Of the many reasons I'm opposed to civility and this kind of "debate," possibly the most central is that people who say and do shitty things are not the kinds of people who will change through civil debate. I wholly endorse every sentence of this piece on whether or not one should punch Nazis (spoiler alert: the answer is always YES), but I want to highlight this bit from the linked piece on "civil debate" with pieces of shit:
Dialogue is for reasonable people acting in good faith. Dialogue is between two acceptable positions. “Taxes need to be raised” vs. “taxes need to be lowered” is grounds for dialogue. “Taxes need to be raised” vs. “Jews should be thrown in ovens” is grounds for a beating.So my story is not about a Nazi (well, he very well could be a Nazi, but this instance is just plain ol' racism), but the spirit is the same -- anyone willing to act like a Nazi is not going to be swayed by a patient explanation of why it's bad to act like a Nazi. Just like racist dickheads are not going to be persuaded to not be racist dickheads by someone kindly explaining that being a racist dickhead is a bad thing.
Anyway, the short version of what happened this afternoon: I stopped in the grocery store for a few things and was waiting to use the self checkout thing because I hate human interaction and want to keep it to an absolute minimum. In front of me in line were three young Black guys, probably in their late teens or early 20s, all holding boxes of pre-made sandwiches the grocery store sells in those weird little food stalls that make the one part of the grocery store a cafeteria. You know what I'm talking about. We're all just standing in line, those guys are chatting with each other, I'm scrolling mindlessly on my phone, nothing's out of the ordinary.
Then all of a sudden the security guard/cop (I thought he was just store security, turns out he's an actual cop) makes a beeline to the guys in front of me telling them they need to pay and leave. One of them, who miraculously stayed way cooler than I would ever have been able to in this interaction, told him that's exactly what they're trying to do, as they're standing in line holding money in their hands (which one might argue is a pretty traditional sign someone is trying to pay for their merchandise). He then asked why the cop was being so aggressive with them, which caused the cop to spin an amazingly fantastical story about how they weren't actually three people in line to pay for the items they were holding with the money they were also clearly holding, but instead that one was a lookout and the other two were going to rob the place. When another of the three pointed out they were standing in line with money in their hands, he told them they needed to pay right now and leave immediately. Still showing far more restraint than I would in such a situation, the guys set their sandwiches down and told him they didn't want them anymore and left, and the security guy picked up the discarded sandwiches to take them back.
After I paid for my stuff, I tracked the cop down and asked him if I could speak to his supervisor, and he asked me with a big friendly smile what the problem was and what he could do for me. When I told him it was insanely inappropriate the way he was clearly targeting those guys because they were Black, he simply said "Oh please" in an exaggerated manner and walked off (it's worth noting how much his behavior and demeanor changed from when he thought I was just a white person to when he found out I don't care for racism). As I followed him I activated my Clean Cut White Professional Demeanor (TM) and demanded to see his supervisor and he just told me to "go to the front of the store." Being both outraged and a dick, I told him I didn't understand his directions and at least made him shame walk me to a manager.
The manager (also white) dutifully listened to me, but then explained that I didn't know the full story and that the cop had actually been following them around the store for a while. When I loudly interrupted her to tell her that I was not at all surprised he had been following them and that was indeed the exact problem I had, she insisted that I didn't know the full story. But when I asked her for the full story, she was forced to admit she had no idea what happened, either. It was at this point I noted that I had just been walking around the store for about 20 minutes wearing an empty backpack. She didn't seem to understand the point I was making, so I pointed out to her that is suspicious behavior, as that is what people who are actually trying to steal stuff do. Of course, I contrasted this with the completely-normal behavior of the guys who got harassed, and she tried to sputter out a nonsensical explanation of how I wasn't suspicious.
Being tired of the go-around, I finally asked her if it was company policy to harass Black people doing nothing wrong or if that was just this one cop's prerogative, and she assured me in pained corporate speak that the company does not tolerate this sort of thing and that she would review the security tapes to see what happened (spoiler alert: she will absolutely not do this).
But you know what really sticks out in this story? As I walked out of the store, the asshole cop was back on his little cop perch by the registers watching me. And once he noticed I could see him, he got that fucking smirk. You know the exact smirk without even having seen it -- it's the smirk that says "Yeah, I can fuck with Black people all I want and you can't do shit about it hippie."
And he's right. That manager isn't going to do shit. I called the Giant Eagle corporate headquarters to report it and they aren't going to do shit. I called the police precinct that covers the area to report it and you know they aren't going to do shit. Hell, I'm not really going to do shit about it. I mean, I complained to everyone I can think of to complain to about this, but I know it's not going to go anywhere. I could stop shopping there in feeble protest, but that's not going to accomplish anything, and it's the closest grocery store to my house and I'm a profoundly lazy man.
This all put me in a shitty mood as I was walking home, reflecting on how there was nothing I could do that would actually effect this dickhead in any way, and he had just ruined what was otherwise a really great day I was having. And then the solipsism of this hit me and I spent the rest of the walking thinking about how shitty it would have to be to not be able to buy a fucking sandwich without someone treating you like shit for no reason.
But even more than my own hopeless feeling of powerlessness that comes from knowing that prick won't even be mildly inconvenienced for this or the rage I feel for those guys who just wanted some sandwiches is the anger over that fucking smirk. Because even if these young men had done something that called for such a response (though they hadn't, and I strain to think what would justify such a dick move), I would think any normal person who had just been told what they did was blatantly racist would be slightly repentant. Even if they had justification for their actions, I still think most right-thinking people would be at least slightly chastened by the appearance of being a racist dick, even if they weren't.
But not this guy. Nope, he smirked. And he maintained eye contact with me the entire time I walked out to make damn sure I knew he was smirking at me. He smirked because he enjoys this -- he enjoys holding power over people, and he especially enjoys that he gets to put Black people in their place and there's nothing they or I or anyone can do about it. All while he's being paid by the tax dollars of these young men to serve and protect them.
And yet what fucking kills me is how many white people will react to this story the exact way that manager did -- even while admitting they have no idea what happened, they are fully sure that these Black guys deserved to be treated like criminals for having the audacity to stand in line waiting to pay for sandwiches. Plenty of them would roll their eyes just like the asshole himself, because to these people the idea that a Black person wouldn't deserve to be disrespected is simply inconceivable.
These people deserve neither civility nor dialogue. They deserve a fucking two-by-four right into their smug fucking faces, and if you argue otherwise, you're just as big a problem as they are.