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What You're Saying

‘When She Objected to Putting Out Her Cigarette ... She Was Saying, Leave Me Alone.’

A selection of recent letters from our readers.

“You don’t have to like them and you don’t have to respect them, but you will respect that badge because that gives them the right to throw you in jail.”

Years ago we had a foster son. He had had his share of run-ins with the law. Some deserving but some just because they knew him and his family’s history. He wasn’t black but looked Hispanic, but every time the police would pull him over or stop him walking down the street, he would get smart with them. I told him to “knock it off.” He said “Well I don’t like them.” I said “You don’t have to like them.” I said “You don’t have to like them and you don’t have to respect them, but you WILL respect that badge because that gives them the right to throw you in jail.”

— Barbara, of Edgewater, Colo., in response to ‘A Black Man’s Guide to Survival’

“Even if the officer’s actions are technically explainable, his police work is outrageous.”

I live in Australia and have 33 years operational police experience ... In this jurisdiction we ask ourselves three questions when we are about to arrest someone. Firstly, is there an offence? ... Secondly, can I arrest? ... Thirdly, will I arrest? ... If the officer had asked himself these questions Ms. Bland would still be here today. The officer arrested Ms. Bland because he was annoyed with her attitude not because of her offence. She was arrested because of the officer’s actions; not her own. Even if the officer’s actions are technically explainable, his police work is outrageous.

— Ian Smith, in response to The Sandra Bland Breakthrough

“When she objected to putting out her cigarette ... she was saying, ‘Leave me alone.’”

What is missing is the officer’s lack of recognition the he was dealing with a volatile, frightened black woman stopped on a lightly traveled Texas road with no one around. He missed some important social cues, in my judgement, especially the critical one, when she objected to putting out her cigarette. She was saying, “Leave me alone.” He missed the critical importance and volatility of that exchange and the power struggle ensued.

— William B. Abbott III of Saratoga, Calif., in response to What You May Have Missed in the Sandra Bland Video

“Pretrial detention is designed to crush one’s spirit into acquiescence and despair.”

The system loathes adjudication. As such, pretrial detention prior to a person even being able to make bond is designed specifically for the model of punishment before adjudication ... Conditions of pretrial release are often so onerous and filled with so many conditions that one truly feels they have already been convicted. This is the goal of this model. Pretrial detention is designed to crush one’s spirit into acquiescence and despair.

— Tony Lowenstein of Connecticut, in response to The Problem with NYC’s Bail Reform

“What are we willing to sacrifice to raise ourselves out of the mire of a perpetual holocaust?”

Asked about why racial reconciliation efforts have failed, Mr. Stevenson concludes, “I actually think we’ve never really tried to succeed.” True. Instead we have spun feel-good sagas about Civil Rights icons and Confederate might and immigrants who built empires with their bare hands, and we are satisfied to share these bedtime stories with our children in order to perpetuate the myths. What are we willing to sacrifice to raise ourselves out of the mire of a perpetual holocaust? Could we start with the narrative?

— Nwandi Ngozi Lawson of Atlanta, Ga., in response to Bryan Stevenson on Charleston and Our Real Problem with Race

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