Folks, in case you're wondering what my concern about rising racial and political tensions have to do with personal self-defense the very short answer is...
"It's getting crazy out on the streets."
It's not being reported. But you have a change in street dynamics and a rise in both unpredictability and aggressiveness. THAT is more likely to directly effect you than the bigger issues I’ve been talking about lately. So, now the longer answer.
This aggressiveness is not in predictable ways. I've spoken to lot of old school outlaws, criminals, gangsters and bad men. They're "What the fuck is wrong with these people?" Although it would be easy to brand it "...with these kids?" it's not just a generational issue. It's a serious, toxic mix of out of control emotions, identity- ideology, lack of understanding, 'attitude' and ... what I can only describe as ...a belief in no consequences.
First the elephant in the room and how it's mixing with another issue. There's always been racial tensions out in the street. The first riot I was ever at ground zero for was between Mexicans and Blacks. Seen a lot of ugly since then. But here's the thing, on the day-to-day running of things each side -- even if they didn't respect each other (as most people understand the term) -- they respected that the other side would shoot back. Reread that last sentence again, because it's closely tied to this: That's a great incentive not to start shit.
Now take away "Don't start shit because they'll shoot back" and replace it with "they wouldn't dare shoot back"
That '’They’ can't or WON'T' respond attitude is B ) --the other issue. It is far more widespread and isn’t just about race. It's extremely pernicious in it's own right.
Combining the two: This means you -- and that is a direct you, not general you -- can be targeted just because of your skin color. This is not new and improved ‘institutional racism,’ this is old school racism of just blindly hating someone for their skin color or eye shape (a game anyone can play). It is the individual deciding to act against you for a whole host of reasons -- including a hatred of your skin color. He does so thinking you can’t -- not won’t, can’t -- do anything about it. He’s got himself a free pass against you. A pass that reads “Do unto those thou hast ‘Othered’ as thou will...”
Getting concerned yet?
This belief in lack of consequences is actually the bigger problem than someone hating you for your skin color. In many cases I’ve seen this expanded to the level of ‘It’s my right’ to do selfish/illegal/aggressive/destructive /shitty/pick any combo stuff. And I do mean ‘a God given right.’ But it also goes into negative rights. That is to say, while they can say or do anything, YOU do not have the right to stop them.
While that attitude may be offensive to you, it has much more practical -- and problematic -- manifestations. These are they have no fear about coming at you and no reason not to! They are in fact relying on your hesitation to react to keep them safe from consequences. They can run up, get in your face, scream, howl, bark and drool and you can’t do anything about it.
Because if you do, you’re the one who is going to get arrested.
Which brings us to the next problem. Let me give you a ‘No-BS-Reality-Break’ about “Institutional” attitudes of the police, the prosecutors and law makers. Something that is WAY bigger than racism. That is “Somebody has to go to jail.”
I’ve long bemoaned cops as revenue generators and removal of officer discretion when it comes to mandatory arrest. But now having dealt with our court system I’ve seen first hand the prosecutorial attitude that can be summed up as “If someone died there must be a crime.” While I’ve long had serious heartburn with people carping about being “arrested for self-defense” (mostly because what they did WASN’T self-defense) over the last ten years that has become a reality under ‘Somebody hast to go to jail.’ This is not the cops choice any more, the pressure to arrest and get back out on patrol comes from above. And straight up, a big part of this is them getting the fines you will be assigned by the court in lieu of jail time.
Basically, short and not-so- sweet, unless you are damned good about articulation AND stayed in boundaries of self-defense, you will go to jail if you defend yourself. This means street rats know they can fly off the handle without fear of consequence -- because if YOU react -- they’ll be the ones calling the cops on you. Do not think this doesn’t effect their willingness to go off on you.
The problem with dancing this close to the edge is it’s both extremely easy to go over it anyway, and a whole lot of them just don’t give a shit. Their hatred and rage is more important than not going to jail -- so they will physically attack. Now let me toss another shovel full onto the shit pile. Remember I said OGs, elder outlaws and the like are saying “What is wrong with these people?” It’s not just that there’s no respect for the rules and how you do things, there’s a growing trend of not even knowing these exist. Sound like a vague, hypothetical problem? Try this...
When you find you’ve miscalculated or crossed a line and are looking down the barrel of a gun, how do you back out of the situation without getting your brains blown into a fine pink mist?
Now maybe in your lifestyle this isn’t much of an issue, so not knowing how to do it isn’t a big thing. But back in the day, it was part of the whole ‘respect that they will shoot back’ package. Looking down the barrel of a gun means although you’ve crossed a line, the guy is giving you a chance to change your behavior. As such, it’s probably a good idea not to continue with the behavior that resulted in that view.
Not getting shot really wasn’t something you used to have to talk someone through in the old days. But these days it is. These self-righteous, ‘I have the right to/you don’t have the right to stop me’ types are at a complete and total loss about what to do when someone does stop them. I’m talking total bewilderment because it’s never happened before. You literally have to talk them through the process -- especially reassuring them that backing off is safe. You need to factor in both they don’t know how to back off and their fear that if they do, you’ll kill them. I’m not joking when I say “You need...”
(In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, try this, “If I was going to kill you no matter what, you’d be dead by now. Here’s the deal. I’m giving you a chance to walk away and live. If you do that I won’t shoot. You do anything else though... Now what’s it going to be?”)
Remember that shovelful? Well it’s time to add a wheelbarrow. While I’ve always been a big fan of having multiple force options (verbal deescalation, crime avoidance, empty hand, knives, guns etc.) never before has having ALL of them been so important.
Okay, granted that given my career and lifestyle choices I needed to have them all to handle the wide variety of things that came my way. I’ve never been a “Les jes’ bash ‘em onna hed” type or “Prep for Road Warrior conditions” type. I say this despite having been in bad situations that have kicked off. I mean beyond gang wars and shooting bad -- like rioting, looting and burning buildings. So that has never been off the table for me.
But things are getting crazy out there. To the point that you are much more likely to run into something than you were before. The question, and it’s a big question, is: What degree will it be?
I can’t answer that. And until you’re in the situation neither will you be able to. The level of what you’re going to be running into is impossible to predict. Hence the need for a full spectrum of options -- especially the lower end.
I am the first to point out things have not kicked off -- and hopefully they won’t. But that puts you between a hammer and anvil. On one hand, there’s increasing tensions, hostility, violence and craziness. On the other hand, that means you’re going to be dealing with the aftermath and consequences of violence under existing circumstances. That is to say a system that will try to nail you if you are involved in an incident. Yes the system is designed to nail bad guys, but it’s gotten to the point that -- because of over-prosecution -- self-defense is becoming functionally illegal. Not a good thing with rising tensions and increasing incidents.
I’m recommending really honing your de-escalation skills, do everything in your power to not get into situations, and meet certain criteria so your actions support your claim of self-defense. (Like you tried to walk away. And why did you stop? Because it wasn’t working.) Now that may sound odd, but in fact, it’s going to help you in a lot of different ways. First is you will have made a good faith effort to keep it from going sideways. Second, surprise surprise, good faith efforts really do work to keep shit from happening. (This should be your goal anyway.) Third, you’ll understand when it’s not working. Fourth, that knowledge will assist you to mentally shift gears to an alternative strategy. (Nope, not working, Plan B). Fifth -- and this is where it sounds counter to common sense -- often you prepping to go will cause the guy to change plans. (Remember the ‘talking him through not getting shot?’ This is where it applies.) Sixth, knowing that de-escalation didn’t work, you’ll have a much cooler head when it comes to scaling force. Seventh, when you are ‘called upon to answer’ for your use of force decision, you’ll be better prepared to articulate WHY -- even though it was violent -- what you did wasn’t illegal, but was in fact, self-defense.
All of which go miles for you not getting hurt or arrested. Like I said, it’s getting both crazy and nasty out there, this calls for a different level of preparation than just bangy bangy or punchy kicky.