Lowest Bar Ever
CNN finds it touching and newsworthy when a white state trooper does not shoot a Black motorist to death.
The headline in the above screenshot is a classic dog-bites-man teaser for a story deemed so improbable that it was worthy of global attention.
The key word there is “surprising,” but please hold that thought for just one moment. Allow me first to share the lede of the piece:
(CNN) — At first glance, it looks like another of those viral photos that we can barely watch anymore.
It shows a White state trooper and a Black man during a traffic stop on a bright, sunny day. The trooper is leaning his thick arms through the open passenger window to clutch the Black man's right hand. The man's back is pinned against the passenger seat, and his eyes are squeezed shut. He appears to be wincing in pain.
But this photo is being widely shared for another reason. The trooper is reaching into the car to help, not to harm. And the encounter has been described by those who witnessed it not as tragic, but inspired.
Turns out that the front seat passenger was being driven home from chemotherapy by his daughter when North Carolina state trooper Jaret Doty pulled them over for speeding. Because they are Black, and because the trooper was white — and because this is America — the occupants were nervous about a police encounter. Even with Mom and the kids in the back seat. And here’s the big payoff, so unexpected and heartwarming:
The trooper did not murder them.
Not only that, when he realized the gentleman had an ostomy bag for his colon cancer, he related, because he himself had worn one for ulcerative colitis. And, when the kindly passenger spoke up to explain the circumstances behind his “baby girl”’s distracted driving, the trooper recognized something else from his own life.
Doty is the father of a 12-year-old girl, Avery. She also is a cheerleader, like Wilkerson once was. Doty and his wife, Abby, have taken her to numerous cheerleader competitions. They dote on Abby and her 15-year-old brother, Cooper, taking them to Walt Disney World in Florida at least seven times.
I know it’s unbelievable. What were the odds of a policeman who loves and supports his children stumbling upon a car passenger who also loves and supports his children???!!!
Father and daughter's roles were reversed that afternoon. For all of [the woman’s] life, her father had been the one to take care of her. He never seemed to miss a parent-teacher conference, driving her to cheerleader practice or coming to high school football games on Friday nights to watch her cheer her team on.
Even though they're Black! As Doty told CNN: "I can't describe the odds of stopping her, because there's hundreds of thousands of cars that travel through I-85 every week.”
Coincidence? Or, perhaps, was something at play here beyond our ability as mortals to comprehend, explainable only as the work of Something Greater Than Ourselves? CNN invites us to muse over the “inspiring” outcome. Not only did Trooper Doty not pull his gun, and not even issue a speeding ticket, he asked if he could pray with the ailing passenger. Which he did. The two men grasped one another’s hands and prayed on the shoulder of I-85. Doty pressed a small silver cross in the gentleman’s palm.
OK, at this point, I’ll dispense with the sarcasm, and just pose some questions.
Was there anything touching about the trooper’s empathetic response? (Answer: Yeah. Sure. Kind of sweet.)
Does his particular action violate police procedure and the Constitutional separation of church and state? (Answer: Almost certainly, but, you know, whatever.)
Is there anything even remotely remarkable about a family rallying around a desperately ill paterfamilias? (Answer: No.)
Is there any chance — any whatsoever — that this story would have been written had the participants all been white, or had they all been Black. (Answer: No, there is zero chance.)
Does the premise — a surprising act of kindness during a traffic stop — implicitly accept the absolutely perverse and unacceptable: that Black motorists are at risk of their lives for driving over the speed limit? (Answer: Yes.)
Is the whole article treacly and embarrassing and ultimately extremely condescending toward all parties involved? (Answer: You can say that again.)
And, with its incredulity about a Black family displaying ordinary caring relationships, is this smarmy exercise in feel-good journalism itself racist and nauseating. (Answer: In my opinion, yes. It is disgraceful.)
George W. Bush, in service of the hideous GOP policy of subsidizing private schools at the expense of public ones, once invoked a felicitous phrase: “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” His goal — part of a decades-long effort to underwrite white flight — was to pretend that the charter school movement was a way to improve education opportunities for minorities. The reality was that his rhetoric was a gambit for blackwashing institutional racism at taxpayer expense. Nonetheless, that phrase has stuck with me. Imputing lesser values, lesser talents, lesser prospects to a minority population is the very definition of racism. Dropping your jaw in astonishment when ordinary human traits are on display is a smoking gun of bigotry. And it isn’t necessarily soft. It is just pernicious.
NOTE FROM BOB: Hey, maybe you noticed that a few days ago I made a big production out of retiring after nearly four decades in radio and podcasting. You may even have listened to my 80-minute (!) radio obit. (By way of comparison, 101 Dalmatians was 79 minutes long. Frankenstein was 70.) And yet, this thing shows up in your inbox. WTF?
Here’s the thing: I’m not retiring altogether. Bully Pulpit, the Blog, lives, delivered weekly as always. As a number of our BP community members observed, you will still have access to my voice.
You just won’t have to listen to it.
Same outrage. Same skepticism. Same stupid jokes. But typed into E-Z-to-Read font for your convenience. Oh, and it’s free. As ever, you can subscribe to Bully Pulpit for $0. If you opt for a paid subscription, though, you’ll get a mess of unscheduled musings when events force my hand. PLUS, you’ll get to comment and have my scrupulous attention. Of course, you’ll also enjoy the satisfaction of supporting my journalistic endeavors.
It’s the public-broadcasting model, basically, minus only the volume control and the ads that pretend they’re not ads.
So please hop aboard BullyPulpit.Substack.com. And please tell everybody. Share widely. Exaggerate. I have dragons to slay, and I’m not getting any younger.