The bad news, America, is that there's a new Twitter hashtag to join a growing Hall of Shame that includes #Ferguson and #FreddieGray, among others. It's small consolation that no one died in #McKinney, the incident that's prompting waves of fresh outrage on social media this afternoon. But make no mistake: It was outrageous what happened at a swim party this weekend in McKinney, Texas -- an exurb of Dallas. It ended up with a police officer violently manhandling unarmed (it's hard to conceal firearms in your swim trunks) black teens and waving a gun at one.
But the roots of #McKinney are much, much more outrageous.
Let's start, though, with the police, since it was announced late this afternoon that the McKinney police force has suspended an unnamed officer and that the cops' handling of the incident is now under investigation. The police were called to an end-of-school party at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool at roughly 7:15 p.m. on Friday. According to law enforcement, the officers were responding to a report of "multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave." The trouble started, police said, after they "encountered a large crowd that refused to comply with police commands."
None of the white youths seemed to have any problems with the officer, including Brandon Brooks, who -- completely undisturbed -- was able to shoot the YouTube video of the incident that went viral. For the African-American teens, it was a very different story. The images captured by Brooks and others show a black male youth aggressively handcuffed by a responding officer, while a female teen, also African-American, was pinned down to ground by her head, as she calls out for her mother.
Brooks and others also say that the black teens had passes to attend the party. The sole justification for the police behavior -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- is that young party-goers were running from the cops. Point taken -- that's always a bad idea, but unfortunately most people and most cops know that's how the teenage mind works. Teens at a party that gets a little out of control aren't usually wrestled to the ground, handcuffed or threatened with a gun. (Ask Sarah Palin, for example.)
But this time was different -- and the problem didn't start with the cops, but with the mindset that launched this whole episode in the first place. Brooks, the white video shooter, told BuzzFeed: "I think a bunch of white parents were angry that a bunch of black kids who don't live in the neighborhood were in the pool." Their article notes:
Teens at the pool party told BuzzFeed News the police were called after a fight broke out between adults and youths at the pool after the adults made racist comments telling the black children to leave the area and return to "Section 8 [public] housing."
Indeed, the more you learn about the incident, the more it sounds like the ugliest form of racial profiling (also known as "racism") by white neighbors whose bad attitude colored -- for want of a better term -- the police response. Call it Swimming While Black. Here's more:
A group of teens were at the pool for an end-of-school party, Miles Jai Thomas, one of the teens who attended, told HuffPost. Then a security guard showed up and put out all the black teenagers, Thomas said.
"He started making up rules to keep us out," he said.
Before officers arrived on the scene, a white woman had started making racist comments, telling black partygoers to get used to the bars outside the pool because that's all they were going to see. When one of the white teens at the party talked back to the adult, the woman began cursing and yelling at her as well, Thomas said.
It all makes you want to type, "So much for that post-racial America"...except that's already been typed so many times in the last six years. In a world where we have our first black president and most of us toil away in integrated workplaces, still way too many people pick up the phone and call police when they see someone who's acting lawfully in their own neighborhood -- but who simply doesn't look like them.
Occasionally, the results are tragic: In Alabama recently, an anonymous person called the cops when he spotted an Indian man he hadn't seen before walking in his neighborhood. The 57-year-old man, who spoke no English, had just arrived to help take care of his toddler grandson while his engineer son studied nights for his masters degree. The man's rough arrest nearly killed him.
But the fact that the #McKinney police mayhem was triggered by a swimming pool makes it especially painful to ponder. Some of the worst integration fights (and not just in the Deep South) of the 1950s and 1960s were prompted by fears of black and white teenagers swimming in the same pools. Some communities simply padlocked their municipal pools for years, rather than admit blacks. We talk about these things as embarrassing oddities from long ago, but as William Faulkner observed, it turns out that "the past is never dead. It's not even past."
All of which continues to beg the larger question of whether the problem in policing our communities is really the lack of body cams and better training. Or is it something much much deeper, something that needs to be taught in the home because the police academy is way too late.
People always ask, where are the parents? And yet here are the parents telling kids to "go back to Section 8," based not on the content of their character but the color of the skin. Maybe we should be asking instead, where is the morality? And in 2015 I really don't know what the answer is.