Truth vs. Meaning – When rubber bullets aren’t rubber, or bullets

This piece was originally posted on Wednesday, November 19,  on the Center For Story Based Strategy blog, where I am currently a Worker Justice Fellow. 


Last Friday St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar went on live public radio  to fire the latest volley in the battle of truth vs. meaning, which started with the first protests in Ferguson when people took to the streets calling for #JusticeforMikeBrown.

police

Referring to the early days of protest in Ferguson, Belmar said, “We didn’t use rubber bullets. If they’re actually rubber bullets, they’ll kill you. We did use tear gas. We did use smoke. We did use pepper balls — different things such as that. We did use armored trucks. But you know what? We didn’t use those on peaceful protesters. We used that on unfortunate criminal activity that spun out of the protest.”

This statement is a doing a few things at once:

  • Distancing police from violence that leads to death.
  • Bullets = death, so they deny any type of bullet was used.
  • Replacing the idea of rubber bullets with weapons that are not automatically linked to death, such as pepper balls.
  • Advancing a core frame of criminals and criminal activity.
  • Police force is justified when dealing with criminals.

Read the rest of the post here.

When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral

When I was growing up I could have been considered a thug. The short of it, I was a teenage punk rocker, I was smart, and I hated authority. And the only thing I hated more than authority were Nazis.

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Pretty simple

It wasn’t just me, it was the scene. In the 90’s Nazi skinheads were growing in organizational power and form. There was a story that passed around my high school. Once, a New York City hardcore band was playing a show in town. A bunch of Nazi skinheads flooded into the venue with baseball bats, cue balls in socks, and rolls of quarters in their fists, some real medieval stuff. And what did the punk and hardcore kids do? They fought them.

For me, and a bunch of my punk friends, it was a simple politic: Nazis are racist, racists are bad, if we allow racists at our shows then our shows are racist, we all loose (historical supported fact). Therefore you couldn’t sit out, there was one choice: we stomped Nazis.

Then things get complicated
Sometimes I long for those days when it was easy to just point to a skinhead and say, “See that bonehead right there? Let’s stomp ‘em” and know that I was fighting the good fight.

Of course, those days were only easy because my understanding of racism was simple. For my teenage punk rock self, racism was racial prejudice expressed physically or verbally.

But, as Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, there is a “…widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control. The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society.”

Continue reading “When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral”