There’s been quite some upheaval in the US recently as a result of the killing of black people by white policemen, who subsequently do not get punished. I am not familiar enough with the cases themselves to have an opinion, but I did see the video that featured Eric Garners last minutes in this life. Something struck me that seems to have gotten less attention than it deserves.
The point that Eric Garner was the victim of racist violence may or may not be warranted, I simply do not know. But from watching the video it struck me that he is in any case the victim of unnecessary violence. It seems to me be another structural problem for the police in the US.
I’ll try to disregard the way US police is depicted in film and on TV, that may be an exaggeration of real life. But judging from what Americans have told me about attitudes of their police, and the attitudes of US civilians towards their police, it seems to me these attitudes are prone to cause violence of an unnecessary nature.
US policemen – I am generalising now for the sake of clarity – seem to expect that civilians obediently follow their instructions, without questioning. If that doesn’t happen, discussion is not what follows, but coercion. I’m not going to claim that my country does not know police violence, it does, but whenever I’ve seen our police handle ‘situations’, I’ve always been impressed by their tenacity in trying to solve the problem by discussion. I’ve never seen that happen in the US, nor heard about it.
I’ve seen the same tenacity depicted in US films, in hostage-situations or other occurences where the suspect had a position of power over the police. Where the police – in other words – had no other choice but to negociate. Again, I’m not sure whether these films reflect real life, but the fact that it’s depicted means that the concept of negociating between police and civilians is known.
Yet from what I know first-hand about US culture that concept is not applied with the same diligence as over here. I think this is a second, nay first, problem that needs to be solved.