The Sean Bell Verdict

Last week, the three NYPD officers charged with murdering Sean Bell in 2006 were acquitted of all charges. I don’t have much more to say on the issue than has already been said, but I wanted to make sure this news was acknowledged here at Feministing. Ann has a post up about it at TAPPED, comparing the case to the situation of Amadou Diallo and Jack at Angry Brown Butch has some interesting things to say about what it means find justice in this case.

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59 Comments

  1. atheistwoman
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Also, it is a feminist issue because racialized violence err I don’t know, just happens to SUPPORT the patriarchy.
    Ditto this
    “Also, at the core of Feminism is the idea that what we are told, what is portrayed in the media, and what society values are not what we should accept”

  2. honkifyoulike
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    “it saddens me to see fellow liberals basically believing the testimony of people with police records, who were at a strip club with a horrible reputation, over officers who get paid a dismal amount of money to make sure that you stay safe”
    That’s why I’m a radical, not a liberal. That’s why the feminists I organize with are radicals who know better than to trust and rely on cops or other authoritarians.

  3. spike the cat
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I feel pretty hopeless because I sense that a lot of people feel deep down that this incident is just an unfortunate consequence of a system that is necessary for greater society.
    Meanwhile, the moral and intellectual arguments against violence are falling away in other spheres of life as well.
    It might be logical to conclude that racism was not a factor because some of the cops where black. But unfortunately black people aren’t immune to internalized racism, no more than women are immune to internalizing aspects of sexism.
    One thing’s for sure though. This won’t be the last time something like this goes down.

  4. atheistwoman
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    spike the cat
    A major issue with institutionalized racism or sexism is that anyone can activate it. You just have to work off of the plans already laid out for you by the initial bigots. I call it Ann Coulter syndrome

  5. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Cops sometimes tell the truth, and sometimes not–just like everyone else. Obviously, the one person who could actually provide insight into Sean Bell’s actions and intent is Bell, and he’s dead.
    I plan, as is my practice, to take the police statements, actions, and testimony with a grain of salt. Like everyone else, I suspect that they are putting the best possible spin on the entire presentation.
    Just because a cop says “I felt threatened” doesn’t mean he WAS objectively justified in feeling that way, or even that he’s telling the truth about his feelings.
    Where I differ from some is that I also apply that same analysis to everyone else involved in the case, be they defendants or third party witnesses.

  6. AnnaSoror
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    To those who argue that the police were justified because they felt threatened:
    Don’t you think Bell felt threatened with five men pointing guns at him? He didn’t know they were police officers, but he *did* know they were pointing weapons at him. So wouldn’t he have been justified in trying to run them over to keep them from killing him? [I'm not saying that's what actually happened; just for the sake of argument.]

  7. BWrites
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Cops also have a greater responsibility to diffuse threats– they’re given power in our society for a reason, and that’s to keep the peace, not to shoot suspicious-looking people they don’t like. It’s “to protect and serve,” after all, and that shouldn’t apply to any group of people more than another.
    As far as “if they did this to a man, imagine what they’d do to a woman,” the racial profile of black women results in a much different threat assessment than does the profiling of black men. So, I’m pretty sure that the police wouldn’t have shot them if they were three women.
    Steve, don’t you think that says something about sexism in our society– that “black man” automatically = “threat” in a way “woman” never does?

  8. Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know how police academies train their cadets?
    My father was with the LAPD (and then became a chaplain for them), an organization that is perhaps more messed up than the NYPD, when it comes to race relations. Anyway, an old friend of his gave him some training materials and what he saw depressed and enraged him for days.
    Basically, like any kind of pseudo-military training, a cadet is trained to assess threats of varying kinds. And, in the LAPD’s case, threats are consistently racially Othered. Repeatedly, the cadet’s eye and instinct is retrained and redirected to interpet reality in a way that automatically translates ‘threat’ as a Black or brown man.
    So parsing out the details of what did or didn’t happen, and how an individual would or would not feel in any such situation, doesn’t mean much when this incident was meant to happen. In other words, with police academy training based in racism (and sexism), this shooting was exactly what those cops were trained to do.
    Kind of harsh to say it like that (and I’m from South Central LA) but let’s not get lost in the weeds; this shooting is not about the shooting itself but the larger pattern of state-sanctioned violence against the Other, however that Other is defined.
    Individual ‘goodness’ – and even the ‘criminality’ of the victim – is almost moot when the whole institution is polluted by racist assumptions of who’s a threat and who’s not, who’s worthy of protection and who’s not.
    What does this have to do with feminism? I guess, unless you’re a black or brown woman or from a community that routinely gets riddled with bullets, perhaps nothing. (Ok, that was flip.) Quite frankly, the kind of violence condoned by armed instruments of the state (which is what police forces are) against people of color is not that different from the kind of violence they have directed and continue to direct toward other populations the police see as targets – the poor, homeless, queer, or anyone marginalized and disenfranchised.
    Is this particular shooting a ‘feminist’ shooting? Of course not; but I’m sure there are feminist communities that could tell you of awful instances of their treatment by the armed athorities. And what kind of feminist would I be if I wasn’t aware of, and outraged at, the homicidal tendencies of the state toward vulnerable populations?

  9. Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    This is not a feminist issue.
    Posted by: Apostate

    Why not? Because you say so?

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