Bite-Sized Musings: On Male White Men Punching Female Black Teenagers

As though Seattle Police didn't have enough controversy to deal with, on Monday a video surfaced of a Seattle Police officer punching a young Black woman in the face. Video below:

The back story is, from what I can gather: the Police officer was arresting another (Black) man for jaywalking across Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Some people on the street objected and approached the officer (albeit somewhat violently). There was a confrontation, and as you see in the video, when the situation got heated, the cop punched the woman in the face.

The main question that's come up is: is this racist? The officer was clearly outnumbered, and the women were somewhat violent and confrontational. Should cops be allowed to use force in the face of violence on the part of citizens? Was he "protecting himself" or "controlling the situation?" Was his behavior in line with his duties and responsibilities as a Police officer?

Read any of the comment threads on any of the articles/blogs and the vast majority support the officer's actions. Basically, "When you're a cop you have to deal with shit and you never know what's going to 'go down.' Your life is in constant danger. There isn't room to deal peacefully when you are surrounded by violent people, especially in Seattle's current climate of distrust + anger toward the police. What if someone was to grab his gun? Punch first, get the situation 'under control,' ask questions later."

The jury's still out on whether this cop was "justified" in his actions. He has been reassigned, I've read. There are questions being asked, such as: "If this was a blonde, blue-eyed White girl, would he have punched her in the face?" The answer is ostensibly "No," but we'll never know the answer to that question. There are other issues as to his behavior - why was he there alone? Why was he arresting someone for jaywalking (and is that racist itself? Who doesn't jaywalk)?

But the question that's more interesting to me is - what kind of authority do we grant the police in return for the "safety" that they provide and the sacrifice - the "constant stress + struggle + danger" they live with every day - that they make on our behalf?

If a normal White dude was being harassed by some agitated Black females for a perceived wrongdoing, was surrounded, perhaps, had to defend himself - and he punched one of them in the face, would he be justified? Or is that definitely "wrong?" What kinds of things are OK for police to do, and not OK for non-police to do? Is it ever OK for a big dude to punch a teenage girl in the face? Does it depend on the situation?

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