Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What's good for the goose is good for the gander?

Recently, I've written a few posts about why I don't like "mob justice".  In my posts, I referenced the recent situation with "Permit Patty", who was filmed calling the police after a mother and child stood under her window screaming for a couple of hours.  They were trying to sell water while "Permit Patty" was trying to work.  She confronted them and was promptly labeled a racist for her complaint.

I may be in the minority, but I think the backlash for that specific incident was unreasonable.  I dared to say so in a few places.  A couple of rabid Internet warriors decided to take me on.  I ignored them because it was clear I wouldn't be appealing to reasonable people.

Last night, I saw another video involving a person confronting another.  This time, it was a man who appeared to be drunk, confronting Mia Irizarry, a Puerto Rican woman, for wearing a t-shirt from Puerto Rico.  The man demanded to know if she was a U.S. citizen.

The young woman asks a nearby police officer for help and he does nothing as this belligerent man repeatedly verbally attacks her.

Now, obviously, the man in the video, 62 year old Timothy Trybus, is absolutely wrong to be harassing Irizarry.  For one thing, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.  For another thing, it's not against the law to be brown, nor was Irizarry breaking any laws by having a cookout in a park.  Clearly, the guy is an asshole, and although the cop in the video does nothing to help Ms. Irizarry at first, Trybus was eventually arrested for disorderly conduct and assault.

However... I couldn't help but remember the incident involving Dr. Jennifer Schulte, aka BBQ Becky, who called the police on a couple of black men barbecuing in a park in Oakland, California.  She was confronted in a somewhat similar way, except the person aggressively confronting her was insisting that Schulte is a racist for objecting to the use of a charcoal grill in the park.  

This confrontation was deemed justifiable by many people.

Incidentally, Schulte was correct in that the area where the grilling was going on was, in fact, off limits for charcoal grilling.  Should she have called the police over it?  Obviously not, since she's now become a person of viral Internet infamy.   

I don't know if Schulte is an actual racist or just someone who is extremely into environmental issues.  Given that it's Oakland, California, where there are a lot of environmentalists, I think it's possible that her call to the police was not about racism.  I do know that the woman filming the video, Michelle Snider, claims that Schulte referred to her husband and his friends by the "n-word", but there is no footage of it that I'm aware of.  It's possible that Schulte is a racist, but it's also possible she's not.  However, plenty of people were willing to jump on the bandwagon accusing her of racism once the incident went viral.  

To be clear, I don't think these kinds of confrontations are a good idea.  Obviously, many people are sympathetic to Mia Irizarry, who had rented a picnic area and was simply trying to enjoy her day at the park in Chicago, and ended up being harassed.  On the other hand, most people were unsympathetic to BBQ Becky, whose conduct was not on the side of public opinion.  Both Irizarry and Schulte were angrily confronted by people who felt they had the right to get up in their faces and invade their personal spaces.  

It's not that I don't think Schulte's conduct was of the asshole variety.  It's just that I worry that these kinds of confrontations can turn into epidemics of emboldened people looking for fifteen minutes of Internet fame.  Moreover, sometimes people can jump on bandwagons without having all of the facts.  Lives can be ruined over incidents that really should be minor.  I don't like to see people's lives upended over vigilante justice.  I'd rather see justice done fairly and impartially.  It doesn't serve society for people to lose their jobs over stuff like this.  In fact, even when a person is shamed and apologizes, once something like this goes viral, it can lead to the perception that the person's entire life is now ruined.  That's what causes suicides and other dramatic and desperate actions.  

Plenty of people think it was fine for Michelle Snider to aggressively confront Jennifer Schulte.  The same people don't think it's fine that Timothy Trybus aggressively confronted Mia Irizarry.  The difference seems to be public perception of what is "right".  And if you see a problem with this kind of behavior and dare to disagree with it, particularly when you're not completely sympathetic to the assumed victim, people will turn their mob justice tactics on you.  I think that's a problem, because it can create a culture of fear.  People should be able to call on peace officers and they should expect to get assistance when they call for it, in a manner that is as non-violent as possible.  Police should be held accountable when someone is badly hurt or killed in an incident involving the police.  Ordinary citizens should feel free to ask for help from the police when a problem arises, regardless of what race they are.  The police should serve as the "voices of reason", rather than a force to be feared.

Pretty soon, people won't want to get involved in situations where laws are being broken because they won't want to end up on YouTube.  Moreover, these kinds of confrontations do little to promote peace and racial harmony.  They simply end up being fun skewerings for armchair warriors who have nothing better to do than comment on irrelevant things like a person's appearance, manner of speaking, or dress.  Check out any video involving Jennifer Schulte and you will see comparisons to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as nasty comments about her weight, and the fact that she was driven to tears.  Schulte's physical appearance has nothing to do with the issue at hand, which was whether or not she had the right to complain to the police about charcoal grilling.  The same can be said for Alison Ettel, aka "Permit Patty", who complained about a girl selling water without a permit.  Ettel wasn't necessarily camera ready when she went down in Internet infamy.    

Does anyone really believe that angrily calling people out for perceived racist behavior will prevent them from being racist in the future?  I think all it will do is either make them more inclined to hide their true selves or actually give them an excuse to be racists, which is not really a solution, is it?  If the aim is to stop racism, I don't think we'll get there by publicly grilling people and fanning the flames of hatred.  

I'm reminded of this ER storyline, when Mark Greene was accused of being racist because a black man in his care died.  He was later beaten up in a hospital restroom, which caused him to become fearful of black people because he had been threatened by his deceased patient's brother.  Although the actual attacker was never identified, Greene assumed the brother was behind the attack and started thinking of all black people as violent.

Even as I think about this issue, I hesitate to publish this post.  Why?  Because right now, it seems like America is akin to a stirred up hornet's nest.  People are just looking for the next person to vilify.  I suppose I could be next.  Fortunately, I live in Europe, where people have the right to be forgotten.  


  1. Yes, at this point in time you are indeed lucky to be on that side of the pond. I am envious.

    1. I worry about how long it will last as Trump does his best to anger our allies.

  2. Where Dr. Schulte was concerned, had I been in her place, if I felt THAT strongly about the bbqing from an environmental standpoint, I would have called whatever authority I chose to call (EPA, police, or whoever) without first confronting the guilty parties. If they're bold enough to flaunt posted rules, she won't get anywhere by confronting them.

    The idiot who took on Ms. Irizarry (which is a Badque surname; I wonder what percentage of Puerto Rican people have Basque names) was probably too stupid to be allowed to roam freely. I read yesterday that the initial officer, who did nothing, has resigned from the police force.


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