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jic: Daniel Jackson (SG1) firing weapon, caption "skill to do comes of doing" (Default)
I think the critical difference between what's going on at the wildlife refuge in Oregon and its most popular subject of comparison both is and isn't what it appears to be. It appears to be race, but it isn't (but it is). It appears to be a difference between how people are treated based on color, but it isn't (but it is).

It's actually about fear.

We strong, tough, cowboy Americans do not like to admit to fear. We throw around words like that "imminent threat" and "stand your ground" and "self-defense" like they mean something different from "I'm afraid someone is going to hurt me." But no rational analysis supports that any number of unarmed, prepubescent boys is more of a threat than the same number of armed, obstreperous men. The comparison holds even less water when you compare one Tamir Rice to *considerably more than one* "anti-government protesters" (as they are called by CNN). If we're willing to suffer the murder of a child at play, where is the proportionate response to this illegal, armed occupation?

The difference is fear.

When the protesters took occupancy of a federal building, it was empty. There was no one there to have any immediate sense of fear, and later we can shrug it off as a thing happening 30 miles from the nearest town, nothing imminent about it. The employees who work there don't even have to escape, the just have to... not go to work. Nobody is afraid of these neckbeards in spite of their arsenal and ordnance.

But here's why it IS about race (even when it isn't).

What was so scary about twelve year old Tamir Rice? His toy gun? Really? Would the officer have leaped to the assumption that the toy pellet gun was a firearm if it had been in the hands of a white child? Would the officer have assumed it was being pointed at people if it had been in the hands of a white child? Wouldn't a white child have gotten even half a second's benefit of the doubt that Tamir was not given? It wasn't what Tamir was doing, it's that he was doing it *while black*.

If the gentlemen neckbeards on the wildlife reserve were a group of brown men in turbans, white people would be frightened. It wouldn't be justified, but it would be true. The news would talk about threats and danger, but the part no one - least of all the middle-aged, paunchy, white men in charge of deployment of force - would want to admit is that they are *scared*. And as much as anything else, that fear is that they will look stupid when the "threat" turns out to be a shadow instead of a monster. So they double-down on making other people as afraid as they are.

Some of it is directly and unambiguously about race. If the gentlemen neckbeards on the preserve were black, maybe they'd just ("just") be getting slapped down for being "uppity" since the current fear narrative isn't about black people.

But when you try to take away the racial aspect by focusing on the distance and the lack of imminence and the absence of people to be threatened.... Well, then it's *still* about race because people of a different color doing the *exact same thing* would get a different story, one that encourages us white people to shiver in our beds and thank God the army is there to protect us.