The citizens’ resposibility

For the 15th time in just over five years, a young, unarmed black man was gunned down by a police officer in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Ensuing “riots” are happening even as you read this. The rioters are predominantly youthful and swept into the violence that began with the actions of the 26-year-old police officer.

At least that is the word emanating from Cincinnati’s “official” sources. Again, the moniker of “youthful rebellion” is used to displace the accountability of the police force, in existence to protect the average citizen from the dangers of urban living and to provide a symbolic flow of stability and “peace” that moves as the officers move throughout the city.

The city and its officials, caught in the grip of misunderstanding, perceived racism and its own valiant efforts to displace blame onto “mobs,” do very little to soothe the tension that all citizens must feel. Instead, they launch reactions to the “unruly,” anticipating a quell in the criticism they will inevitably face about another horrific shooting.

They are using the standard bureaucratic verbal gymnastics that essentially place blame upon the temperament of the youth who rush through the streets (which in my opinion, seems the most justifiable action within this series of events).

In other words, the city, and especially the Cincinnati Police Department, must no longer effectively answer for this murder because they are enmeshed in a new, more simplistic crisis. As America has seen time and time again, the middle-class residents who hold the bulk of public reaction can rush home and close their blinds and easily justify the shooting by using the words of their own police force.

These words: “the youthful, unruly mobs,” “the dangerous violent street thugs,” and in an amazing semantic turn by the mayor of the city, “11- and 12-year-olds” rioting in the streets who apparently know not what they do. This is the very displacement of civic rationale that shrouds and eventually erodes the possibility of any meaningful and fair discussion surrounding the death of an unarmed 19-year-old man.

The bureaucracy of the city has gone into public relations overdrive, as it characterizes its own unraveling as the work of sinister 11-year-olds who apparently pull the elderly from their cars and burn apartment buildings.

Again the middle class can recline into the comfort of knowing that soon, very soon those 11-year-olds will be home in bed where they belong. And the shooting victim, well, no one will be held to any reasonable standard. This is mostly because the characterizations of the events that follow become more fixed in the public imagination, and because the middle class can thereby assert blame on “those unruly youths” and justify their police force’s actions (for the 15th time) because “you should never run from a police officer.” And in Cincinnati, if you are a “youthful” black male you should not even move at all or you risk losing everything.