Internet Outrage, Hope and Cops

I still don’t know what to do with this page, but I wrote this a few weeks ago after I had an interaction with a cop, while at the same time the internet was on fire with yet another police brutality murder. It came to mind today after the latest abuse-of-power video spread across the internet.

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I don’t think about race that much because I’m white. It’s really nice. One less thing. But lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot, mostly because I spend a lot of time on the internet, and the internet has done something really important: it’s confronted people with unimaginable racism and police brutality on an almost daily basis. Here’s something that happened to me the other day, that normally I would have barely even noticed:

I was walking home from the grocery store and a cop drove up alongside of me and waved me down. He said hello. I said hello. He didn’t get out of his car and didn’t mind when I put my hand on his open window.

“We’re looking for a guy named Scott.”

“My name is Dan.”

“Oh ok. He was last seen around here in a sweatshirt like that.”

“Oh. Do you need an ID or anything?”

“No, that’s alright. Have a good day.”

This is generally the tone of most of my interactions with the police over the years. Cops still make me nervous, but in the same way that going to the doctor makes me nervous.

I think my favorite part of the interaction was that his opening line was “We’re looking for a guy named Scott.” We! He and I. We are looking for a guy named Scott. We’re in this together! I could have gotten in his car and said “Let’s roll!” and we’d be off on an adventure together.

Also, my name could totally be Scott. I bet if you just met me and were forced to guess my name, Scott would be in the mix. I’m not saying you’d say Scott right away, but for a second you’d be excited when you thought to say Scott and would feel pretty confident that my name was Scott. It isn’t, but, in this game that we’re playing, you’d be like “NO WAY, PROVE IT.” And then you’d ask me for my ID, and I’d be like “What are you a cop or something?” And you’d go, “Cops don’t ask white dudes for their ID to prove who they are!” And you’d be right, it turns out.

I really wouldn’t have thought much of the whole experience, if it wasn’t for the internet constantly reminding me to think about something really tragic and terrible that, it’s very possible I would have had a much different experience if I were to be just slightly different, just a different color.

I’d like to think it’s that we’ve evolved, and are starting to become less tolerant of terrible behavior, so we’re spending more of our free time thinking about it, but really it’s just a function of how the internet works. Outrage is Internet Food. The internet is a place where we’re endlessly goaded into having public opinions, liking, favoriting, sharing, etc. An endless drip of self-satisfaction from presenting our best self. Outrage fills timelines, Twitter feeds, tumblr pages. And again, until recently, I didn’t think that was a good thing. I thought it was kind of mindless, and maybe monstrously using others misfortune to promote ourselves socially. Now I’m hoping our narcissism and our drive to be unique and special and good at all times, for the sake of each of our tiny adoring publics, might actually be an engine of change.

It’s not that the internet makes us aware of horrible things, we’ve always been aware of horrible things, the internet requires that we have a public opinion. It makes it harder to sweep things under the rug. It helps that those public opinions are often created by the internet, from terrifying first person videos, and less from the traditional news media. That’s different and good. Terrifying and difficult sometimes, but hopefully, ultimately, it makes some kind of difference. Until then, you should try to make it a point to bombard your corner of the internet internet with your outrage.

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