Guns

On December 2, 2018, Walgreens Security guard Donald Vincent Ciota II, 28, shot Jonathan Hart, 21, dead after a tussle over a $2.99 water drink. Ciota shot Hart in the back of the neck as he was fleeing the scene. After the shooting, video shows Ciota making a phone call while standing over Hart’s corpse, which lay in a pool of red wine from bottles shattered during the shooting.

On Monday, the LA County DA charged Ciota with a count of murder for using a firearm as a deadly and dangerous weapon.

As reported by the Daily Mail the situation seems obvious even if the details are sketchy. An ill-trained white man is given a gun and charged with the mandate to protect a company’s ‘assets’. A black man enters the business. The guard either sees something, or assumes the worst, and approaches him. And there is an argument over a bottled beverage. 

For the sake of argument let’s say that Hart intended to shoplift (and there is nothing so far to suggest this). Let’s also assume that after he was approached, he pushed Ciota. Then consider this, Hart was unarmed and leaving the scene. Had he been arrested and charged with the offense it may well have been pled down to a misdemeanor trespassing or something similar — with Hart punished with a fine and/or probation. (Again let me stress, no evidence suggests that Hart was committing a  crime)

Instead, Ciota decided to execute Hart on the spot.

Why did Ciota have a gun? All cash businesses run the risk of an armed robbery. But how much cash could be on site? Is it worth this killing? And you can hardly argue that Ciota is qualified to defend the general public as he has been charged with murdering one of them. 

I don’t know how much the election of an avowed racist and his incendiary rhetoric has given ‘permission’ for racists to flex their bigotry. But anecdotally it is evident that things are not getting better. The police seem unable — or unwilling — to weed the racists from their ranks, to provide better training, or to improve their selection of recruits.

Too many whites think that being black is at least suspicious, if not outright criminal. Armed vigilantes think nothing of pulling a gun on unarmed minorities. And – as Ciota and ‘Hotel Earl’ showed us – people in positions of petty authority will harass and even kill people they don’t like the look of.

I cannot know if there has been an increase in racism because I am never the target of racist behavior. Whites, who think that race relations have improved in the US, should ask themselves how they would know.

Too often whites say that blacks are ‘more criminal’ than whites. But what statistics support this claim? The number of minorities in jail? That tells us little. Whites and blacks smoke pot at the same rate, and yet a higher percentage of blacks are in prison for pot crimes. 

It’s circular logic: How do you know that blacks are more likely to commit crimes? Because there are more of them in prison. Why are there more of them in prison? Because they are more likely to commit crimes. You punish someone more severely because of what you believe he is — and the evidence for your belief is that he has been more likely to have been severely punished.

Whites are far more likely to be the victim of white-on-white crime than black-on-white crime. If logic was involved in racist stereotyping, the bigots should be watching their fellow ethnics with a gimlet eye. But of course, you can’t convince a neo-Nazi or his cousins in bigotry, the-run-of-the-mill racists, to think things through. And thus racial harmony remains an uncertain journey toward an elusive goal. 

The old saying has it that you cannot know another man’s lot until ‘you have walked a mile in his shoes’. You can add ‘or swam in a pool, or had a barbecue, or sold water, or used a phone in a hotel lobby or shopped in a Walgreens while wearing his skin’.

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When terrorists hijacked four planes on 9/11, America didn’t moan: “What can we do? Terrorists will always be able to hijack planes”. No, we reinforced cockpit doors and made people stand in lines for hours. The cockpit doors was a good idea. Interminable lines may have been an overreaction. So be it. We can work […]

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“Too Soon”: McConnell Sticks to the NRA’s Playbook

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