It’s been a long time. At first I told myself it was because I was heavily invested in finishing up my first (full) semester of grad school firing on all cylinders, but I took a long sabbatical from writing anything after turning in my last paper, and have since been forced to admit that it was just laziness. Time to hop back on the horse.
The latest nugget of news to really land in my consciousness comes from my hometown area. McKinney, Texas is a suburb of Dallas that was most well-known to me in high school for having a really bad heroin problem (I’ve since looked into it more, and apparently a bunch of affluent North Texas suburbs fell victim to a mini-epidemic in the late 90s). These past few days, most American know it as the latest entry in the long and storied history of excessive police force against unarmed black people. The office of interest has since resigned after being placed on administrative leave, and facing enormous pressure from all corners after he needlessly escalated a situation involving black teenagers and a community pool in a mostly white development.
There’s two conflicting stories that made the rounds, attended to by shrieky teeth-gnashing anger addicts on all sides (though let me stress, the people saying the police were definitively in the wrong are unquestionably right):
Story 1: Gangs of marauding (and let’s not forget, black) teens invaded a peaceful white suburban pool they were not allowed to be at, were generally engaged in disturbing/illegal behavior, fought with residents/each other, and refused to disperse when HOA reps asked them to leave, so the police were called, and they did absolutely nothing wrong.
Story 2: An innocent pool party was broken up for absolutely no reason other than there were lots of black kids there and racist white people called the police, even though they were completely allowed to be there and doing absolutely nothing wrong, and the police were all horrible racists.
While both stories seem to fall victim to fall victim to a certain type of thinking, the latter story is backed up by video evidence which shows former McKinney officer Casebolt charging into what appears to be an otherwise calm and orderly situation (other officers seem to be behaving appropriately and discussing the issues residents have with the party with several teens, who are engaged and compliant) and pointlessly escalating for reasons that seem to elude everyone, including his colleagues. He (bizarrely) does a tactical roll, appears to grab random kids and force them to the ground, and curses up a storm for no apparent reason. The video culminates with him screaming in a 14-year-old girl’s face, ordering her to leave (which she does), then grabbing her and forcing her to the ground (“ON YOUR FACE!” is the order given). When nearby friends appear to object, he pulls his gun and menaces the children with it, at which point other bewildered officers appear to half-heartedly try to calm him down (they seem more confused than anything else).
Any way you slice the situation, the above events are never necessary when grown police officers are dealing with unarmed, non-violent people and innocent bystanders, let alone goddamn children. It’s my opinion (formed after reading multiple accounts from a variety of sources) that the party either wasn’t supposed to happen in the community pool or that the organizers/guests (through ignorance or apathy) ended up breaking HOA rules and disturbing residents. Granted, it doesn’t take a lot for twitchy, affluent white people to get nervous when large groups of black people are in their neighborhood, and there’s no doubt in my mind that at least a few, if not the majority of people who called in complaints did so because of a visceral negative reaction to THEM (black kids) invading OUR (white people) neighborhood.
Basically, it seems likely that the party was, in fact, way too big and noisy and irritating, possibly contained too many kids doing illegal stuff, and that people called the cops because this pissed them off (possibly for legitimate and illegitimate reasons). Apparently the fights alluded to in certain reports were the direct result of white adults hurling racist epithets at black teens, which I can certainly believe.
But this is a reasonable expectation for adults to have of teenagers. Being loud and rowdy and doing stuff that teenagers aren’t supposed to do is what defines being a teenager in the first place. I have fond memories of countless nights spent gathered with huge groups of my high school class inside gated communities, pool areas, and closed parks drinking underage, smoking weed, and generally doing things that American teenagers love to do. I was once pulled over along with several friends as we cruised through a neighborhood adjacent to our high school and smoked weed during halftime at the Homecoming game, and the officer didn’t do more than put a somewhat theatrical scare into us and confiscate our stash.
Americans should have a reasonable expectation that its teenagers–ALL of its teenagers–will generally do stuff that will annoy the kinds of stuffy, rule-mongering, sour-lipped prigs that thrive in affluent, planned communities, and that HOAs seem built for exclusively. And while I find a bunch of grown adults calling the police over what might have been a too-loud party pretty eye-roll worthy, I suppose that sort of racially motivated hand-wringing and tongue-clucking should also be reasonably expected. What’s UNreasonable is for white Americans to treat black Americans who are guilty of nothing more than being teenagers as though they are violent criminals, and to defend and even laud police officers like Casebolt who behave in a manner unfit for people who are charged with keeping communities safe and orderly. Teenagers will do what teenagers have done since time immemorial, and cops responding to a gathering of mostly black kids should respond in the same way that they always responded to my own (mostly white) teenage gatherings: break it up and move along.
In the meantime, people who are so resistant to examining their own issues of latent (or not so latent) racism that they are behaving as though the McKinney police heroically thwarted a terrorist attack would do well to sit down and think long and hard about what kind of situation calls for an armed, adult man to throw a non-violent, unarmed, 14-year-old girl to the ground, jam a knee in her back, and pull a gun on other non-violent, unarmed teenagers.
And in the meantime, stop to think how you would feel if the police had treated your own white children this way, or even if you had been treated this way during your own youth. Difficult to imagine?
There’s a reason for that.