. However, it doesn’t seem apparent to them (perhaps they just refuse to recognize it) just how much of a political zombie Hillary is currently, nor how much the justification of her continued campaign is inherently about disenfranchment. What also flies right by them is that Hillary is proving that there is no longer an overwhelming block of the racist populist vote anymores. Do any of you guys really get that essential fucked up’edness? Instead of one of Karl Rove’s politicians using the patented get 50% +1 vote (or close enough to steal at any rate) and failing, it’s Hillary Clinton who’s proving that.

    Anyways, when I tally up genuine feminist cred? Hillary is too damn close to Maggie Thatcher, for all of her nice speeches on global women’s rights. She hasn’t exactly fought very hard for the average woman, and she certainly has supported actions that have hurt women around the world, if implicitly–through iraq sanctions, iraq war, welfare reform, and bankruptcy reform for starters.

    Feminism is not about who has what gonads, it’s about defeating bad social constructs and getting everyone to see each other and their talents for who and what they are. It is especially not about vicarious senses of empowerment.

  8. Smartpatrol
    Smartpatrol April 25, 2008 at 1:37 pm |

    There’s a riot goin’ on. & if there isn’t, there f**king ought to be.

  9. strawberrygrrl
    strawberrygrrl April 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    Thank you for posting on this. I’ve visited other feminist blogs several times since the verdict was announced and am disappointed that it hasn’t been mentioned on those sites. This is ABSOLUTELY a feminist issue.

  10. thordora
    thordora April 25, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    This made me incredibly sad and then incredibly angry all at once. How on earth ANY person can judge that many gunshots as a mistake or carelessness I do not know.

    This is not justice, for anyone.

  11. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 25, 2008 at 2:47 pm |

    I was struck by how the reporting of the judge’s words sounded:

    Justice Arthur Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution’s case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses. He also cited the demeanor of some witnesses on the stand.

    To me that reads as “black people can’t be trusted because they’re criminals and I don’t like the way they talk to me so I refuse to listen.”

    Ugh.

  12. mk
    mk April 25, 2008 at 2:53 pm |

    I just finished participating in a shadow jury study for this case. As participants, we were given the text from news stories about the trial, direct testimony and arguments, and ultimately court transcripts. (I think I might still have the transcript they gave us if anyone’s interested.) After each session, we were asked to rate a number of things–how convincing the witnesses had been, who we believed was leading in the case, the verdict we believed should be given. And for every single section I received, I rated the prosecution’s case extremely strong, yet rated my confidence that this party would ultimately win at 50% (the lowest possible option).

    I don’t still have access to the news articles they had us read, but I distinctly remember one with the angle that the prosecution was charging the police with some kind of conspiracy, which seemed bizarre to me in reading the evidence and testimony.

  13. Rachel
    Rachel April 25, 2008 at 2:56 pm |

    I know this is not the point of this post, but oh, my heart aches for that sweet baby and her mother.

  14. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 3:00 pm |

    Damn straight, this is a feminist issue. In part because it happens to women of color too. And if not, it happens to their loved ones, fathers, brothers (in one case I know one woman who lost two brothers to police violence)

    Margaret Mitchell, Kathryn Johnston, Tyisha Miller, just for starters. You don’t know these women? You can try Googling. Except for Johnston, no prosecutions and two detectives plead out on Johnston with a third one currently on trial right now in Atlanta. If you read Johnston’s case, it will really make you sick. Not that many others don’t, but a 92-year-old woman shot at 30 + times and left dying on her own home floor from six gunshot wounds while the detectives brought drugs in to her house to plant in her basement. They’d broken into her home on a falsified warrant. Two months earlier, 80-year-old Francis Thompson was almost shot to death also by Atlanta’s narcotics officers. She was in her bed when the police broke into her house and she pulled a cap pistol her family gave her for protection. The reason for the raid? The narcotics officers watched her house and saw Black people carrying things going in and out over a couple of days. Well guess what? Her son had died and they were visiting his grieving mother after the funeral.

    I was acquainted with Mitchell, who was homeless and I’ll never believe she tried to harm an officer unless she really believed her life and security was at stake and you had conflicting stories involving officers. I never met Miller but she was the motivating force behind the work I’ve done for the past 10 years (this year) up to today.

    White men and women get shot too, though in several fatal shootings locally, they were both believed or actually identified as Latino. Their relatives are devastated too, and there’s a sense that it’s almost on one level more of a shock to them. But when it happens to your family, it’s a total nightmare and I think the faux trials like in the case of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell cases just make that worse, not better. There’s more prosecutions with the NYPD b/c they do the process through criminal grand juries, not through prosecutors like in many other places.

    There’s a lot to say on Bell and other cases but I’m still processing it. I fully expected the acquittals. The feds won’t get involved unless the people in NYC really speak out on this and protest. Though they asked the department for a suspension in its administrative process which is standard for a probe done by them but their criteria for filing civil rights violation charges is quite a bit more stringent than the state’s.

    I really wonder about Hillary Clinton’s supporters sometimes on exactly this topic.

    I ask myself this every single day. About all the candidates.

  15. Astraea
    Astraea April 25, 2008 at 3:00 pm |

    FashionablyEvil, yeah, good point. “Demeanor” is such a dog whistle. I guess they just weren’t articulate enough.

    What an asshole.

  16. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 3:08 pm |

    Justice Arthur Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution’s case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses. He also cited the demeanor of some witnesses on the stand.

    To me that reads as “black people can’t be trusted because they’re criminals and I don’t like the way they talk to me so I refuse to listen.”

    You know what’s interesting? He was never able to even have the opportunity to make similar statements about the officers’ stories. Not that he wouldn’t vote to acquit but one of the reasons I’m fairly sure the officers didn’t actually testify if that they had at the grand jury and that testimony (which was read at trial) could have been used to impeach them. Because you know what? I doubt their stories would still be the same. And the officers never had to be cross-examined which would subject them to more rigorous scrutiny than either the grand jury or the investigations, though the prosecutors weren’t that impressive. I’ve seen prosecutions in cases like these and they’re always half-assed.

    I’ve read transcripts of interviews of police officers in shootings and the most disturbing thing about them is how willing the detectives who are supposed to be factfinders spoon feed them information to help them build viable stories. I’ve blogged extensively on local shootings, using transcripts and statements and I’ve noticed that even with the contradictions so blatent there are always attempts to minimize those among officer accounts and maximize those among civilian witness accounts. Categorizations of poor civilians, people of color and entire communities as people who can’t be trusted to tell the truth on their face.

    The NYPD will continue to have shootings like this as it has particularly involving its special unit officers.

    What did amaze me is how they couldn’t even dig up an officer (besides one who testified and wasn’t charged) who would even testify on the stand that the officers had identified themselves beforehand. Not even the lieutenant, the same guy that hid underneath the dashboard while his officers were shooting at Bell and each other. If they were in such mortal peril, why is their supervisor hiding?

  17. NancyP
    NancyP April 25, 2008 at 3:14 pm |

    I don’t see this as *primarily* a feminist issue, but the subdivision of justice issues doesn’t mean that there isn’t overlap, nor that activists on issue A can’t be active and passionate on issue B. Who wouldn’t be moved by this injustice? The bottom line is, we are all human, whatever demographic we fit in, and we can look to make others’ injustices as right as can be done (not very far in this case) and prevent future injustice as best we can.

  18. Kai
    Kai April 25, 2008 at 3:19 pm |

    Thanks for posting this, Holly. You’ve been a real hero around here lately.

    By complete coincidence, two nights ago I found myself sitting at a bar in Westchester next to one of the lead lawyers in the trial; indeed he was defending the cop who reloaded his weapon and emptied a second clip into the car. This lawyer was already celebrating; he was drinking martinis and boasting that it was over and the defense had won. I sat quietly and stared at my food as my stomach churned. The lawyer bragged to the bartender that the defense had successfully discredited the prosecution’s witnesses as drug dealers and drunks. He said the defense had made the case that when you’re firing at a car, the explosive impacts of bullets on the car give you the visual impression that there is return fire coming back at you, which explains why they kept on firing at unarmed men. He said that the cop who had fired 31 times was so flooded with adrenaline that he did not remember reloading and erroneously thought his gun had jammed which is why he kept pulling the trigger. It was big laughs and toasts all around.

    This is what happens when the humanity of some is valued over the humanity of others, in ways large and small. This is why I talk incessantly about the cognitive indoctrination and perceptual prisms which are so central to racist socialization. We are bombarded all our lives with cultural propaganda which dehumanizes people of color in general and injects a fear of black men in particular into our society’s very brain stem. That’s how it works. One day, you’re a young child watching Saturday morning cartoons in which racial stereotypes are exploited for humor; the next thing you know, you’re a scared cop pumping bullets into a black man, or a judge giving leniency to that cop, or a society with a prison system which looks like ours.

  19. annalouise
    annalouise April 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm |

    I didn’t realize he had a daughter. so sad.

    I wonder what would happen if I went up to some (white) guys in a car, shot my gun empyt, reloaded, and shot some more. I wonder if a sympathetic judge would decide I had no malicious intent and find me not guilty.

  20. amandaw
    amandaw April 25, 2008 at 3:24 pm |

    Can this be appealed at all?

  21. charles
    charles April 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm |

    thank you so much to everyone at feministe for practicing an inclusive version of feminism, which includes issues like this.

  22. Grandpa Dinosaur
    Grandpa Dinosaur April 25, 2008 at 3:26 pm |

    When I found out the conclusion, I wanted to run out of the room crying. That is so sad! And they had a baby!

    Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be.

    *nods head*

  23. Pizza Diavola
    Pizza Diavola April 25, 2008 at 3:27 pm |

    It was big laughs and toasts all around.

    That’s just sickening.

  24. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 25, 2008 at 3:28 pm |

    And the officers never had to be cross-examined which would subject them to more rigorous scrutiny than either the grand jury or the investigations, though the prosecutors weren’t that impressive. I’ve seen prosecutions in cases like these and they’re always half-assed.

    Radfem, I’m kind of confused by this statement. I mean, it’s certainly true that the detectives weren’t cross-examined, but it’s their constitutional right to not testify. Am I missing something?

  25. punkrockhockeymom
    punkrockhockeymom April 25, 2008 at 3:30 pm |

    Kai at #19:

    This is brilliant.

    This is why I talk incessantly about the cognitive indoctrination and perceptual prisms which are so central to racist socialization. We are bombarded all our lives with cultural propaganda which dehumanizes people of color in general and injects a fear of black men in particular into our society’s very brain stem. That’s how it works. One day, you’re a young child watching Saturday morning cartoons in which racial stereotypes are exploited for humor; the next thing you know, you’re a scared cop pumping bullets into a black man, or a judge giving leniency to that cop, or a society with a prison system which looks like ours.

    May I quote you on my blog later?

  26. Gina
    Gina April 25, 2008 at 3:33 pm |

    ugh. Why is our country so fucked up?

  27. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe April 25, 2008 at 3:48 pm |

    disgraceful. I hope the family appeals.

    Can this appealed at all?

    Not really. An acquittal at a criminal trial means the end of criminal proceedings; it cannot be reversed on appeal.

    But there are two paths open to Bell’s survivors: a civil suit, and a federal prosecution against the cops for violating Bell’s civil rights (i.e., his right not to be killed).

    The latter is how the thugs in blue who beat up Rodney King went to jail after being acquitted in the first (state) trial (which led to riots). But I wouldn’t count on a federal prosecution with the current Oval Office gang.

  28. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 25, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    The NYPD is also holding off on its internal investigation pending possible federal charges. Not sure how that might play out.

  29. Rachel
    Rachel April 25, 2008 at 3:57 pm |

    He said that the cop who had fired 31 times was so flooded with adrenaline that he did not remember reloading and erroneously thought his gun had jammed which is why he kept pulling the trigger.

    Oh, KAI. No. That is just horrifying. I don’t know anything about guns, but that positively beggars belief. Actually, no, what beggars belief is that such an explanation could hold water in any court.

  30. Sniper
    Sniper April 25, 2008 at 4:01 pm |

    Some writers might point to the fact that Sean Bell lay dead outside of a strip club in Queens where he was having his bachelor party, to his arrest record, or to his blood alcohol level. They could bring up the ugly, misogynist fact that one of Bell’s two friends previously pled guilty to hitting the mother of his child

    Last I heard, none of these behaviors were punishable by death by firing squad.

  31. Jill
    Jill April 25, 2008 at 4:01 pm | *

    Even sadder: Every damn person I talked to in New York knew this was going to happen. Every last one. No one even considered that the cops would be found guilty. Last night, before the verdict was in, Al Sharpton was already on the news promising that there wouldn’t be riots when the cops got off. That kind of resignation — the total understanding that justice is just not ever going to be done under these circumstances, and there’s no point in trying to fight it — is, to me, the saddest thing about this case.

  32. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 4:19 pm |

    Wow, Kai. But the lawyers, they knew. Most attorneys who defend officers have had their defenses validated time and time again. Here, we had police officers celebrate and hi-five and joke after shooting a Black woman 12 times (out of anywhere between 24-35 bullets). She probably never knew what hit her as I suspect she was experiencing a seizure.

    This is what happens when the humanity of some is valued over the humanity of others, in ways large and small. This is why I talk incessantly about the cognitive indoctrination and perceptual prisms which are so central to racist socialization. We are bombarded all our lives with cultural propaganda which dehumanizes people of color in general and injects a fear of black men in particular into our society’s very brain stem. That’s how it works. One day, you’re a young child watching Saturday morning cartoons in which racial stereotypes are exploited for humor; the next thing you know, you’re a scared cop pumping bullets into a black man, or a judge giving leniency to that cop, or a society with a prison system which looks like ours.</blockquote.

    Word. And I think you hit on one reason why issues like what’s on this thread intersect with issues on the Marcotte threads.

    Radfem, I’m kind of confused by this statement. I mean, it’s certainly true that the detectives weren’t cross-examined, but it’s their constitutional right to not testify. Am I missing something?

    That’s true. But there’s a right and a choice to exercise that right and they chose to exercise it. I believe because they were concerned that they would face cross-examination albeit probably in a half-assed manner. They probably realized they didn’t have to testify and that it would only hurt them if they did. They weren’t going to take any chances even with the deck stacked in their favor.

    The only time a police officer can be compelled to give a statement is during an administrative investigation in most places. If he doesn’t, he can be fired. That said, because it could potentially conflict with Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, nothing in the administrative questioning can be used for a criminal investigation.

    The NYPD is also holding off on its internal investigation pending possible federal charges. Not sure how that might play out.

    I would guess that the federal agencies are waiting to see what the response in NYC is to the verdict. They tend to respond if there’s a lot of protesting as opposed to when there’s not. Two examples of the former and the latter is when they filed civil rights charges in the Rodney King beating but didn’t in the case of a sheriff deputy in my area. I’ve been there, done that when it comes to dealing with the U.S. Attorney’s office which makes these decisions and it’s not particularly strong in that area certainly not under Bush.

    If the administrative investigation and/or discipline has been suspended, they are conducting a probe of some sort. In states where there’s set timelines for disciplining officers for misconduct, a federal agency being involved is a waiver of any timeline restriction.

    Can this be appealed at all?

    Acquittals can’t be appealed AFAIK.

  33. Sarah J
    Sarah J April 25, 2008 at 4:20 pm |

    Thanks, Holly.

  34. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 4:22 pm |

    Ooops messed up the blockquote.

    This is what happens when the humanity of some is valued over the humanity of others, in ways large and small. This is why I talk incessantly about the cognitive indoctrination and perceptual prisms which are so central to racist socialization. We are bombarded all our lives with cultural propaganda which dehumanizes people of color in general and injects a fear of black men in particular into our society’s very brain stem. That’s how it works. One day, you’re a young child watching Saturday morning cartoons in which racial stereotypes are exploited for humor; the next thing you know, you’re a scared cop pumping bullets into a black man, or a judge giving leniency to that cop, or a society with a prison system which looks like ours.

    .

    Word. And I think you hit on one reason why issues like what’s on this thread intersect with issues on the Marcotte threads.

    Radfem, I’m kind of confused by this statement. I mean, it’s certainly true that the detectives weren’t cross-examined, but it’s their constitutional right to not testify. Am I missing something?

    That’s true. But there’s a right and a choice to exercise that right and they chose to exercise it. I believe because they were concerned that they would face cross-examination albeit probably in a half-assed manner. They probably realized they didn’t have to testify and that it would only hurt them if they did. They weren’t going to take any chances even with the deck stacked in their favor.

    The only time a police officer can be compelled to give a statement is during an administrative investigation in most places. If he doesn’t, he can be fired. That said, because it could potentially conflict with Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, nothing in the administrative questioning can be used for a criminal investigation.

    The NYPD is also holding off on its internal investigation pending possible federal charges. Not sure how that might play out.

    I would guess that the federal agencies are waiting to see what the response in NYC is to the verdict. They tend to respond if there’s a lot of protesting as opposed to when there’s not. Two examples of the former and the latter is when they filed civil rights charges in the Rodney King beating but didn’t in the case of a sheriff deputy in my area. I’ve been there, done that when it comes to dealing with the U.S. Attorney’s office which makes these decisions and it’s not particularly strong in that area certainly not under Bush.

    If the administrative investigation and/or discipline has been suspended, they are conducting a probe of some sort. In states where there’s set timelines for disciplining officers for misconduct, a federal agency being involved is a waiver of any timeline restriction.

    Can this be appealed at all?

    Acquittals can’t be appealed AFAIK.

  35. Kristin
    Kristin April 25, 2008 at 4:54 pm |

    Thanks for posting this, Holly. You’ve been a real hero around here lately.

    Yep. Agreed. Thanks, Holly.

  36. libdevil
    libdevil April 25, 2008 at 5:06 pm |

    Acquitals cannot be appealed. Civil suits and federal civil rights trials almost certainly loom, however.

  37. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne April 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm |

    Interesting that the officers decided to forego a jury trial and have the case decided by a judge. I guess when you know you’re in the wrong, you don’t want to take a chance that a jury of your peers will realize it, too.

  38. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 5:14 pm |

    Yes, civil suits can be filed in state or federal court depending on the laws used to file under. I’d imagine that there will be lawsuits filed in this case. Although I’m not sure what the statute of limitations are for civil suits in New York and the process.

    Federal civil rights trials, two words: Pressure on.

    Speaking of the DOJ, they’re on my site right now. Hmm.

  39. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 5:16 pm |

    Interesting that the officers decided to forego a jury trial and have the case decided by a judge. I guess when you know you’re in the wrong, you don’t want to take a chance that a jury of your peers will realize it, too.

    That was after their attempts to get the trial moved upstate say to Albany (as happened with Diallo) was rejected by the judge. There was no way in hell they were going to be tried by anything but an all-White jury filled with conservatives and preferably retired law enforcement officers or relatives of law enforcement officers. It worked for Lawrence Powell, etal in Simi Valley.

  40. zuzu
    zuzu April 25, 2008 at 5:45 pm |

    Civil suits and federal civil rights trials almost certainly loom, however.

    Yes. And to be perfectly honest, a civil rights suit that results in an order requiring the NYPD to change its procedures will do a lot more for the next guy in this situation than merely putting the individual officers behind bars (not that the two types of suits are mutually exclusive; they’re not at all). Because the NYPD isn’t going to change on its own just because three officers are convicted. But if the City is held liable for the officers’ actions because this was part of a policy, pattern or practice and the court imposes some kind of injunctive relief (i.e., forbidding them from doing something/requiring them to do something), then things will change.

    Also: the burden of proof in a criminal trial is much, much higher than in a civil trial. It’s just harder for the prosecution to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, especially in a line-of-duty case. But in a civil trial, the burden is lower and even a settlement may result in significant changes.

  41. unrelatedwaffle
    unrelatedwaffle April 25, 2008 at 5:47 pm |

    I once read a brilliant book called Bint Arab, and in it there’s an interview with an Arab-American feminist activist. The interviewer asked her how she could possibly choose among the many problems in the world to work towards solving, and she replied that everyone in a progressive movement is attempting the same goal: equality, and you take your own little corner and try to make it a better place.

    That really rang true with me. I wouldn’t say so much that countering racism is a PART of feminism, but that they are both movements with the same aims: a just, equal society. That’s the issue that the right-wing doesn’t want you to talk about. We’re all taught in school that all men (and women!) are created equal, are endowed with inalienable rights, deserve to pursue happiness and love and have enough food to eat. But the right doesn’t believe in those ideals because they honestly believe that, by virtue of their birth and damnable luck, they are better than everyone else.

    I’m reminded of the scene in Pan’s Labyrinth where Capitan Vidal sneers at the very idea of the rebels: how DARE they believe that everyone is equal? He would never compare himself to those lowlifes.

    Equality, equality, equality. If you don’t want it, you’re not only anti-American, but anti-civilization. Mankind created society to escape the unfair world of the beasts, not to emulate it.

  42. Danakitty
    Danakitty April 25, 2008 at 6:04 pm |

    This stuff happens a lot in Chicago too. Between 2002-2004, more than 10,000 complaints were filed against police officers for brutality. Only 18 resulted in disciplinary action.

    I’ve read/heard quite a few cases of cops murdering citizens, such as shooting a teenager in the back because he “resisted arrest.”

    Craig Futterman, who has done studies of police brutality in Chicago, told me: “…if we investigated crime like we investigate police brutality in Chicago, we’d never solve a case.”

    Racism is a huge issue in Chicago, particularly because we have a lot of white, racist cops patrolling mostly black or Latino communities. Of course, everyone in City Hall ignores when people get shot by the cops, and shove more officers in there when kids get killed by gang members, while cutting funding for programs like CeaseFire. It totally exacerbates the situation.

    Personally, I think cops shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns that fire off that many rounds, and the use of a weapon should be a last resort. I heard a story of a cop who saw a man breaking into her car, and instead of calling for backup or talking to the man, she shot him in the head. Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

    And this definitely is a feminist issue. This sort of abuse of power is the sort of thing we should be speaking out against.

  43. pumpkin
    pumpkin April 25, 2008 at 6:24 pm |

    I think one of the most troubling things I’ve heard surrounding the trial – among many, expertly highlighted by everyone above – is the assumption that this cannot be racially motivated because two of the defendant-cops weren’t white. Somehow it’s cleansed of racial bias. I just want to get off my chest just how much that bothers me: this man lost his life because of assumptions about race that made the police jump to the (bigoted) conclusions that they used to justify shooting him over and over again. If you hold racially-based prejudices about a person, it doesn’t matter in the least what ethnicity you are, particularly if you’re given what appears to be free rein with your gun.

    Also distressing: the police spokesman who said something to the effect of “There are no winners. There are no losers.” If that really is how he analyses this, we’re in more trouble than ever.

  44. season of the bitch » Racism
    season of the bitch » Racism April 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm |

    […] to Holly at Feministe for continuing to make that blog worth reading, btw. Literally each time I think I […]

  45. Radfem
    Radfem April 25, 2008 at 6:42 pm |

    Chicago is a bad one. High shooting rate (as opposed to the NYC which actually has a fatal shooting rate below the national average (at about .25/1000 officers though I suspect it’s overrepresented in shootings involving special unit officers and racial disprportion) and they cover for each other very well. There’s been a lot of issues with the integrity of confessions though I think a lot of that was in Cook County.

  46. marie
    marie April 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm |

    As a white New Yorker, I was stunned by this decision. I truly thought the cops would be found guilty on some level. I kept thinking about the past violence – Abner Louima, Amadu Diallo, etc.

    That being said, as a Hillary supporter I don’t understand the intrigue in what I think about this case. I can see this as a feminist issue for women of color, one in which can be tied into the percentages of black men in prison compared with other ethinicities. I don’t see the judge’s remarks as victim blaming on par with women’s issues. How can past criminal records be compared with some of the tactics used against women, i.e. she dressed sexy therefore she was raped.

    The other thing that disturbs me is the automatic reaction that black people will turn violent and riot. Talk about prejudice on both the part of white people and black leaders.

  47. Lauren
    Lauren April 25, 2008 at 7:31 pm |

    The “demeanor”? Oh my fucking god.

  48. the fshk blog » quickies: all feminist edition

    […] + Speaking of racism, Holly at Feministe writes about feminism and the Sean Bell trial verdict. […]

  49. Maegan la Mala
    Maegan la Mala April 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm |

    It’s true what Radfem says about the pressure being on the citizenry of NYC to get the Feds to do anything. Anthony Baez’s mother and other mothers of police brutality victims had to get their asses arrested, protest, sit-in and never stop to get Officer Livoti up on Federal Civil Rights charges.

    How is the fact that mothers have to yell in the streets to get attention when their children are killed not a feminist issue?

    It is

  50. Foxxx
    Foxxx April 25, 2008 at 10:47 pm |

    This is NOT a feminst issue. This is a race issue.

    I don’t care whether this guy was a feminist or not,he should not have been shot.

    A woman should not be raped, shot, hated, denied a job, regardless of her racism.

    Racism and sexism are separate issues. Every feminist I know is a committed anti-racist, but that isn’t a necessary qualification for her being treated fairly.

  51. mk
    mk April 26, 2008 at 12:09 am |

    Foxxx, how do you know that those folks aren’t committed anti-racists because of their feminism, or vice-versa? Racism and sexism aren’t always separate issues. All those delightful -isms and -phobias are interrelated in very insidious ways because they’re all about privilege and access to power.

  52. mk
    mk April 26, 2008 at 12:09 am |

    Crap. Dangling tag. “Because” was supposed to be the only word in italics.

  53. littlem
    littlem April 26, 2008 at 12:33 am |

    Anyone for an amicus brief on a Section 1983 suit?

    ‘Scuse me for a second. *throws up on courthouse steps*

    This is NOT a feminst issue. This is a race issue.

    Taking bets that you’re not a woman of color. Beyond that I’m not going to engage, ’cause the level of reductivism is … oh, didn’t even realize you’re not even bothering to proofread. Never mind.

    I’m going to take the rest of what I have to say about your update over to the other 300+ comment post, Holly, ’cause there haven’t been any deaths that I’ve seen – yet – recently – as a result of the point that I’m about to make, but

    anyone who doesn’t see the parallel between this

    The “demeanor”? Oh my fucking god.

    and

    “can’t engage with WoC when they’re angry”
    “can’t really talk about this unless it’s approached in a calm manner”

    — and I’ll bet you all *know* the recent (and, I hope, ongoing, until some more people open their eyes around here) debacle to which I refer — is

    really. kidding. themselves.

    P.S. Bets on how many officers opted for a bench as opposed to a jury trial because they knew the judges’ politics from previous opinions, not because they feared their peers. Line for the over-under forms to the left.

    P.P.S. Nice post, Holly.

  54. BAC
    BAC April 26, 2008 at 1:36 am |

    This is a feminist issue, and one I’ve been following. How anyone can think shooting an unarmed man 50 times is justifiable is beyond me.

    BAC

  55. Foxx
    Foxx April 26, 2008 at 1:55 am |

    Well I figured it would get me in trouble, but
    I am way tired, like 40 years worth, of feminism having to be about all struggles in order to be legitimate. When her ex-husband kills a white woman or the police rape her is that an ati-racist issue?

  56. zuzu
    zuzu April 26, 2008 at 2:18 am |

    The “demeanor”? Oh my fucking god.

    I haven’t seen the decision yet, but that may not be as bad as it sounds. “Demeanor” is kind of a term of art used to describe a witness’s behavior on the stand and whether or not that person is credible.

    Mind you, there’s a whole lot of room for someone disposed to not credit the testimony of a particular kind of person and just call that disposition “demeanor.” I just want to throw it out there that legalese sometimes uses ordinary words, but gives them very different meanings than the commonly-understood ones.

    Anyone for an amicus brief on a Section 1983 suit?

    New York has some really top-notch plaintiff’s civil rights attorneys. I’m sure that the family is well-represented, which is one of the great things about section 1983. Because the plaintiff’s attorneys fees are paid for by the defendant, no one has to worry about having the resources for hiring a lawyer.

  57. littlem
    littlem April 26, 2008 at 4:34 am |

    Dianne breaks it down here for anyone confused about what possible connection there could be between Seal Press, Vogue, Amauthor X, and 2 clips emptied into an innocent:

    About the Seal Press issue. Sean Bell was killed because the police saw him as a scary black man. They therefore shot him and his companions 50 times, including stopping to reload, endangering bystanders, and killing a completely innocent man, because they saw him and his friends not as citizens they as police were sworn to protect but dangerous monsters they had to protect themselves from. Images like those in Marcotte’s book feed the “scary black man” stereotype and make it all the easier for police to see blacks, particularly young black men, as “others”.

  58. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 26, 2008 at 7:03 am |

    This is NOT a feminst issue. This is a race issue.

    So do you believe you can deal with women of color as people of color and as women separately, and when you deal with them as women they’re inseparable from white women? Have the same experiences? Deal with the same oppression?

    You can’t separate race, gender, and sex, because having darker skin does not negate being male or female. Racist stereotypes often tie directly into gender – what black men are like, what black women are like.

    You can’t tear the issues apart and treat them like they’re not related at all – at least, you can’t do it and surface with an ideology that makes practical sense.

    I’m tired of police murdering citizens and getting a slap on the wrist. :(

  59. The Raving Atheist
    The Raving Atheist April 26, 2008 at 10:07 am |

    I can add nothing to Al Shartpon’s words on the subject:

    What we saw in court today was not a miscarriage of justice. Justice didn’t miscarry. This was an abortion of justice.

  60. Radfem
    Radfem April 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm |

    I am way tired, like 40 years worth, of feminism having to be about all struggles in order to be legitimate. When her ex-husband kills a white woman or the police rape her is that an ati-racist issue?

    Is it “legitimate” when it focuses on “gender” when most often it’s only White straigth, able-bodied, middle-class women who can focus on gender? And I got tired of having to defend police reform as a feminist issue, to mostly White feminists, including some who had more issues with why a Black woman had a gun (which ironically was inoperable) while sitting alone in a broken down car at 2 a.m. by herself who had already been harassed by a strange man, than the fact that 12 bullets were pumped into her among at least 24 into her car. None of the bullets hit the front of her body, except while exiting. And one group of women who set them straight were women who had left batterers including several who had to sleep in their cars at night often with children and no way to protect themselves.

    She’s a woman, but feminism had no time for her b/c racism is seen as a distraction away from gender. Not even to defend a dead woman from the attempts of police and prosecutors and the media to masculinize her as often happens with Black women.

    What about Kathryn Johnston, 92, shot to death in her own home by officers breaking in on a falsifyed warrant? A woman shot in her car in Chicago several years ago b/c she was holding a cell phone? And there are many others. If you check out the Stolen Lives project, you can read about some of them.

    Police killings are a small part of the issues of policing faced by many communities and often it’s the expectations on policing by Whites including White feminists that can put communities of color at risk.

    What about women raped by police officers? Maia from Atlas writes about them in New Zealand. What about immigrant women raped by ICE and police? BFP wrote about them in her blog.

    What about women married to law enforcement officers or in relations with them who are beaten, raped and killed by their spouses? There’s several really good sites which document these cases including Behind the Blue Wall.

    These women might not even be feminist. Some might be loathe to associate with the label in fact. But it doesn’t make what happens with them and to them any less a feminist issue.

  61. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Q: When is criticism like “wilding?” A: Never. Never. NEVER.

    […] It uses that language to suggest that citicism from people of color is equivalent to these actions. Black men are slaughtered by policemen who fire into a car full of unarmed men and white women are criticized with harsh, unflinching […]

  62. Foxx
    Foxx April 26, 2008 at 2:14 pm |

    Absolutely all those cases you cite are feminist issues. I mentioned police rape in fact. EVeryone should be free of oppression, regardless of their politics. Why would you think I think otherwise?

    But my question is still, when a white woman is raped or killed do we expect people of color to say, this is a race issue? Would that be a good idea? There is a long history of a double standard, all issues are supposed to be women’s issues but the reverse is not true.

  63. Latoya Peterson
    Latoya Peterson April 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm |

    But my question is still, when a white woman is raped or killed do we expect people of color to say, this is a race issue? Would that be a good idea? There is a long history of a double standard, all issues are supposed to be women’s issues but the reverse is not true.

    The funny thing about that is white is considered to be the default in our society. So when a white women is raped or killed, it isn’t a race issue, it’s a woman’s issue. Obviously, this is because the only women who count are white women.

    In addition, please note that when something happens to a white woman, it rapidly becomes an issue of national importance. Particularly if that woman is attractive, young, and a co-ed. If something happens to a young black woman…well, we got a blog. You damn sure won’t see one of us on the news with a national hunt and daily updates.

    All issues that pertain to women are women’s issues. Isn’t that a defense that feminists tend to use? That 50% of the world’s population is comprised of women and that those issues are most pertinent? The problem with that idea is that we as women do not all experience oppression the same way. A lot of my woman’s issues come from being a BLACK woman. I don’t get treated the same way white women do. Sexual violence against us manifests differently. Societal expectations are different. And yet, for some reason, feminism claims to speak for me as a woman, but refuses to engage at all in the various other issues that create my black women’s issues.

    Black men are great at seeing race issues. But black women’s issues are women’s issues. They want us to hop over that side of the fence to take care of those.

    Many women who call themselves feminists are great at seeing woman’s issues. If there is any thing else at play, it’s a race issue. You want us to hop back over the fence to take care of those.

    Neither group wants to try to understand the full range of black women’s issues. But I must say, I do get angrier at feminists because someone is always trying to get me to unite in the name of women.

    Which women are you talking about?

  64. exholt
    exholt April 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm |

    As a white New Yorker, I was stunned by this decision. I truly thought the cops would be found guilty on some level. I kept thinking about the past violence – Abner Louima, Amadu Diallo, etc.

    That is sadly not news to most people in my childhood urban working-class neighborhood. Even the two African-American cops I met and befriended as a child both warned me in no uncertain terms to avoid having any run-ins with the police authorities as too many power-hungry racist types were attracted to the profession.

    As I later witnessed and experienced firsthand as a college student in a rural mostly white midwest town, the cops were not necessarily there to serve everyone’s interest or saw everyone as “equal under the law”. Instead, if you were young, you were seen as a problem to be harshly dealt with….doubly so if you happened to be non-White and poor.

    I doubt it was a coincidence that during my undergrad a White Ohio state trooper pulled over our student van driven by a WOC classmate* with a gun drawn and pointed directly at her as if she was an imminent threat despite pulling over and courteously following the trooper’s instructions throughout the incident. Kinda puts a damper on what was supposed to be an enjoyable student trip.

    That being said, as a Hillary supporter I don’t understand the intrigue in what I think about this case. I can see this as a feminist issue for women of color, one in which can be tied into the percentages of black men in prison compared with other ethinicities.

    This is an issue for all of us because this lack of evenhanded treatment of anyone who is non-White makes a great mockery of what our nation supposedly says it stands for in the Constitution or the national narratives we like to tell outselves where we’re all supposed to be “equal under the law”. Being treated as such by a government employee such as a police officer or bureaucrat should be the absolute minimum expectation.

    Unfortunately, in the severely flawed world, the only people who have any guarantee of being treated decently by the police or any other government employees dealing with the public are upper/middle-class whites…especially those who are middle-aged or older.

    Referencing something from Jill’s recent interview with online talk radio, it is one reason why most people I know would rather settle all problems/disputes, even serious ones, among themselves rather than call the cops. Why put yourself in a position where you’d be treated dismissively at best and worse, seen as the actual criminal/perpetrator when you’re really the victim or the dispute just needs calm mediation solely because you are a POC and/or not perceived as a member of the upper/middle class?

  65. Imogen
    Imogen April 26, 2008 at 4:14 pm |

    I am often impressed with the restraint of the black community. If this was me I would have lost it completely and done something violent.

  66. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses April 26, 2008 at 5:04 pm |

    When I heard the verdict, I wondered who the jury was. Now I’m wondering why there was no jury at all. Even with a jury, I’m sure that the cops would have gotten away with it anyway, but only because I don’t believe the verdict would have been unanimous. I would have felt a little better about the cops getting away with what they did if at least one impartial juror would have recognized that shooting a group of unarmed individuals dozens of times is always, always, always, criminally negligent. Now I just have to conclude that this verdict was based on one individual’s racist and classist beliefs. And the fact that these beliefs belong to a judge and not an impartial jury member is deeply disturbing. Judges should know better.

  67. Older
    Older April 26, 2008 at 6:43 pm |

    He knew someone who had hit someone. Well, I know someone who has hit someone, too. I guess they can shoot me.

  68. zuzu
    zuzu April 26, 2008 at 7:34 pm |

    Now I’m wondering why there was no jury at all.

    The defendants requested no jury, which is their right (and very common when the defendants are cops and the trial is in NYC). The upside is that with no jury, the judge has to write an opinion and defend his decision. Not that there’s any way to appeal an acquittal.

    But now the feds will get a crack at them, and the family will bring a section 1983 case, if they haven’t already. There are more bites at the apple available, and the section 1983 claim in particular will do a lot more to change the NYPD’s policies than simply throwing three cops in jail.

  69. Grandpa Dinosaur
    Grandpa Dinosaur April 26, 2008 at 10:14 pm |

    Michael Moore IS known to skew the facts, but he does hit the nail with the hammer on several points. If only he didn’t hand the black man the garbage bag, that made me go: “!!?? What are you trying to say?”

  70. This Is Not About My Brother « The Apostate

    […] Is Not About My Brother Posted on April 26, 2008 by apostate The whole “This is a feminist issue” thing: I’ve been thinking a little bit more about what feminism means to me and how […]

  71. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 26, 2008 at 10:49 pm |

    But my question is still, when a white woman is raped or killed do we expect people of color to say, this is a race issue? Would that be a good idea? There is a long history of a double standard, all issues are supposed to be women’s issues but the reverse is not true.

    Yes, it’s a race issue, but not in the way you think. As Latoya Peterson points out above, when a white woman is murdered or goes missing, it’s all over the news. When a black woman is murdered or goes missing, it doesn’t.

    There is a double standard, too, but not the one you’re proposing. Black women are further marginalized because of race and gender – which shows in the above paragraph. The double standard is that society cares more about what happens to white women than black women.

    You’re also implying the default is white, as Latoya also pointed out.

    But yes, it is a racial issue in that black people are seen as more disposable and worth less than white people, and a white woman’s suffering will make the news nationwide while a black woman’s suffering will not.

    This continues to be a feminist issue because you cannot – not without a lot of sophistry and semantic arguments – separate a black woman’s blackness or womanness from the rest of her.

  72. Radfem
    Radfem April 27, 2008 at 3:39 am |

    My city just settled two Section 1983 cases and is just about to settle a third and there’s two more that are probably going to be settled. All for wrongful deaths of unarmed people including three African-Americans.

    They can be effective if the attorneys push for change with them, rather than settle early on for money behind closed doors with the city or county of jurisdiction not having to accept responsibility. But it takes staying power to push it through the federal court system.

    My city’s settling these cases in the wake of a five year forced mandate to reform resulting from a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general’s office. The feds have been in and out and in and out. I was interviewed once by the U.S. Attorney’s office and DOJ-CR for one investigation and came home the next day from an errand to a vandalized porch. Heh.

    The feds reaction will be to watch to see how much heat comes up from the verdict from the community before making its decision. It’s relatively easy to get them to initiate a probe, but more difficult to get them to really do anything or keep it going and those actually doing the investigating don’t often have much seniority. I noticed that particularly in DOJ-CR.

    Especially Bush’s DOJ. I don’t know if it’s happened elsewhere but where I’m at, the DOJ disbanded its public integrity unit which includes the prosecution of law enforcement officers so now those prosecution responsibilities are farmed out to criminal which means even less priority than they enjoy now. Under the Democrats, the DOJ is still fairly weak in this area but a bit better. The Republicans are less reluctant to do pattern and practice investigations because they believe that reforming police agencies should be left up to the local governments.

  73. orlando
    orlando April 27, 2008 at 6:37 am |

    I don’t think anyone has really engaged with Foxx’s point, that we don’t expect an incident to be treated as a racial issue unless there are members of an opressed racial group involved, so why do we expect an incident with no members of the opressed gender group involved to be treated as a feminist issue? I think this is a valid question.

    Foxx, I would argue that this incident is of significance to feminists because women are always the ones left to do the work of holding together the communities that racist violence attempts to destroy. It is women who have to try to teach their children about justice when a lack of justice has taken their fathers from them, and women who are left with the devestating task of somehow making their children feel safe and protected when they know society will not protect them.

  74. Bell Trial Verdict « Little Lambs Eat Ivy

    […] This is a Feminist Issue Too by Holly at Feministe […]

  75. Does Feminism Have to Address Race? at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

    […] I stumbled across a blog post on Astarte’s Circus with a strong declaration on why Octoglalore is a feminist. Pretty solid post. Feminists believe that women should be equal to men. Period. Full stop. I also read a post by the Apostate explaining why some things are not feminist issues, particularly in reference to Holly’s post on Feministe. […]

  76. DAS
    DAS April 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm |

    Regarding the issue of how much “demeaner”, witness credibility, etc. matter.

    A while back I was on a jury (it turned out, and they didn’t tell me this until after the trial was over, I was the alternate, so I was not privy to the jury’s deliberations) and the crime victim (the prosecution’s main witness) had issues of demeaner and credibility (and the police kinda botched the investigation of the crime). The jury didn’t take too much time to find the defendent guilty: but in this case the defendent was a black man accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a white girl … rather than being accused of shooting a black man.

    Actually, I thought that in the case where I was on the trial what I needed was the ability, as a juror, to do exactly what reviewers do to my papers when they are leaning toward accepting my case but want more information — ask the prosecutor for more information! If witness demeanor is so important (which it is — sometimes the words of the witness are the only real evidence that a crime occured), shouldn’t prosecutors and defendence attorneys have to present “meta-evidence”: studies of witness reliability, etc.?

    So the witness has an odd demeanor — is it because she is still shaken by the crime or because he is lying? The prosecutor should present studies in which the charactertistics of lies vs. the characteristics of a shaken witness are elucidated. And the defense should have the opportunity to present studies of their own.

    Maybe I’m just writing this ’cause I’m a scientist, but if demeanor is so important, and it is, it is a shame that for all “demeanor” being a technical word and whatever all y’all lawyers are saying about it, those deciding cases (whether judges or juries) don’t have to quantify or qualify what they mean by demeanor and view it instead as some loosy-goosy thing you know when you see.

  77. rhiain
    rhiain April 27, 2008 at 3:04 pm |

    why do we expect an incident with no members of the opressed gender group involved to be treated as a feminist issue? I think this is a valid question.

    I think it has something to do with the two individuals in the picture up top who have to continue living as victims of this crime.

  78. pennylane
    pennylane April 27, 2008 at 7:50 pm |

    I agree with Rhiain. It’s not as if Sean Bell is the only victim here; we’re talking about an entire community disproportionately affected by police brutality, and many members of that community are women who are impacted in particular ways as women. In addition, police brutality as a larger issue has a lot of gender effects such as making women reluctant to utilize police or public services.

    If feminism is to be about liberating all women then it has to be anti-racist (among other things). That seems obvious to me.

  79. EminemsRevenge
    EminemsRevenge April 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm |

    “Well, look, obviously there was a tragedy in New York. I said at the time, without benefit of all the facts before me, that it looked like a possible case of excessive force. The judge has made his ruling, and we’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down,” he said in response to a question at a gas station in Indianapolis, where he was holding a news conference.

    “The most important thing for people who are concerned about that shooting is to figure out how do we come together and assure those kinds of tragedies don’t happen again,” he continued. … “Resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and counterproductive.”

    The “he” qouted here is Mr Obama…and for those who think he ain’t a house Nigro…..

  80. Radfem
    Radfem April 28, 2008 at 12:27 am |

    I agree with Rhiain. It’s not as if Sean Bell is the only victim here; we’re talking about an entire community disproportionately affected by police brutality, and many members of that community are women who are impacted in particular ways as women. In addition, police brutality as a larger issue has a lot of gender effects such as making women reluctant to utilize police or public services.

    If feminism is to be about liberating all women then it has to be anti-racist (among other things). That seems obvious to me.

    Well, that’s why some of us have little faith in the two-party system.

    The Democrats are not going to say anything that’s they believe is going to entail taking a risk in their high-stakes game.

    He could have said (as could Clinton) that if elected, he would strengthen and not weaken the office which investigates officer-involved shootings and other allegations of police misconduct. Reinstate the public integrity unit where it’s been disbanded like Southern California, for example. Strengthen not weaken the DOJ’s civil rights division which is involved both in criminal investigations as well as civil litigation against cities mandating changes in police behavior.

    But here’s some blogging about Hillary Clinton’s “tough on crime” proposal Clinton hasn’t mentioned police accountability issues either.

  81. Tony
    Tony April 28, 2008 at 1:12 am |

    I tend to agree. My only reservation is we just don’t know what happened that night. I can see the story unfolding from the point of view of the officers, and the poor man that was killed.

  82. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 28, 2008 at 1:49 am |

    The problem being how often it turns out that men and women are killed in situations like this – that it’s frequently men and women of color who are killed in situations like this, and that police tend to be lightly punished if at all when men and women of color are killed in situations like this.

    It’s easy to say “Well, it could all just be a horrible mistake” but these horrible mistakes happen over and over and over again, and when you have a constantly repeating pattern, it’s hard to just write it off as “We don’t know what really happened.”

  83. los anjalis » We are all Sean Bell.
    los anjalis » We are all Sean Bell. April 28, 2008 at 2:01 am |

    […] at Feministe has a great post about how this is a feminist issue: somewhere out there, there certainly are some feminists who would not describe this as a feminist […]

  84. Liza
    Liza April 28, 2008 at 9:05 am |

    I am not surprised the cops got off either. But I’m also not going to automatically point fingers that they were completely in the wrong.

    We don’t know exactly what happened that night. It’s seemingly impossible to get an account of the events that isn’t biased in one way or another. I’m sorry he died, and I feel bad for his widow and daughter, but I’m not going to automatically assume he was 100% innocent or that the cops didn’t feel their lives were in danger just because he died.

    Also, as far as racism goes…I’m relatively certain I read that two of the three officers involved were black. And if the judge were racist, he’d be just as biased against them as the victims, so really, a racism argument doesn’t have all that much merit.

    I can see an argument of excessive force or police brutality (though, again, we can’t automatically assume that since none of us were there) based on the number of bullets, but I don’t think that just because it was a black man that died the race card needs to be pulled.

  85. Radfem
    Radfem April 28, 2008 at 10:20 am |

    I tend to agree. My only reservation is we just don’t know what happened that night. I can see the story unfolding from the point of view of the officers, and the poor man that was killed.

    It’s the police that will always be believed first no matter how much their stories contradict evidence or each other, never mind the civilian witnesses who are probably better off not giving their statements in the first place.

  86. pennylane
    pennylane April 28, 2008 at 11:39 am |

    I think you can believe that the police genuinely believed that their lives were threatened but there is still an important justice issue in asking why they felt threatened–threatened enough to unload that many shots into the car. And that an acquittal reinforces the racial underpinnings of that fear.

    And Liza–do you imagine that women are completely immune from internalized gendered stereotypes? Do you think the fact that the officers were black means they were completely immune from racial stereotypes?

  87. punkrockhockeymom
    punkrockhockeymom April 28, 2008 at 11:54 am |

    Racism arguments have validity even when some of the officers and the judge are black.

    When you live in a society that is systemically racist and sexist, you cannot just treat racism and sexism as if it is as simple as something opposing and opposite sexes or races do to each other. We live in a hierarchically-privileged, structured society in which people are trained to see black men as dangerous. We all live in that society and are differently impacted by that socialization.

    Liza, saying that racism can’t be an issue because blacks were involved on the side of the state-sponsored violence too is exactly the same thing as misogynist stating that because some woman somewhere (maybe Ann Althouse or Ann Coulter) says something isn’t sexist or doesn’t support misogyny, or wasn’t a hate-crime against a woman, then that must be the case. The guys involved in the Open Source Boob Project said the same thing and were immediately shot down.

    Misogyny is not just about some jerk sexist guy being sexist toward a woman. It’s societally pervasive, and women enact misogynistic tropes against women all of the time–slut shaming, victim-blaming in rape cases, etc. Similarly, in a structurally racist society, that a black police officer fired shots at a group of unarmed black men does not mean that the act was not based on racist stereotypes, and that a black judge ruled in favor of the perpetrators of state-sponsored violence does not mean that racism wasn’t involved.

  88. exholt
    exholt April 28, 2008 at 1:17 pm |

    I can see an argument of excessive force or police brutality (though, again, we can’t automatically assume that since none of us were there) based on the number of bullets, but I don’t think that just because it was a black man that died the race card needs to be pulled.

    Funny that you are doing exactly what everyone I knew predicted the judge would be predisposed to do….give the cops the automatic benefit of the doubt no matter how excessive the amount of force used.

    Moreover, though some older relatives and some classmates tend to be “law and order” types, even they felt three cops firing 50 shots at Bell and his friends or the excessive number of shots fired in the Diallo case was excessive based on how they were trained as soldiers/police officers. Several of them have stated, in fact, that firing that many shots in those circumstances is a sign of panic arising from inadequate training.

  89. Radfem
    Radfem April 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm |

    Also, as far as racism goes…I’m relatively certain I read that two of the three officers involved were black. And if the judge were racist, he’d be just as biased against them as the victims, so really, a racism argument doesn’t have all that much merit.

    Not necessarily, in a case like this. The involvement of Black officers (and one Latino officer) doesn’t make it less likely racism was involved. As said by others, if an institution itself is racist and exercises racism, the parties involved carry out what that system dictates them to do. They don’t? They get ostracized, no backup, harassed, etc. That and the “us vs them” culture keeps even those officers who aren’t treated equally with White male officers pretty much in line.

    And if it came down to which Black person to favor between the two Black officers who were shooting alongside the White officer and are part of a larger institution or the civilians, which one do you think even a racist judge would choose?

    Ironically, one of the fears of Black undercover police officers in the larger agencies is that they’ll be shot at by one of their own. It’s not like that’s never happened before. Because most individuals don’t look at a Black man with a gun and even think he could be a police officer.

  90. Molly
    Molly April 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm |

    I am often impressed with the restraint of the black community. If this was me I would have lost it completely and done something violent.

    Yes. Agree, agree, agree. I honestly don’t know how they stand it, except, of course, for the obvious: that it’s so common and so normalized and such a slow grind. I’d almost feel better about a riot, except, of course, that I know what racists would make of that (I’m sure they’ll imagine there was one, anyway).

    As for the Moore video, what makes it particularly poignant for me is that, watching the reactions of all those cops, I started thinking, “If he was black they’d have shot *him* already.” He may be annoying and self-promoting, but he knows humor can get a point across better than the average screed, and that was pretty fucking funny. Sad-funny, but funny.

  91. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 April 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm |

    I am often impressed with the restraint of the black community. If this was me I would have lost it completely and done something violent.

    That’s why the City of New York has effectively banned private gun ownership.

    What are going to do? Break the windows out of a police car? And when police shoot ten unarmed people, then what will you do? Break ten windows?

  92. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 28, 2008 at 10:42 pm |

    We don’t know exactly what happened that night. It’s seemingly impossible to get an account of the events that isn’t biased in one way or another. I’m sorry he died, and I feel bad for his widow and daughter, but I’m not going to automatically assume he was 100% innocent or that the cops didn’t feel their lives were in danger just because he died.

    Can we afford to talk about this as if it’s an isolated incident of police officers shooting a black man fifty times? Or should we take this in context with all the other times police officers have shot down a person of color who was committing no crime? If the same thing happens over and over and over and over and over again, if police officers regularly shoot and kill innocent people of color, and regularly get away with it with a slap on the wrist, why is it necessary this time to give them the benefit of the doubt? Why is it necessary this time to pretend that all the other incidents didn’t happen, or at least have no bearing on this incident? Why is it necessary this time to pretend that history doesn’t matter?

    I admit, I’m saying “this time” but I mean “every time.” Every time this happens, people say:

    “We weren’t there, we don’t know what really happened.”

    “I’m not going to assume he was innocent.”

    and more like that, but every time, it turns out that excessive force was used, and most often, it turns out that the dead person of color wasn’t doing anything illegal.

    This isn’t an isolated incident. Talking about it like it is does a disservice to not only Sean Bell and his family, but every person of color wrongfully murdered by police officers before him.

  93. Radfem
    Radfem April 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm |

    “We weren’t there, we don’t know what really happened.”

    Actually, you have more information in this case than in most because it went to trial. It’s very rare that law enforcement officers are charged with crimes in relation to onduty shootings. And a trial is in a public arena, when most often what happens with onduty shootings, excessive force incidents and other forms of misconduct, you know next to nothing b/c it’s shrouded in secrecy. The laws in New York are pretty tight. California has the strictest laws “protecting” police personnel records but it’s also got the strongest police unions in the country. They’re 1 and 2, in that state when it comes to unions.

    Last year, there were bills introduced to reduce the secrecy (which seems to be argued mostly on behalf of the “privacy” of bad officers, meaning ones with documented histories of misconduct). It stalled at one level because of pressure by police unions. Now they’ve got an elected official to sponsor a bill to make it even harder to find out which officers have had complaints and harder to sue in court for misconduct. So it will mean even more serious problems down the line. They’ve already tried to severely weaken civilian review in California.

  94. Feministe » Feminism without fragmentation

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  95. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal April 30, 2008 at 11:51 am |

    The whole story that Sean Bell is a specifically “Feminist” issue rather than one of police brutality and racism is nonesense. Why? Sean was not a woman and in focusing on a male issue you are simply losing ure way and wasting ure time leaving the real issues of abuse suffered by WOMEN at the hands of men unanswered. This means you are just social commentators and reformers with nothing to offer women in their struggle against patriarchy. You ignore the real issues, which are:
    1) The ruthless subjugation of millions of women under patriarchy
    2) The horrific abuses of theocratic patriarchy in particular, such as honor crimes and forced marriage.
    These issues, and countless others, ARE REAL. They may not be real to you cos even as black Americans- you are PRIVELAGED and you got no idea of the position of women in countries like Pakistan, for example. As feminists, you are third rate at best and dismissive of the real suffering of women under the world’s most oppressive system of gender oppression, which we find in Pakistan, for example. I think you need to wake up, refocus and seriously think about if feminism can include black males, white males, yellow males and Hijras. Hijras now in feminism- this is just a JOKE. What you are all telling, this is not real feminism, this is just self indulgent Americans who got no relevance to the global feminist struggle, before u all start winging, it’s YOU who counted urselves out. Your “feminism:, it’s got no relevance to women facing the worst abuses men can throw at them.
    All u got is ure own agenda and you are deaf to the real suffering. You think you are better than us, just cos you live in America, this is what you think.
    Another, me name is Jasmine Iqbal of London and Pakistan, and no one is tell me to say this, no way, it’s me own ideas and me own voice and stop call anyone who disagrees with all ure stuff as racists cos you doing nothing and you fighting no one- you just talkers and useless- WE ARE FIGHTERS.
    REAL FEMINISM IS W.A.F of PAKISTAN-THIS IS REAL.-NO MEN-NO HIJRAS-JUST WOMENS’ RADICAL ACTION

  96. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal April 30, 2008 at 12:04 pm |

    Another, me two uncles for killed by the Rangers in 1990’s, where? This was in Hyderabad, we had police death squads, not what u got, real death squads, this was part of a genocide campaign against us Muhajirs. Any Muhajir who had education or was in politics, Pakistani police came and gunned them down in the alleyways, no one knows how many thousands died, the police killed us like dogs in the 1990’s, so we got a good idea of what’s police brutality and for Sean’s family also, can’t afford food maybe, lost their dad also, it’s terrible, but no more than when me uncles got killed, so it’s still not a feminist issue. American comrades and freinds, you MUST not silence radical fighters who are more serious about REAL FEMINISM with accusations of racism cos we can make plenty of accusations against YOU.

  97. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal April 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm |

    Is Feministe allied with the reactionary forces of black nationalism? Does this alliance, if it even exist, erase the experience of millions of women suffering under theocratic patriarchy? Can ‘feminsm’ ally with any kind of religious-ethnic nationalism and not remain a sell out? What is your position on the mass rape of Afrikan women in Darfur, or is that acceptable? Can Hijras, like “John” have any real place in the feminist movement.
    Thank you for not silencing me and negating me experience as a woman who suffered horribly under Islam. I will not silence you either, so I have posted a open letter on me blog site, if any of you feel inclined to reply.

    http://apostatepakistanigirl.wordpress.com/

  98. Every Issue Is a Feminist Issue : Elaine Vigneault

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  99. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal April 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm |

    Hi, Holly, ty for ure reply.

    “So I think that’s another very good example of how an obviously feminist issue (countless women raped) intersects very brutally with racist and colonialist issues.”

    1) It is Muslim African women, under Muslim Arab expansionist patriarchy out of Khartoum by General Omar Hassan Al Bashir. The Jan Jaweed are Islamists; the Arab and Islamist element can not be left out. Blame the British by all means, they carry a historical burden, but it sounds a bit empty as women scream in the camps and the world watches on. But you CAN’T blame Arabs can you, no, of course not! I stand with the black women of Darfur, just as I would have stood with the women who were starved to death by the British in the Bengal famine.

    2) John has stated that, “I am a brown person who lives as a woman of color”, so forgive me if I drew the wrong conlcusions. Obviously, hijras, transvestites, whatever you wish to call them, on a Pakistani interpretation of feminism, have no place.

    3) On your exact relationship to african american nationalism, well, why not? Just understand, for us, people who are really suffering under patriarchy, it means nothing.

    Why have I posed these questions? You see, I am trying to understand as a Pakistani, how you see yourselves? If you wish to educate, empower, assist, organize black people in America by reaching out specifically to the black female, that’s GREAT! But that’s not the same as speaking for women of color in Pakistan, India, the Europe’s Muslim or the Arab world, it’s TOTALLY different, and if you claim to do so, without consultation, then you are effectively erasing the experience of millions of women who KNOW what patriarchy, Islam, forced marriage, karakhouri and generally being treated as an underclass, reduced to sexual chattel, is all about. Sorry, but we don’t need to pray at the sepulchre of the black American male, we just couldn’t give a shit to be honest, men are men, white men, black men, it’s all the same, and we all know where we stand on that issue. Or we should. Feminism is about WOMEN, not men, period.

  100. Jack
    Jack April 30, 2008 at 4:19 pm |

    John has stated that, “I am a brown person who lives as a woman of color”, so forgive me if I drew the wrong conlcusions.

    My name is Jack. Please refrain on commenting on my gender or assigning me labels when you clearly have no idea who I am or what my gender is. That’s not even to address your assertions about who is excluded from Pakistani feminism. Just not gonna go there.

  101. A Slight Delay » Blog Archive » The Sean Bell Case, Take Two

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  102. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney May 1, 2008 at 12:40 am |

    Jasmine, read radfem’s posts again: Even ignoring how police brutality against men of color affects their families – which, last time I checked, usually includes women – the fact is that women of color are subjected to the same institutionalized police brutality.

    Also, I’m trying to understand why you’re talking about hijra from Puerto Rico in your blog post. Isn’t “hijra” a cultural category that exists in India (and I guess Pakistan?)

    Do you consider the woman described in this article to be hijra?

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20084\30\story_30-4-2008_pg13_5

    I don’t know enough about hijra as a group to apply a blanket assumption that they’re all transgender people seeking to transition from male to female, but I have read enough to know that at least some are. If you’re saying that a woman who was born male should be thirdgendered, nongendered, or just seen as a eunuch and have no place in feminism, I guess your feminism isn’t my feminism.

    Of course, if you’re saying that the police brutality in America isn’t important because it’s so much worse elsewhere in the world, then your feminism isn’t my feminism anyway. I do consider police brutality to be an important issue anywhere it happens, for whatever reason. It may not always be a feminist issue, but if a state is using its power to terrorize its own people, that’s wrong.

  103. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 10:29 am |

    Women of color ARE subject to police brutality, as are white women too. You seem to be implying once again that your feminism has an ethnocentric base and that any degree of extrapoluation to, falsely, include a black male under the feminist umberella is preferable to being gender inclusive and reaching out to white females, who are, obviously, victims of everything from human trafficking, sexual slavery and police brutality. You Americans debauched a whole generation of Slav women in eastern europe from 1991 onwards, those who got to America, many of them, found only a life of hell. Abuse, including police bruality, despite ure miserable history, is not solely focused on black americans, which, let’s face it, when you say black- you mean black male in the next breath. And u got every right to do that, if you want, but understand that it’s an extrapoluation, a black male can only become a ‘feminist issue’ by default, as can anything, from veganism to global warming, which is precisely Elaine’s train of thought. Obviously, if everything is feminism, then nothing is feminism. The Pakistani feminist fights against male supremacy, gender apartheid and the ruthless subjugation of women. I lived in a society where I was so repressed I became seriously mentally ill and this led to a suicide attempt. I discovered feminism as a means to educate meself as to my rights, I can not stand to see something that is precious to me diluted into an amorphous hotch potch of BDSM, environmentalism, America TRASH, and black male worship, not to mention- white liberal guilt- angst. The Pakistani feminist is focused, determined and a revolutionary. Her definition of feminism is MILITANT, tight and it concentrates all energy on fighting a single enemy- religious theocracy and its collaborators. You talk, we punch hard, we live on the front lines, we are radical fighters, men encompassed into your definitions, this is a jole, it’s men who are crushing the life out of us. We maximize, we are efficient, we waste no energy or resources, we fight. We will fight women who ape male sexual violence, who parrot patriarchal religious values like wearing the hijab, or link their cause to reactionary fascist movements. If a woc defends Islam, she is as guilty as a man who throws hydroclauric acid in a woman’s face simply cos she stepped outside her house. If a woman promotes fetishist fantasies, she is an agent of rape, if a woman extrapoluates to undermine feminism- she is a saboteur.

  104. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 10:44 am |

    A Hijra is a male who decides to wear sari, shalwar kameez, make up, and wigs and present an extremely affected and exagerated idea of womanhood, that is an offensive charicature. These people form almost their own caste in Pakistan, and while historically, they was in the moghul courts, since the ending of the harem system they are simply male prostitutes. Hijras are in Pakistan seen begging at traffic lights or demanding money at births or marriages. Obviously, they got no affiliations with any Pakistani feminists and are seen as a male affront to women. The definition of femimisn can not cross gender. Now this is not to say they on a indivudual level we got no humanity, no, we see them as people who need to be liberated, but as MALE victims of patriarchy, proof that patriarchy is dysfunctional. There are also social aspects to consider, women in Pakistan, generally despise Hijras as unclean. HIjras undergo complete castration, this act marks their initiation into a lifetime of prostitution, again, proof of the filth and vice that thrives under theocratic patriarchy. The Hijras are a feminist issue as they have a very negative influence on womens’ health, especially with migrant laborers, who, being uneducated in a conservative religious society have sex with hijras, then pass HIV to their wives. The Hijra is therefore one more act of male abuse against innocent and highly moral Pakistani women.
    The western version of our Hijras are tv’s, ts’ and tg’s. I hope this answers ure question.

  105. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 12:54 pm |

    “If you’re saying that a woman who was born male……”

    American friends, you have everything, we got nothing, we been suffering since the day we got born, but even you CAN’T change the biological condition of the species, a woman can not be born a male, a woman can only be born as a female; yes, even in America. You must reevaluate the delinating concepts within feminism to be progressive people capable of joining in the liberation struggle in our countries (and America’s impoversihed ghettos).

  106. Jack
    Jack May 1, 2008 at 1:14 pm |

    a woman can not be born a male, a woman can only be born as a female; yes, even in America. You must reevaluate the delinating concepts within feminism to be progressive people capable of joining in the liberation struggle in our countries (and America’s impoversihed ghettos).

    So, in order for us to join or be allies to the liberation struggles of other countries, we need to be transphobic like you? a) Um, no thanks, and b) we’re all very lucky that you don’t get to be the sole arbitrator of who can be allies to the liberation struggles of Pakistani women or anyone else.

  107. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 1:25 pm |

    There isn’t anything derogatory about anything I said, I think you are smart enough to realize that, within the framework of your own society, you are culturally valid, and I am basically happy about that. In Pakistan, life is is vicious struggle for women, of course, we know the situation for you there.
    The feminist progressive struggle however is one of ruthless action and it is not centered on the United States, do not presume that it is, or that it ever will be. Do not also speak with arrogance against us, we do not like it. We are not ure colony, our feminism is strong cos Pakistani girls got TOP CLASS MORALS. Again, we talk of vast cultural patterns, the individual ts here, of course, the individual is nothing and of no concern.

  108. Jack
    Jack May 1, 2008 at 1:26 pm |

    I’ll be clear on this: Feministe is NOT in alliance with black nationalists (still don’t know where that come from)

    Not to be nit-picky, but this is not to say that Feministe, as a whole, opposes or condemns Black nationalism, as a whole. Right? Hopefully that goes without saying but something about it made me a bit uneasy.

  109. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 1:30 pm |

    You can focus on your real enemy, Muslim and Christian fundamentalists, agents of patriarchy, men who see you as sex objects, but this requires a HARDENING of attitude and a willingness for less thought, more action and more solidarity. Any attacks on Pakistani feminists- MUST STOP- you are not very focused, not radical, not militant, WE ARE, nd we know exactly what we’re doing. Your role is to assist when needed, if you are needed. America is not our priority, it’s only value is the extent to which it can assist in revolutionary change in our stagnant societies. Chinese Communists are better allies in many ways, actually.

  110. Jasmine Iqbal
    Jasmine Iqbal May 1, 2008 at 1:59 pm |

    Don’t you think that if Hijras, ok, transgendered people if you feel more comfortable with that, were treated with more respect, more humanity and more dignity, if they weren’t forced into sex work, it would be a sign that Pakistan is moving forward?
    Don’t you think I see that? Of course, I do, but why is the status of transgendered people so abysmal in Pakistan? The answer is simple, theocratic patriarchy, which pyschologically abuses young males as much as young females. Yet we have people on Feministe who, intolerably, defend patriarchy in the name of woc. Any defence of Islam- is Islam, the same Islam that has turned life for transgendered people into a hell of constant sexual dehumanization.
    By the way, I am condemned by me own society meself, I loved another girl, so what, but I paid the price for that. I got nothing personally against transgendered people, what I am saying is that it is part of American Feminism which is not our cultural definition (me own personal views notwithstanding, cos as a person whose own sexuality is suppressed by Islam, I think everyone has a right to sexual expression). If you want to fight back against people who oppress transgendered people, you got to confront the Pakistani counterparts of hate groups like “God Hates Fags”, sick psychos, we got them as well, it’s just that Pakistan is SO sexually repressed, transgendered people are seen as a sexual outlet, a commodity, and they are abused and used, relentlessly, even by those on the religious right who loathe them. The way forward for you is to TOTALLY distance yourselves from reactionary forces, like religious groups, black Muslims, woc Muslim sympathisers, people who refuse in other words to join in constant attacks upon the abuses perpetrated under Islam and white patriarchal power systems too. If you are not ready to join us, then don’t silence us with false accusations of racism cos we’ll just turn back and say, “So what, so we’re racist Pakis, what the hell is that compared to the horrors of gender oppression we suffered?”

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