Why I didn’t hear about this, I don’t know. This is the kind of thing that, if a white girl was involved, would be blogged about until the end of time. I’m talking about a white police officer cold cocking a 17 year old black girl square in the face for shoving him. Watch the video:

Video description: A police officer is struggling to restrain a young black woman who is yelling “Get the fuck off of me”. They are surrounded by young black men and another young black woman who gets involved in the altercation. She starts trying to separate the officer and the girl. The three tussle back and forth and then the second girl shoves the police officer. The police officer responds by punching the girl squarely in the face then pulls her over to the police car as if to handcuff her. One of the men grabs her and pulls her away. The police officer then returns to trying to restrain the first girl, who is still yelling “Get the fuck off of me”. He is pulling on the girl’s clothes and pinning her arms back as bystanders yell “Are you serious?? You’re pulling off her clothes”. He finally finishes attempting to restrain her and starts handcuffing her as she yells “You hit my cousin”. The video ends.

The girl was charged with assaulting an officer. The incident began because the girl yelling “Get the fuck off of me” was stopped for jaywalking. Yes, all that for jaywalking. Apparently the shover, her cousin, had a prior record, but really, does that justify hauling off and punching her in the face? I’m sure you can imagine the kind of uproar there would have been if the cop were black and the girl were white, or even if they were both white, because isn’t it supposed to be wrong for a man to hit a woman under any circumstances? I mean, I thought feminism was all over this shit. But I haven’t heard a peep from anyone except Jezebel and that’s not even a feminist site. Of course, they didn’t exactly go into the story in depth, and their commenters were clueless as usual.

Hopefully everyone just didn’t know, and it’s not a case of white people dismissing something outrageous happening to a woman of color because “it happens all the time” or some such nonsense. Hopefully it’s not because she had a record, or because she was struggling. Please tell me I’ve missed something because it’s really not cool that this wasn’t a bigger deal. [ETA: It’s been brought to my attention that at least two other sites did write about this incident, Shakesville, Womanist Musings and Feministing. So excuse the righteous indignation, I’m glad the incident wasn’t completely ignored. Though I think it deserves more coverage than it got, especially in the MSM.]

In other news on how valued black people are in WA, a Seattle-area school board member, Michael Kundu, is being asked to resign over an e-mail in which he stated that African-descended children have smaller brains than white and Asian children. Well, actually, Kundu wrote:

“[…] east Asians and their descendants averaged larger brain size, higher intelligence and social organization than Anglo-Saxons and their descendants, and that Anglo-Saxons, in turn, averaged higher scores in those dimensions than did Africans and their descendants.”

He cites research done by Western Ontario University professor John Philippe Rushton as his source. Rushton is not too well-regarded in his field, and his work is often classified by other academics as “propaganda”. I don’t think you need to be an academic to know that research is bunk. I also think you’d have to be pretty stupid to not only believe Rushton’s theories, but then express views supporting them to anyone other than yourself in the mirror. However, I’m just a simple African-descended female, my small brain can’t wrap itself around complex ideas the way white people with their larger brains and higher intelligences can.

Apparently, since the e-mail became public, some students have been asking how their race might keep them from achieving their academic goals. Way to crush dreams, Kundu. Along with the calls for his resignation, Kundu has been receiving missives from presumably right wing racists asking him to keep his position:

“I am … being asked privately by a number of people, including other board members across Washington, to stand up against special-interest groups so that a precedent will not be set which might impact future discussion of difficult controversial subjects like intelligent design, sexual education, religious freedom in schools, etc.”

Special interest groups? You mean black people? The idea that black people have smaller brains is not a “difficult controversial subject”. It’s out and out racist propaganda masked as legitimate scientific theory. Of course the same people who are interested in promoting intelligent design, abstinence education, and “religious freedom in schools” (which I can only imagine involves the “freedom” to mix school and church) are interested in being able to teach students that black people are inferior. This, people, is a great example of how racism, and institutionalized racism, is still alive and kicking despite the fact that there’s a darkie in the White House.

Kundu defends himself by stating that he is not racist (okay then, case closed!) and has never “exhibited discriminatory behavior to a minority group since he took office in 2003”. Also, he’s “championed diversity” during his tenure, helping out minorities by taking risks like “seeking removal of a Confederate flag from a high school”. This is a fancy version of the “I have black friends” excuse.

He now says that he’s “learned that he [Rushton] was definitely racist and used very questionable methods”. If you couldn’t tell that by the fact that the results of Rushton’s “studies” were that black people are less intelligent than pretty much everyone, I think you have some definite racism of your own you need to examine. Some other “studies” Rushton has done led him to the conclusion that men are smarter than women. See a pattern there? It’s not hard to tell his “research” is done after he comes to his conclusion.

I close with a statement from who I imagine is a Nice White Lady, which basically sums up “non-racist” white peoples’ tired reactions when racism is brought to the fore:

“I was offended by [the e-mail],” said Sherri Crenshaw, the board president. “I’m shocked that in this day and age some people have these beliefs.”

Shocked, I tell you! It sure must be nice to live in a world where you’re surprised by racism. Unfortunately, I never am.

54 thoughts on “Being Black in Washington state

  1. thank you for blogging about this! i heard snarky mention it on twitter and i've been googling it. i'm pissed now that it wasn't all over the news, and you're right, if it were a white woman (ESPECIALLY a black cop) this would be an UPROAR. the video made me want to punch something. like the cop. I will be blogging about this. needs to get out there. but it's disgusting that it hasn't already.

  2. She's resisting arrest, it seems the force is proportional. If it were two men and one laid hands on the officer whilst the other was resisting arrest then he would either have been tasered or the gun would have been drawn. In the situation the officer's reaction seems proportionate and effective. Race shouldn't be an issue here.

  3. I will probably be very unpopular for saying this, but if the girl j-walking hadn't resisted, no one would have been punched. Black, White, whatever. I say it over and over again as things like this happen and are reported to the news. If a police officer tells you to do something, you do it! You will get your chance to explain if everyone behaves like a human being living in a society.

  4. I can't believe any of the comments saying "she shouldn't have resisted". Because black women have no reason to believe that the white male police officer is stopping them for no reason at all, and no reason to believe that if they cooperate with the officer that they'll just get arrested or get the crap beat out of them anyway, amirite?

    This is all supposition on my part, especially because this is not a daily reality I have to face, but I imagine that she resisted because the odds were stacked against her walking away from the encounter with the officer unscathed. Besides, she was being stopped for jaywalking, an offense I've never seen anyone get stopped over.

    The punch wasn't just over the line, it was completely unwarranted. If he'd genuinely thought the second girl posed any threat to him, he would've kept her restrained. Instead, he focused back on the first girl, who was very obviously terrified of him. When you're an officer of the law, the onus is on YOU to assess the power dynamic in the situation.

    In the end, the practical advice is that she shouldn't have resisted, she should've cooperated, etc. But when you're terrified that cooperating is just going to end the same way as resisting, as it sadly does for many black people, you're probably not going to react calmly– especially when the police officer begins grabbing you. ESPECIALLY when you see him punch your friend in the face for trying to help you. Especially when he's tugging your clothes down, even accidentally.

  5. OMFG, these last few comments have my scratching my head. Tasha nailed this 100%. Blaming the victim is NOT, I repeat, NOT an appropriate response to this situation. I don't give a shit how much the girl was resisting the officer for her fucking JAYWALKING ticket or whether she shoved him; he is a COP and the power differential in play as well as his uniform means that HE is the one who is responsible for acting in an appropriate manner and keeping his cool (and if he flips his lid over being shoved by a teenager, imagine how he'd do during an actual emergency). There is NO circumstance under which it is appropriate for a police officer to punch someone in the face (that's what they have tazers for, FFS). And OF COURSE there would have been a huge uproar if it had been a white girl that had been punched (especially if it had been by a black officer); the current situation just plays into people's preconceived ideas whereas a white girl would be portrayed as a delicate flower of American youth, blah blah blah. Make sure your privilege isn't showing. (Sorry if this came out a little ranty…).

    • But Jerome, first off, the girl who was shoving the cop wasn't even the girl getting a ticket. If some random person off the street starts pushing and shoving a copy, he's going to respond with physical force. And if he tazed her it would be better? Really?

      I think the fact that people aren't sympathetic to the woman who was punched has less to do with her race and more to do with the fact that she was shoving the cop. That's assault, whether it's a cop or not. Doing it to a cop is just a stupider form of assault.


      • @Shannon: Respectfully, I do understand your point, but I still disagree. IMHO, yes, tazing her would've been better than punching her in the face. Even better than that would've been if the cop had kept his composure and responded in an appropriate manner.

        I do think you are missing a big point regarding race, and that's what I meant when I said to be careful regarding privilege. I think that the reason people are unsympathetic to this young woman had everything to do with race for the reasons that Tasha, myself, and a few other commenters have mentioned.

        • Jerome,
          The only reason I would say tazing would be less appropriate is that a person can die from being tazed. But I definitely think what the cop did was waaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond the necessary use of force.

          Regarding race, ya know, I still don't think you can quantify the sympathy for a person. In this case, it's hard to sympathize with the woman who was punched because she was being obnoxious over something relatively trivial (a jaywalking ticket). But I've seen videos where other women (typically black) were punched or maced or tazed for mouthing off or resisting handcuffs or something relatively benign. In those cases, I'm furious, when it's clear that the cop is abusing his power. But in this particular case, I find it hard to sympathize with the woman who was shoving the cop over this stupid ticket.

          I don't think I would feel any differently if it were a white woman shoving a cop over a stupid ticket and she got punched in the face. But that's just me. Would society respond differently? Nobody knows for sure. And unless you can point to a similar incident, then you're opinion is more based on your assumptions (which are based on your experiences) than any particular incident where a white woman was shown more sympathy than a black woman.


          • Just to be clear: I do NOT think the woman should have been tazed. I was just offering that as a reason why punching her in the face was an inappropriate first response.

          • aliciamaud74 says:

            I think it's more illuminating that I CAN'T point to an incident of a white girl getting punched in the face (by a white cop in broad daylight in front of a crowd) and yet here we have this film right in front of us, showing the same thing happening to a 17 year old black girl. And plenty of implications in the comments that she was asking for it when she shoved a white cop. And not a single showing on the national news.

            And seriously, we need to prove that the media and public are more interested in mistreatment of white women than women of color? Which name do you not recognize: Chandra Levy, Natalie Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Joyce Chiang?

        • You know what? You've got some serious issues.

          You can't actually engage in a dialogue, you just want me to shut the fuck up. I've already said REPEATEDLY that the punch was excessive force. But that's not going to stop you from trying to paint me as a misogynistic asshole who enjoys the abuse of women.

          I'm seriously holding my tongue out of respect for your sister, who I respect.

          I knew you already had issues with me since I wasn't allowed to post either of my completely benign comments about Jane Lynch on your post on IFMIB. So, the fact that you can't parse the nuance in my opinions is no surprise. You have some inexplicable contempt for me and you've found a perfect outlet to unleash it on me now. Congratulations, I hope you're satisfied.

          Now, could you please grow up?


          • Out of all the problematic things in that response, did he really just insinuate that Tasha is a better black woman than Snarky's Machine because she hasn't yelled at him for being a jackass yet? 'Cause that's what it sounds like to me.

            Dude oughta quit while he's behind.

  6. Okay, one more point: Saying that that's just the way things are (i.e., you just don't talk back to a cop) is absolutely not a valid excuse for the officer's behavior. Just because something is always done a certain way doesn't mean that it's right. Duh.

  7. badhedgehog says:

    Bad things are bad things even when they're done to any of the following: Stupid people; arsy people; shirty people; sweary people; people who are wrong; people who are not making things easier.

    Also, if the cop was concerned about losing control of the situation, surely punching the teenager in the face was NOT a good idea. To me, the cop looked like he was just bloody useless at arresting the first teenager. Out of his depth. Shitty skills on his part.

    Totally it would be different if the teenage girl was white. I have seen a bunch of victim blaming comments on this video that amount to "ooooohhh, GANGS and that, GANGS! There are GANGS in this area and so the cop was concerned they might take his weapon and use it against him so of course he had to punch her in the face" to which I think hem hem, GANGS and black youth, there are two things that get thrown together a little too readily, in a way that people don't make the same level of implicit association between gangs and white youth. (note that this is not the same as me stating "I do not believe that white young people are ever in gangs, and I do not believe that any other people believe that white young people are ever in gangs" just to be clear)

  8. It is truly scary to me how many people think that anything other than dog-pee submission to a cop merits whatever the cop chooses to do next. They are there to PROTECT and SERVE, and our taxes pay for that protection and service. I just cannot fathom paying for bullying and brutality. This is what facism looks like, folks!

    @BHH – I hear what you're saying. I think the inverse of that is why Nice White People deny the power abuse and instead victim blame in these situations. They believe that because they LOOK and ACT like "law abiding citizens" – which of course is shorthand for white-het/cis presenting-appropriately bootstrapped into a job & home, this kind of thing could never happen to them. Ergo, if it happens to someone else, it's because "they" (yanno, them, those people) deserved it.

  9. I haven't written about this but I live in Seattle and yeah- suffice to say I wasn't shocked when it happened and I'm not surprised by a lot of the commentary.

  10. Fuuuuuck.

    That cop should not have punched that woman. End of story. I'm curious to know why he was even trying to restrain her in the first place. Did she react badly when he tried to stop her? Even so, he had NO FUCKING RIGHT.

    Guh….I wish I knew more, and even if I did, still not okay.

  11. aliciamaud74 says:

    I wonder if any of people's justification of the cop's action has anything to do with becoming so accustomed to seeing women (particularly women of color) subject to violence. I mean, can we take a minute and think about (remember?) how much it would hurt to be PUNCHED IN THE F'IN' FACE by someone who is bigger, stronger, and using the element of surprise?

    Cheekbones and jawbones break. Vertabrae crack. Brains and teeth get ruined. People talk about getting cold cocked like it's no big thing, but a punch like this, slightly misplaced, slightly more out of control could have KILLED her. For jaywalking?!

    There was a similar situation in my town two years ago (breaking up a fight outside a school, not jaywalking) and a 14 year old's eye was permanently damaged by taking a punch from an officer like this. (And whaddyaknow? It was a white cop, and a young black woman.)

    • Alicia,
      The woman who was punched was not the woman who was jaywalking. If you watch the video, the first woman he struggles with was going to get a ticket for jaywalking and she tried to walk away. So the cop tried to stop her, but she walked away again, so he grabbed her arm. Then they started struggling as he tried to control her (which is where the video picks up). Then her friend intervenes and shoves the cop and the cop responds by punching her in the face.

      First of all, the punch was excessive force. Period.

      But that does not mean that the women are blameless in this incident. The first woman tried to walk away from a cop because he was going to write her a ticket. I'm sorry, but if a cop is going to write you a ticket, even if you don't think it's justified, you don't get to just ignore the cop. You don't just get to walk away and pretend it didn't happen. If you have a problem with it, you can try to argue with the cop, you can plead, beg or state your case, but in reality, the only place where you can truly resist the ticket is in court. If a cop sees you breaking the law, his job is to give you a ticket.

      The moment she walked away from him, that gave him the authority to detain her until he could write her a ticket, which is what he tried to do. She responded by resisting him further until her friend jumped in and shoved the cop.

      Now, up until this point, the women in the video were completely and utterly to blame for the cop's response. The one woman was mad about the ticket and the other woman was mad that the cop was trying to detain her friend, but the way they handled their frustration was wrong. Pure and simple.

      What the women were not responsible for is the way in which the cop responded, which was beyond the pale. If the cop had tazed the woman who shoved her, people wouldn't be discussing it because tazing is seen as, for some reason, acceptable (even though a person can die from being tazed). I think that people recognize that the women in this video were provoking the cop into escalating his aggression.

      That being said, a cop is trained to use force appropriately and in this case, he did not. He used excessive force and should be punished accordingly.

      I do not believe that race is a factor in this incident. I believe there are plenty of videos of incidents out there where race IS definitely a factor, but in this case I believe the behavior of the two women is more of a factor than their race.


      • aliciamaud74 says:

        I did watch the video and I'm not entirely clear why you felt it necessary to recount it to me…did you think I didn't understand it? My point is that the initial offense was incredibly mild, and he allowed a situation with jaywalking at the heart of it to escalate in inappropriate ways, and that some people might be ok with it because he "just" punched her. I feel like you're correcting me, though I didn't say anything to suggest that the women didn't make some bad decisions along the way here, nor did I suggest that race was the *only* factor, though I absolutely believe that it was crucial, both in the initial incident and in people's reaction to/discussion of it, in which the act of her getting smashed seems to me to be repeatedly downplayed. (And I'm not only referring to the discussion here, btw. I was trying to raise a question about why people discuss this in a way that suggests a punch is no big deal, or assumes that it does less damage than tasing, which is not necessarily accurate.)

        And nothing happens without context, so you can say race doesn't matter here, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, a white girl who didn't think she had reason to be terrified of the police might not have resisted to begin with, and the whole thing would have unfolded differently. For another, he's the white dude with the gun, and I'm hard-pressed to imagine a situation where that fact would be irrelevant. HE'S the professional here, the one who is trained to know those dynamics, and his effort to diffuse this situation before bashing a minor's face is decidedly unimpressive, and the actual punch overkill.

        My (white) brother is a cop in Baltimore, and I'm well aware that it would be a bad idea to walk away from him if he were trying to put you under arrest. And that as a white cop in B'more, there aren't too many things that happen in a day's work that happen divorced from the context of race. I'm also aware that he lifts weights for about an hour and a half a day, and if he punched a 17 year old girl for shoving him, it would be excessive force, and he would have his ass handed to him. And he would likely be devastated by his own behavior, even if the girl behaved badly first. Maybe she did, but she's not in uniform, and his response is out of proportion.

        My suggestion still stands. I think some people may be more willing to accept this situation, and the fact that it is not covered on the news or in the paper because they are accustomed to seeing women, particularly women of color, treated violently.

        • aliciamaud74 says:

          My brother has had balloons full of ammonia thrown in his face by 12 year old boys on the street while he was in pursuit of a dude with a gun. Know what he didn't do? Punch those boys in their faces.

          • aliciamaud74 says:

            And does anyone seriously believe that if a cute little blonde girl did the same little shove-y thing, his immediate response would be to punch her in the face? In front of a crowd of people, like it was no thing? Or that if he did, her bruised face wouldn't be on the cover of every single newspaper the next day? Puh-lease.

      • @Atchka!

        Are you of Color? If you aren't, you don't get to dictate when something is or isn't a race issue. Also, you might need to ease up on the length of those comments. Nobody wants to read a book length version of your racial privilege and general ignorance.

        • Really? So, only people of color get to decide whether something is or isn't a race issue?

          Wow, is there some sort of committee formed by people of color that meets and determines which issues are and aren't race-based? I didn't realize that certain opinions were reserved for certain groups and that white people are supposed to shut the fuck up when it comes to issues of race.

          Or is it just white people who don't agree with you whole-heartedly?

          My comments are long because this subject is nuanced and requires a lengthy analysis, in my opinion. If you want to oversimplify the issue by saying, "He punched her because she's black," then be my guest. But nowhere did I say that race played ZERO role in this incident. I just don't believe that the actual punch was determined by race.

          I think the bigger question, in terms of race, is why did the cop attempt to ticket the black girl for jaywalking and not the other white people who were ALSO jaywalking.

          And finally, dismissing my opinions because of the color of my skin is a form of racism, whether I have privilege or not. You want to say I'm full of shit? Fine, but don't tell me that the color of my skin determines the validity of my opinions. That makes you a hypocrite, in my opinion.


          • OFFS. Shannon, I am telling you this as a fellow male who has also been guilty of mansplaining on various occasions: WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING IN THESE COMMENTS IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF MANSPLAINING, WHICH DOES NOT MEAN A MAN EXPRESSING HIS OPINION. I'm not going to spell it out for you any further because your Google works as well as mine.

          • Jerome,
            I'm familiar with mansplaining. I know what it is and I, personally, think it's just an easy way to say "Shut up, we don't like your opinion."

            But do me a favor and point out where, specifically, I am mansplaining. I'd like to know what exactly it is in my comments that you're referring to.


          • And honestly, does a POC really need to explain it to you, using small words, why your opinion doesn't really count for shit when you say something isn't a race issue?

            FFS, you've got a white force field around you protecting you from every having to see anything as a race issue, so no, you don't get to say. You have white privilege, merely by dint of being white.

            I know it's hard having your supreme white dude opinion discounted and at some point I may sit down to cry some Black Woman's Tears, but, eh, we all know those aren't worth much.

          • I think you are absolutely correct, badhedgehog.

            I also think that his claim elsewhere that he respects Tasha is, well, laughable, considering how much bullshit he's shoveling all over her space here.

          • > Really? So, only people of color get to decide whether something is > or isn’t a race issue?


            > And finally, dismissing my opinions because of the color of my skin > is a form of racism, whether I have privilege or not.

            No, it isn't. Again, Google would be a helpful investigational tool for you here.

  12. Jesus fucking Christ. Why is this shit still going on? I swear, a lot of cops are no better than thugs.

    I'm a Jezabel commentator, but I didn't even want to get into it there.

  13. Someone mentioned this story a few days ago at work, saying that some cop had punched a girl who was interfering with an arrest and pushed the officer. We all agreed that the officer was correct in defending himself, because any teenager or PRE-TEEN these days could easily have a weapon, and that anyone interfering with a cop must be an idiot. Until I read this post just now I had no idea what the race was of anyone concerned.

      • aliciamaud74 says:

        NEVER, Snarky's Machine? Not even if the woman is inconveniencing him while he's trying his best to be a powermongering asshole?

        Trying to figure out how to splint my sprained-from-rolling eyeballs…

  14. I put it up on FB and got the 'she was interfering' and 'if people don't think its a big deal why is it all over the news in seattle' stuff, that i was overthinking and overanalyzing to assume race had anything to do with it.
    i don't give a crap, frankly, if she was being stupid with the cop.

    He didn't need to hit her. the force with which he punched her was excessive. he shouldn't have been violent with her period.

    cops get away with so much BS because 'ooh don't interfere with a cop'.

  15. This video made me so goddamn angry. I think every single member of my family, (including myself), have been in a similar situation (as in existing while black). And when some privileged white person comes swanning in wanting to portion out blame in a clear case of unnecessary force, well, it just makes me want to start jaywalking all over someone's face.

    I can't count, literally, cannot fucking count, the number of times I've been pulled up and or chided for some minor or non-existent infarction while one metre away there's a white person doing the exact same fucking thing.

    Black people only tell other black people that they shouldn't antagonise the police because we've lived way too long with their boot on our neck (yes, sometimes literally). But at least we know that shit's wrong.

  16. …aaaaaaand I've just realized that I've been on some white translator bullshit this whole time and am going to bow out of the discussion now.

  17. I can't even deal with this. I think Jerome, Snarky, eli, icedtea, alicia, BHH etc made my points for me. I just can't wrap my head around why anyone would be defending that cop. And I don't understand why it's so hard to realize that PoC's voices should be privileged in discussions like this.

    So I'm closing comments on this thread (for the first time ever) because it's just going in circles.

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