Backlash

The prerogatives of the powerful are under attack, but there are backlashes in their defense.

Gawker has posted Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014. The Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions not to prosecute police officers that killed two of those unarmed people generated a great deal of media criticism and street protests, particularly the Garner case. There is doubt about exactly what happened between policeman Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, but Eric Garner was clearly videotaped in a chokehold by policeman Daniel Pantaleo.

But the protests have also generated criticism from police organizations and conservative pundits who feel that both men deserved what they got for being thugs, petty criminals, for not cooperating fully with police officers and even, in the case of Garner, for being obese. The answer they say, is to be more sensitive to the feelings of the police.

After the Rolling Stone published A Rape on Campus, Sabrina Erdely’s numbing account of the violent frat-gang rape of Jackie – a first-year woman attending the University of Virginia – the Washington Post cast doubt on many events that were reported as fact. As the Rolling Stone backed away from the story, many liberal voices lamented that this story would set back anti-rape efforts, and conservative voices predictably hinted that the article may be another Duke Lacrosse false accusation case. Jackie’s UVA suitemate Emily submitted a letter to the Cavalier Daily – the school paper – defending Jackie, but Emily really only knows that Jackie’s behavior changed markedly after the time she claims to have been raped.

Emily Joffe – Dear Prudence of Slate – published The College Rape Overcorrection, decrying the erosion of the rights of accused male students. Joffe presents an example of a fellow that claims to have been falsely accused months and months after hooking up with a woman friend that slid into his bed one night. While Joffe admits that, “Any woman who is raped, on campus or off, deserves a fair and thorough investigation of her claim, and those found guilty should be punished,” it is disconcerting that she seems to have more concern for the falsely accused male than the sexually assaulted female. Fortunately most of us don’t have to choose between being falsely accused or raped.

What is most clear, even from Joffe’s article, is that universities, like most bureaucracies, prefer to resolve problems quietly and are poorly equipped to adjudicate decisions that affect their own reputations.

Update 20141210: Excellent article from POLICYSHOP, Two Narratives About the Racist Carceral State.

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