The right's wrong reaction to the Missouri shooting

The sensible responses to these developments strike me as these: (1) To acknowledge that justice is a process — and a slow one at that — and that we should all wait for the facts of the case before reacting too vehemently. Police officers are no less fallible than any other human beings, and, as we should all sadly know by now, there are many among them who are unconscionably trigger-happy. Nevertheless, presumption of innocence applies to men in uniform, too, and to pretend otherwise is to abandon those virtuous institutions that keep us civilized. Easy as it might sound to recommend, patience and restraint are necessary here; (2) To insist that rioting is in almost all cases unacceptable, and that this is especially so when the targets of violence are wholly unrelated to the matter at hand. As the deceased’s own family has established — with palpable exasperation — nobody’s interests here can possibly be served by third parties taking goods from private stores and then burning them down; (3) To groan at the news that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are gearing up to involve themselves in the mess, and to note that no good can come of their particular brand of self-aggrandizing rabble-rousing; (4) to push back gently against the notion that the United States is currently afflicted by an epidemic of white-on-black butchery.

Alas, far too many conservatives have today taken a different road, responding to the news instead by insistently and smugly repeating a non sequitur. “Well,” these types have inquired on Twitter and beyond, “what about black on black violence, huh?” Distilled into its purest form, this request boils down to a scoff: “Why, pray, are the people of Ferguson so worried about this unlovely episode, when almost 500 black Americans die at the hands of other black Americans every month?”

This is a peculiar and inappropriate response. Whatever its cause, it is indisputably true that the United States has a problem with blacks killing blacks. And yet this has absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand, which is: “Did a police officer unjustifiably kill an unarmed black man in Missouri?” It is feasible, is it not, to be worried about the internecine violence in America’s inner cities and to want to get to the bottom of an allegedly unwarranted shooting? So why the conflation? After all, whether or not it is intentional, reacting to a community’s grief by raising an entirely separate topic smacks largely of distraction — of reflexively throwing up a roadblock to what is a legitimate line of inquiry in the hope that the subject might swiftly be changed.