Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Prisoner's Dilemma and Stand Your Ground Laws: An Escalating Spiral of Violence. When Will Black Men Finally Start to Defend Themselves Against White Street Vigilantism?

The Prisoner's Dilemma is one of the most written about and studied "games" in the social sciences. It explores how "players" will choose to cooperate (or not) with one another. Economists have used it to model how buyers and sellers behave in the market. Experts in international relations use the Prisoner's Dilemma to explore how state actors could potentially respond to one another in a conflict or during negotiations. Social psychologists have studied the Prisoner's Dilemma in order to model human behavior and our propensity to either cooperate with or betray one another.

Stand Your Ground Laws, and the legal murder of young black people such as Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin by Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman, are a "real life" example of the Prisoner's Dilemma in action. Do two parties with limited to no information about one another choose to cooperate, defect, engage in "tit for tat" retaliation, or do they attack preemptively?

Dunn and Zimmerman were not acting in an information vacuum: they had two important data points. Their victims were black and male. Stand Your Ground empowered Dunn and Zimmerman to shoot first and ask questions later because they knew that the law would legitimate their murderous deeds.

In thinking through the Prisoner's Dilemma, there is an additional implication of the use of Stand Your Ground laws by white people (and those overly identified with Whiteness and White Authority). Should black and brown people, men in particular, apply a similar standard, acting preemptively based on the learned assumption that they will likely be shot dead by white men who claim "self-defense"?

Stand Your Ground laws have created a feedback loop of escalating violence.

To point.

As a black man living in the aftermath of the Dunn and Zimmerman trials (and the data suggesting the racial bias of Stand Your Ground in practice), I am afraid that a white person will use said defense to "reasonably" decide to shoot me because of the color of my skin. A rational actor who is a person of color would choose preemption and "winning" the "game" over "losing" and being shot dead.

There is a very limited issue space in the mainstream news media. The approved discourse does not include any acknowledgment of how black and brown people should, for reasons both historic and contemporary, be terrified of white violence. Whiteness imagines itself as neutral and benign. Consequently, white privilege blinds most white folks of the ability to critically self-reflect on such matters.

And because the mainstream media operates through, and is empowered by the white racial frame, it is unlikely--if not impossible--that it will entertain the following and obvious question: Should black people be reasonably afraid of white people given Stand Your Ground laws and a heightened level of white racial animus and hostility in the Age of Obama?

The mainstream media will most certainly not ask if black men, when faced with a threatening situation across the colorline, should shoot white people first under the reasonable assumption that the latter means them serious harm under Stand Your Ground.

During the Black Freedom Struggle's counter-insurgency campaign against Jim and Jane Crow and American Apartheid, there was a group of men known as the Deacons for Defense and Justice. These African-American military veterans provided armed security for Freedom Riders and other civil rights activists. They made it clear that they would shoot back if fired upon by white racial terrorists and their allies.

Stand Your Ground laws will force African-Americans to make a similar pronouncement if we are to be safe and secure in our person from white vigilantism. Such a claim would not be "black racism" or "reverse racism" as Right-wing bloviators and race-baiters would inevitably crow and announce to their low-information, propagandized, public.

Self-defense is in keeping with the basic citizenship rights of all Americans, in a liberal democratic polity, and can be traced back to the writings of the Framers, as well as foundational political philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, Burke.

Stand Your Ground Laws, the concealed and open carry of weapons, and the court's protection of white street vigilantes are creating an explosive mix where civic virtue, self-interest, and common sense demand that people of color win the Prisoner's Dilemma of their lives by acting preemptively.

Black self-defense is the inevitable result of white violence. Ultimately, Stand Your Ground laws may have a consequence that is very different from the one imagined by its supporters on the White Right.


Miles_Ellison said...

These Stand Your Ground shootings seem like a perfect example of moral hazard. When whites (or honorary whites) know that no one will hold them responsible in any substantial way for killing black people, it makes their behavior violent and reckless. This has been the reality for the entirety of this country's history. Racist violence is not only a white imperative, it is an entitlement enabled by supposedly democratic government.

chauncey devega said...

Moral hazard? Like buying insurance and setting your neighbor's house on fire. Love it. Great analogy. Why do you think the msm is afraid to ask these obvious questions? Is it as simple as black people must always submit?

Black Sci-Fi said...

I would go further to suggest that African-American males in SYG states have every "reasonable" right to shoot anyone white who fits the profile of any of the whites who have murdered black men, women and teens. That would be a pretty broad profile. But no less broad that the profile that cause the "white fear" shootings of blacks seeking help after accidents and being murdered because of "reasonable" white fear.
It is therefore also reasonable conversely that the SYG "low" threshold for 'reasonable fear of bodily harm" has to apply to all whites when viewed by blacks, including white law enforcement officers. There also doesn't seem to be a need for a "visable" weapon for "white reasonable fear" to be justified.
So, basically, the history of the application of the SYG laws can be demonstrated to encourage whites to murder blacks based on a "reasonable" fear of bodily harm. Therefore, blacks not only equally share with whites a "reasonable" fear of bodily harm, it could be argued that it would be more rational for blacks to be more motivated to "shoot first, ask questions later" because the SYG laws fail to protect blacks due to the "Dead Men Tell No Tales" paradox inherit in the SYG laws.

The bottom line is: POC can now shoot first at all whites in SYG states, including white police officers because their "reasonable" fear of POC, based only on skin color, would allow them to murder POC without warning or prior violent provication. POC can now use the SYG recent case histories to provide themselves with a "reasonable fear" of any white approaching them to be armed and dangerous and holding a reasonable fear that "whites" are inclined to shoot first.
The aquittal of the first black person to evoke the above defense for "legally" shooting a white man, woman, teen and especially a white police officer, based on skin color alone, would have the effect of nullifying the SYG laws and would be the primary motivation for repealling the SYG laws.

Gunnar Kaufman said...

There is a saying in the New York City police academy that is drilled into recruits heads from the minute they walk through the doors.

"Better to be judged by twelve, than carried by six."

In other words, shoot first and shoot often. The smart man takes his chances with a jury, rather than tell no tales from the grave.

In this current climate, if you're a black man in America and you're not armed (at all times), you're either very religious (believing there's something better waiting for you when you die), or a fool.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

If the young men in the car with Jordan Davis had a weapon in their vehicle at the time of the shooting, would the police have believed Michael Dunn's story and never arrested him?

Arming black and brown people would confirm the idea that necessary force was taken by white racists like Dunn or the police when their prejudicial fears were stoked in an unnecessary confrontation.

I'm definitely not saying that black folks should submit to that state of affairs, that is essentially the new Jim Crow code (the old Jim Crow code never died)... but it would be a lot of work to convince majority white juries to convict a white man of murder if they agree that he was 'within reason' to believe the person he shot was out to get him first, as confirmed by possession of a firearm.

I agree with Black Sci-Fi, though, that black and brown men and women have an obligation to be suspicious of white people in a confrontation with them. There was a case in Greece, New York of a black man confronting a group of white teens, when one charged him he shot him twice and was acquitted. The difference, however, is that it didn't require an act of protest to get him arrested in the first place.

Shady Grady said...

Akinyele Umoja's book "We will shoot back" talks about the deterrent effect of being armed in 1940s ~1970s Mississippi.


It made a difference which is part of the reason the FBI and associated local and national organizations spent so much time infiltrating and destroying black organizations that preached self-defense.

Now as far as I know it would not have been legal for Jordan Davis to own/possess a firearm because of his age. But if he had had a gun I think he might still be alive. That can be debated.

But generally speaking I think it is way past time for black people to stop ceding the cultural subtext of the gun to white racists, bigots, fear mongers, etc. Free people defend themselves and resist unlawful authority. That is the underground belief that flows thru the society. That fact that some whites feel so free to dispose of black life is correlated with the fact that the blacks they kill are often unarmed. It seems rare that you hear about the Zimmermans or Dunns of the world starting confrontations with visibly armed people. Black people should enthusiastically embrace gun rights in their state and take them to the maximum allowed by law, whether that be concealed or open carry.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Did anyone hear about this case of Trevor Dooley, a 71 year old black man in Florida convicted of aggravated manslaughter after a confrontation with a 45 year old white man led to the shooting of the white man. Dooley says he flashed his gun from his waist at the man as he turned to walk away to which the other man spun him around and grabbed him by the throat and reached for his gun. They ended up on the ground where the weapon was fired into the white man's heart. All of this happened in front of the white man's daughter.

The jury deliberated for an hour and forty minutes.


chicano2nd said...

The framework that operates when I comment often holds me as a bigot against whites, in conservative, liberal and this site. I look at it from the perspective of a person of color who sat in educational competition where I was often the only one like me! I say it with knowledge and understanding of the European blood that was introduced centuries ago, as well as the indigenous that was coded into me only a few generations ago. So take aim!

When the game is rigged, its time to start stating the obvious in stark and obvious terms. Take a look at another Florida case that screams Stand Your Ground, except of course, we are talking about a young black man, with a permit, a family and a "promising career" in the military. Its basically a rule on what the outcome would be from my perspective, and I am right!
We can both empathize , sympathize, and intellectualize but see it not with a history of chattel slavery but that of a conquered population, including an awful lot of indigenous genes and hence affinity with our indigenous brethren who were dehumanized as they were decimated!


chicano2nd said...

What will happen in terms of the NRA call for more guns as we start to purchase weapons, take shooting and safety classes and push permits?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

No, I don't think there would be a push for safety courses or more background checks by the NRA. They would simply want more gun owners, "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." White Americans outnumber all other minority groups and racial hierarchy and segregation works strictly in favor of whites.

With the white racial frame being what it is, media representations of people of color as a majority criminal class will continue to factor into white vigilantism of youth of color. The right wants the Michael Dunn's of the world to be willing to aggravate the "undesirable" to produce the only tolerable social order to the 'traditional' American class.

Black Sci-Fi said...

Thanks MTI,
the root cause of my trouble with SYG is that it takes public safety out of the hands of the police and can't be distinguished from "hunting" if there is no "living" witness. Again, POC now have, and have HISTORICALY had, a "reasonable fear" (aka SYG justification) of whites (cultural and media driven paranoia) shooting first and asking questions later. That, is a HISTORICAL fact. And again, the SYG laws would be rolled back as soon as the first POC was aquitted based on the SYG/reasonable fear defense that was tied to the historical record. To be clear, Florida and the other SYG states have become more prone to SYG shootings of POC. So, the current as well as the historical record are clear.

OldPolarBear said...

Your analysis sounds, depressingly, pretty much right. I can, however, (even more depressingly) think of another factor that complicates the strategy even further for black men and other people of color. That would be the odds of the black man even reaching trial vs. the odds for the white man. The other day on another blog, somebody posed the question of whether we would be talking about an acquittal or hung jury on any of the charges if Dunn had been black and Davis white. I commented that the black Dunn might well have ended up dead in his apartment two days later, with the cops saying that he had "resisted" and had to be shot 20 times or massively tazed until he died from "excited delerium," we're so sorry this happened but we had no choice. Sorry to add an additional downer element.

Miles_Ellison said...

It's a two fold answer. First, there are few whites in the msm that are willing to confront the reality of the historical record when it comes to anti-black violence. Second, no one is even admitting that it's an actual problem. The default response is to blame "troublemakers" like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson instead of confronting the issue. There is also a subtext that black lives are not worthy of being valued or respected.

mbfromnm said...

I couldn't agree more. These type of men look for easy kills. They are warriors who look to test their skills. They are petty predators who look for situations that are totally stacked in their favor. If they see a situation where there is a 50-50 chance that they will die, they will split the scene faster than the speed of light.
Widespread white racism and white denial create the psychic space that eggs these men on. they are the agents that act out the resentment of the "respectable" whites who do not engage in physical violence (but do support and employ economic and social violence all the time).

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I'm right with you on the historical record and the present moment.

from a slave narrative on Patterollers: http://www.okgenweb.org/collection/narrative/threat_jim.htm

"I recollects that down in the neighborhood jest below us we was all the time hearing about the patterollers beating some nigger, Finally the slaves got tired of it and decided to do something about it. One night they got some grape vines and twisted them together and stretched them across the road. They went down the road and waited and finally four or five patterollers come along. The niggers boys started running back up the road and by this time the Patterollers was running their horses full speed after them. Just before they got to the vines the niggers ducked out of the road and the horses run full tilt into the vines. You never saw such a spill. The horses turned "summer-sets" and one man was killed, tow had their legs broke and one got a arm broke. Course these boys had to take to de woods and finally made their way to the north. Several colored folks lost their lives over it, too, but Patterollers was sorter scarce in them parts from then on."

The right is pushing a narrative that the police aren't there to protect you until a crime has been committed, which is true to varying degrees, but ultimately leads to that continued persistence that SYG is the only reasonable solution.

Stand Your Ground devalues the life of other people to one that can be taken for fear, for being unable to resolve an argument, for $100 and less, even a pair of shoes.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

subtext? I thought it was an overt theme, "well black people are a majority of criminals," "well, if black people would just stop listening to that gangster rap crap," "if black people would just dress more respectably," "stop making excuses," "work harder," and on and on

kokanee said...

Dooley got 8 years in what looks like an open and shut case of self-defense. This title says it all:
In Florida, ‘stand your ground' is the ‘white man aggression act'

chauncey devega said...

He or she would be found dead, handcuffed in the back of the patrol car or simply shot dead on the "reasonable" suspicion they were a criminal.

chauncey devega said...

Black life is cheap. We don't have the right to stand our ground...ever.

kokanee said...

Here's another one:

Myshkin the Idiot said...

"Everyone wants to be black, nobody wants to be black"

White America continuously decries being the oppressed majority, but if they were really oppressed the way black people and other people of color are, then the world would look a lot different. They want to play the victim card, but they can't.

When education is brought up as a social problem, black Americans aren't working hard enough but white Americans are being corrupted by a failing education system.

Mike said...

This is why the white on black homicide rate outweighs the black on white one so much.

Oh wait no the black on white rate is 16 times higher.