Michael Gaynor
Redefining racism versus respecting police, which solution makes sense to you?
By Michael Gaynor
June 15, 2020

When an officer says 'Put your hands up,' then put your hands up! Don't reach for something in your pocket, your lap, your seat. There's plenty of reason for a police officer to feel threatened, there have been multiple assaults and ambushes on police officers lately. Comply with requests from the officer, have your day in court. Don't mouth off, or fight, or refuse to comply... that escalates the situation.

Kudos to Gayle Jacobsen, a high school classmate of mine, for posting a timely message titled "Enough Is Enough" and dated February 15, 2017 at www.facebook.com/GayleJacobsen.16.

Tragically, the sound advice in the message set forth at the end of this article was not heeded by a number of people who chose to disrespect police and thereby provoked wrongful, but foreseeable overreactions that in turn provoked much more disrespect and even criminal acts as well as appropriate lawful protest.

New York City Mayor Bill Di Blasio, the white father of a black son, publicly spoke about giving his son "the talk" about dealing with the police. He did not advise resisting the police or disrespecting that.

In the absence of reports to the contrary, I assume that his son either has not been confronted by police or responded respectfully if he was, since he is alive and well.

Alas, there have been people of various colors and ethnic backgrounds who did not respect police when confronted by them for various reasons and some police either overreacted or apparently overreacted.

When a few police overreacted when disrespected and/or disobeyed by black persons whom they confronted while doing their job, Black Lives Matter and Antifa opportunistically exploited the situation by charging "systemic racism" and peaceful protesters were used as cover and exploited by looters, arsonists, vandals and killers doing their evil things.

People like Iihan Omar, a United States Representative from Minneapolis, Minnesota (Ground Zero for driving police out of police precincts) charge that the problem is "systemic racism" by the police.

Making a persuasive case for the existence of systemic racism in police departments throughout the United States is an impossibility under the current definition of racism, especially in the Democrat-controlled cities where tragic incidents recently have occurred, but those tragic incidents are rare exceptions, not the rule.

Statistics and the present of blacks throughout the ranks of the police departments are the obvious refutations of the charge.

With respect to this, however, the Far Left skips the data and takes to the streets.

Black Lives Matters and Antifa are wily, so they reclassified black police as "blue" instead of black.

That racist nonsense somehow hasn't won the day, however, so the definition of racism has to be changed.


Merriam-Webster already announced that it will capitulate.

Dare I say that it "kowtowed" or "cowtowed," lest some Chinese may hasten to take offense?

I will say so, because it really is an appropriate word according to Merriam-Webster's current definition. Merriam-Webster currently defines it as "to show obsequious deference" and "to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in token of homage, worship, or deep respect."

I have seen video of some whites kneeling before blacks supposedly in atonement for their "white privilege."

I have not yet seen any of them "touch the forehead to the ground," however, so I will call it disrespecting their parents for being white instead of kowtowing.

It certainly is evidence that the country is going mad and, unlike the COVID-19 pandemic spreading to the United States, we cannot rightly blame it on China.

Racism in the United States, whether real or pretended, is a domestic problem, and each is exploited by some for selfish purposes.

Vox reports (www.vox.com/identities/2020/6/10/21286656/merriam-webster-racism-definition):

"Signifying the larger cultural shift felt around the US, Merriam-Webster will now include systemic oppression in its latest definition of racism.

"The dictionary...made plans for the update after recent Drake University graduate Kennedy Mitchum emailed editors frustrated about the current definition’s inadequacy.

"Merriam-Webster’s current definition of racism reads:

a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

a: doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles

b: a political or social system founded on racism prejudice or discrimination.

"Mitchum, a black woman who hails from Florissant, Missouri, a city just north of Ferguson, wanted the dictionary to provide a more detailed definition...that includes an explanation of systemic oppression. She grew tired of having conversations about racial injustice, just to have people point to the dictionary as a defense for why they’re not racist.

“'I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice, it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans,' she told CNN.

"Mitchum was both shocked and pleased when editors at Merriam-Webster replied to her concern and pledged to make a change. In the response to Mitchum, Merriam-Webster editor Alex Chambers said: 'While our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world usage of a word, not on promoting any particular viewpoint, we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself.'

"As protests against racism and police violence continue around the world, Merriam-Webster’s statement signifies a shift in how people and institutions are coming to grapple with what racism is and the full scope of how it has always worked.

"Racism and systemic oppression go hand in hand

"White discourse on racism has historically relied on the part of the dictionary definition that says one must believe a particular race is superior or inferior to be racist. Under this definition, someone is racist, for example, if in one-to-one interactions they intentionally mistreat someone or deny them opportunity (a job or promotion, housing, a seat at a restaurant) based on their race. Under this definition, someone is racist if they use the n-word, a term that inherently speaks to the belief that black people are inferior.

"But modern discourse has advanced the reality that larger systems and institutions at play in society — whether in education, policing, health care, or the economy — work over time to reinforce the superiority of one race over another. For example, the continued practice of redlining on the part of banks and the US real estate industry in the 20th century systematically disenfranchised black homeowners and furthered segregation and the prosperity of white Americans across the country. Or the country’s policing system, part of a greater criminal justice system that is racist, reinforces the false idea that black people are innately criminals and therefore inferior. Meanwhile, policies like stop-and-frisk criminalize and systematically oppress black people when they target them on the basis of race.

"In its revision of the definition for racism, Merriam-Webster will attempt to show how racism isn’t just about discrimination or prejudice from one person to another but also about how longstanding institutions and laws and regulations buttress notions of supremacy and inferiority between the races. Moreover, the new definition may help us better see how white people benefit from racism since systemic oppression is ingrained in the fabric of American society.

“'Because people often turn to the dictionary to gain a more nuanced view of the way a word is being used in a particular context, and because the use of the word racism to specifically describe racial prejudice combined with systemic oppression is now so common, ignoring this meaning of the word may leave our readers confused or misled,' Chambers wrote to Mitchum.

"Merriam-Webster’s decision comes at a time when national attention has turned to the police killings of black people, from Breonna Taylor to George Floyd to Maurice Gordon. International unrest has followed these deaths, with protesters calling for changes to the systems and people that intentionally and unintentionally enforce racism.

"Merriam-Webster said the revised entry for racism is being drafted and will be added to the dictionary soon. In addition, the dictionary said it will 'revise the entries of other words that are related to racism or have racial connotations.'

"So Merriam-Webster is signing on to the notion that the United States is a racist society, police departments are a key part of the American system (as well as all other political systems) and therefore there is systemic racism in police departments, whether or not a police department is headed by blacks or the mayor is black, or a "liberal" Democrat.

The "Enough Is Enough" message actually makes sense.

Enough is Enough

February 15, 2017

"It's not the police who need to be retrained, it's the public. We have grown into a mouthy, cell phone wielding, vulgar, uncivil society with no personal responsibility and the attitude of 'it's the other person's fault', 'you owe me.' A society where children grow up with no boundaries or knowledge or concern for civil society and personal responsibility."When an officer says 'Put your hands up,' then put your hands up! Don't reach for something in your pocket, your lap, your seat. There's plenty of reason for a police officer to feel threatened, there have been multiple assaults and ambushes on police officers lately. Comply with requests from the officer, have your day in court. Don't mouth off, or fight, or refuse to comply... that escalates the situation.

"Police officers are our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. They're black, white, brown, all colors, all ethnicities, all faiths, male and female, they are us. They see the worst side of humanity...the raped children, the bloody mangled bodies of traffic victims, the bruised and battered victims of domestic violence, homicide victims, body parts...day after day.

"They work holidays while we have festive meals with our families. They miss school events with their kids, birthdays, anniversaries, all those special occasions that we take for granted. They work in all types of weather, under dangerous conditions, for relatively low pay.

"They have extensive training, but they are human. When there are numerous attacks on them, they become hyper vigilant for a reason, they have become targets. When a police officer encounters any person... any person, whether at a traffic stop, a street confrontation, an arrest, whatever... that situation has the potential to become life threatening. You, Mr & Mrs/Miss Civilian, also have the responsibility of keeping the situation from getting out of control.

"Many law enforcement officers are Veterans. They've been in service to this nation most of their lives, whether on the battlefield or protecting us here at home. They are the only thing that stands between us and anarchy in the streets.

"If you want to protect your child, teach them respect."

It's old, but wise, advice.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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