Last Friday, Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a Minnesota suburb was acquitted of second degree manslaughter charges by a jury.
Yesterday, video of the shooting and arrest of his girlfriend were released to the public.
None of what I’ve seen or heard over the last week has changed my first thought about what happened. Which is this:
If he were white, he’d probably still be alive.
How much probably is a debate, I guess. Though not a great one. But when we’re honest with ourselves, it’s difficult to get to a place where you don’t believe that if Philando Castile were a 32-year old white man, who looked like me, he’d still be alive.
That’s what I believe.
I also believe that the growth of government spending yields less and less effective outcomes the more we spend. And the growth of government as a forcing function of society inhibits personal liberties and creates dependency in places where, if left alone or more effectively managed that dependency could have and should have been avoided. I believe that conservative municipal and state governments operate more sustainably. And I’ve got the data to support that. It’s not close.
I think that the current Democratic Party leadership is ineffectively driving an ineffective message. And that, without the leadership of President Obama, they are listing and sinking fast. I also believe that they didn’t learn the lesson of the most important failure of the last administration: lecturing people on why they’re wrong if they don’t think like you is a sure fire way to convince no one of anything, except that they don’t like you.
I think and believe all those things. And yet, I believe that if Philando Castile were white, he’d still be alive. And it’s not because I don’t like or respect cops. You throw on the uniform and hang it out there every day, I’ve got your back.
One of the truly harmful outcomes of the national discussion of police violence is that it’s given people an effective counter-party to exercise their identity based politics. If you’re a hard working law abiding white man, susceptible to identity based politics, you can now take the side of law enforcement in the political debate of who’s lives matter. In the past you were left to either keep silent or take up sides with racists and bigots. And since I also believe that you weren’t truly either of those latter two groups, you didn’t. So there was no debate. But now, you’ve got a flag to wave. And a cause to identify with. And a way to signal to the world that you are about hard work and abiding by the law and morals.
Well, I’m about hard work. And abiding the law. And morals. And serving my country and going to church on Sunday. And supporting law enforcement. And yet, I believe that if Philando Castile were white, he’d still be alive. And I’m not ok with that.
Which makes many people who believe the other things that I do uncomfortable.
So I’d like to help them.
There are two extremely freeing mental threads you have to be willing to pull on if you want to free yourself from the identity based political nonage that we can’t seem to stop falling into.
The first, is that we humans are immensely, implicitly biased. Some are explicitly biased. But all are implicitly. Which is what makes this living together thing so damn hard. The things that form our subconscious beliefs are so sensitive to that bias, that it’s a wonder how we get anything right at all. Behavioral scientists would be the first to tell you we very rarely do.
If we’re from New York, we’re likely to guess that the population of a city is twice as large as if we were from a small town. We’re several times more likely to enroll and contribute to a retirement plan if we have to opt out instead of opt in. The only way to get us to reduce our energy consumption in our homes is to tell us our neighbors use less. These are all researched, tested and proved human patterns that at face value, make no sense. But we do them, and a million other things that make no sense. Because we are immensely illogical creatures.
And that leads to the second thread.
The original sin of the United States of America is that we decided, when we started, to account for black men and women on the asset side of the ledger and refused to account for them as an obligation. They were something to be used. Not represented. We did it with such calculation we used a fraction to annotate their value, since counting them as a whole person seemed unfair to those places that didn’t benefit as much from the free asset.
3/5 of a man. That’s where we started.
Then we got it wrong over and over again. We went to war to try and end it, we segregated we red-lined mortgages to cause generational wealth disparities. We created two societies. Tier 1. And Tier 2. On purpose. We created them for 350 years. And we’ve gotten serious about undoing it for 50. We should expect that our progress is proportional.
Not a single thought in those two mental threads are at odds with my conservative beliefs as stated. I can call myself a conservative and then feel every ounce of injustice in the outcome that was the end those two lines converging on a car in a Minnesota suburb. And I can feel the gross injustice in the death in Philando Castile. And sympathetic to the cause of those that fear they will end up like them. And in doing so, the widening gap in our country can get just a little narrower.
I can do all of those things. I just have to be honest with myself.
Unless of course I’ve done that thing that so many of my fellow conservatives have done. Unless I’ve wandered away from the principles of conservative belief: limited government, fiscal responsibility, the preservation of personal liberties. And I’ve run full speed into the comforting embrace of a new message.
Protect me. And people like me. At all costs.