Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Can't We Be Colorblind?

I guess I ought to write my first serious blog. I've got a few minutes while dinner is in the oven.

I'm afraid this really is quite serious.

About six months ago, a man was killed on a street very near to where my best friend used to live. That's my very tenuous tie to the whole mess. I know the neighborhood.

The short version is that Mel Miller, a white police officer, lives on a private road that he shares with a few neighbors. One of the neighbors noticed a parked truck at the entrance to the private road, partially blocking it and making it dangerous for the residents to try to leave as their visibility to the road was impaired. The neighbor also noticed that the people in the truck seemed to be drinking, so he called Mel, who was the "go to" guy in situations like that. Mel went out to ask them to leave, taking his gun with him, and after a short confrontation the driver of the truck, Robert Thomas Sr, was dead. Because Thomas was black, cries of racism immediately started.

Anyway, the whole thing boiled up into a massive controversy here in Seattle, leading to what I see as a split in our community that is clearly a sign of something more serious underneath.

Before I get into the details, here are some editorials about the whole thing: Seattle PI Opinion, Susan Paynter of the PI talks with Miller, and Susan Paynter of the PI talks with Thomas' lawyers.

I feel incredibly racist, because I've come down on the side of the off-duty policeman who shot and killed a man.

My reasoning is pretty simple. I find it a lot easier to believe a sober cop who in over 20 years on a police force had never once fired his gun at a person, over a convicted felon with a history of shooting people he disagreed with who happened to be both drunk and high at the time of the shooting, not to mention illegally parked and carrying a stolen gun.

From reading both viewpoints, it seems to me that it really boils down to who you believe pulled a gun first. For me to believe that Miller pulled his gun first, I have to ignore his sterling record as a police officer. But it's pretty easy to imagine Thomas pulling his gun, as he'd already done so twice in the past and been convicted of it.

Anyway, I'm still sorting out my thoughts and feelings on the whole mess. Perhaps new evidence will come to light, and my opinion will change.

I wrote to Susan Paynter, the columnist who wrote the two sides of the story. She wrote back to thank me for "getting it". Apparently she's been getting hate mail from people who don't understand that quoting someone doesn't mean you support them 100%. That fact alone makes me even more sick. We hate and hate, and ignore the other side of the story.