There are two ways of looking at excessive use of force by police. One way, the best known, is to accuse the police of selectivity in the excessive use of force, or to assume that they are "targeting" certain groups of people. Incidents in which the victim doesn't fit the "profile" should force us to look at the problem another way. The Washington Post calls readers' attention to the killing by police last month of Dylan Noble, a white 19 year old in Fresno CA. Law enforcement calls Noble's death "suicide by cop," claiming that he said suicidal things while approaching police with one hand behind his back. Video footage shows that cops continued to shoot Noble after he was down, apparently because he would not -- and perhaps could not -- keep his hands raised. Noble's family doesn't buy the "suicide by cop" narrative, and his friends held a rally and started up a "white lives matter" chant. Incidents like this one should get as much attention in the media as the recent questionable police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. So why don't they? You could argue that it doesn't fit the "targeting" narrative, but while that may be inconvenient (if not embarrassing) for the Black Lives Matter movement, the news media's apparent indifference isn't so easily explained.
Can it be that the media would rather sell a race-war narrative than a police-brutality narrative? There's more likely a less conspiratorial explanation. The apparent indifference to the fate of Dylan Noble shouldn't be blamed on Black Lives Matter -- though the movement's self-appointed leaders ought to be asked how such killings fit into their narrative -- but on the fact that most white lives don't really matter to white people. For all that whites in the U.S. supposedly feel more beleaguered than ever, that hasn't yet translated into a solidarity that actually values each individual life. How likely is it that a white person will learn of Noble's death and lament that "our men" are being slaughtered? It's not just that saying such a thing might get the mourner accused of being a white supremacist. Such things simply aren't part of their culture. Whites -- the descendants of Europeans who identify themselves primarily by skin color as a substitute for culture -- seem more likely to write off people who come to such bad ends than blacks are. That seems to follow from their every-man-for-himself "personal responsibility"ethos, something that finds mocking expression in such things as the Darwin Awards. When someone like Dylan Noble gets killed, whites outside the victim's immediate family and social circle are less likely at first glance to question police procedure than they are to observe, sadly or satirically, that the victim had it coming in some way. They see the killings of non-whites the same way, of course, and grow defensive when anyone questions their reflexive interpretation of events. Yet all theories about blacks supposedly sealing their own fate by behaving badly in some racially characteristic way toward police have to be tested against the stories of Dylan Noble and the equal numbers of unarmed white and black people (according to the Post) who have been killed by police so far this year. The problem today isn't that some lives matter to some people but not others, but that no lives matter to many people, or else don't matter more, for whatever reason, than the rights of the police. Donald Trump, the candidate of common sense in many people's eyes, called last week's "officer-involved shootings" of black men "senseless" and got criticized by some of his normally faithful supporters because they saw his word choice as a betrayal of law enforcement. The same people probably would react the same way if Trump had been tweeting about Dylan Noble. That's what anyone elected this year is up against.