Unfortunately, we live in a society that is losing the ability to be objective about issues that are most sensitive to us. This trend was put on full display this weekend, when he internet was rocked by footage describing what was apparently a pool party gone wrong in McKinney, Texas. As has become too common in the past year, a police officer appears to lose his temper, cursing at teens, pushing people down to the ground, and even taking one teenage girl to the ground while drawing his firearm to threaten others.
The incident has been defined by many groups as yet another example of police aggression and antagonism against black teens. But is there more to the story?
Yes. But it is BOTH sides that have more to offer than just the video of the incident above. That’s exactly what most people sharing the story online have been forgetting to discuss–and its part of the reason why discussing those different perspectives is so important.
The Competing Narratives
In addition to the original video, other information has begun to surface suggesting that there were several other elements that resulted in the incident that is now being broadcast on the news. Some information is being put forward by neighborhood residents and conservative activists, and other information by pool party attendees and liberal activists.
On the conservative side, a lot of information about the pool party itself is coming forward. According to some neighborhood residents, the pool parties had become a chronic problem for the neighborhood, with local teens promoting this event and other similar ones online. As it was a community pool, none of the non-resident teens were welcome in the first place.
The pool party was advertised on social media. Homeowners say none of the nearly 70 people were allowed to be there pic.twitter.com/pZZy9htEK3
— Zahid Arab (@ZahidArabFox4) June 7, 2015
(H/T Twitchy, which has compiled several valuable pieces of information on this incident.)
Residents of the neighborhood have posted their own reports of the event on social media, as well. Apparently, the crowd had become aggressive, running through peoples yards’ and threatening both their property and their bodily safety.
However, this is only part of the story. Pool party attendees and liberal activists have suggested that racism was at play as well. In particular, evidence suggests that neighborhood residents reacted badly to the teens’ presence and became antagonistic toward some of the black party-goers.
This incident, regrettably, ended in an outbreak of violence that ultimately framed the actions of the police who arrived on scene:
— Miles(K-Bandz) (@k1dmars) June 6, 2015
Yet other people have attempted to argue that the existence of the Craig Ranch community pool is itself a sign of racism. The Atlantic points out that the city of McKinney, Texas was forced to settle a race discrimination lawsuit in 2009 that alleged the city had been illegally steering black residents into living on the east side of Highway 75, which cuts through McKinney. Craig Ranch, a planned community, is on the west side, where no low-income housing developments had been available prior to the lawsuit.
While I highly doubt that the individual actors here were somehow responding to this lawsuit or making some purposeful statement on race, the problem of racially-divided neighborhoods is nevertheless a lingering reminder that parts of America did, at one point in history, go to great lengths to keep communities divided. This is part of the reason why incidents like those in McKinney, Baltimore, or Ferguson are so painful, as they dredge up memories and images of an America that has not yet been wholly redeemed from its past sins.
Why Both Sides are Right–And Wrong
The problem with how people have responded to the events in McKinney is that neither the left nor the right is by itself correct. Every single part of the incident contributed to the final outcome, and every single part needs to be understood in turn.
Yes, the police responded with aggression where restraint may have (and almost certainly should have) led the day. HOWEVER, the police had been called to respond to what was in effect an unruly mob that was threatening local residents and their homes. BUT, when a small minority of the local residents got aggressive with racist comments, a handful of the teens were provoked to fight and likely riled up the rest in the process. THAT BEING SAID, those teens would not have been there if the would-be promoter hadn’t tried to host the event and take advantage of the neighborhood’s non-public pool in the first place. HOWEVER (again)…
See how far we can go down the rabbit hole? Unfortunately, we HAVE to go down the rabbit hole to really understand the complexities of the incident.
The vast majority of the people involved in this incident were bystanders, victims of a handful of provocateurs and bad actors who accelerated the incident to the point seen in the infamous viral video above. There is no doubt that there were racists who antagonized the crowd. But there is also no doubt that the teens weren’t supposed to be at the pool in the first place–whether they knew it or not–and ended up running rampant in the neighborhood as things got out of hand.
All it would have taken to completely change the outcome of the incident was one person making a different choice: a police officer choosing to take a deep breath, a teen in the crowd keeping a cool head instead of running around or resisting officers’ instructions, a young woman not succumbing to anger in the face of others’ racism, a neighborhood resident choosing polite conversation over antagonism. Any one of these points or an infinite number of others could have completely changed the outcome of this event.
The Need for Reconciliation
There’s another reason that both sides are wrong: there is zero discussion of the attempts to care for the victims. In a second video, shot mere moments after the first, we see neighborhood residents supporting the handcuffed teens by helping clean up their faces and offering them water.
Ultimately, the only way out of this police morass that America has found itself in right now is through the reconciliation of our communities. These residents set a strong example: in that moment, the people on the ground weren’t part of an unruly mob of teens, but were kids in a bad situation that were deserving of help. No one cared about who was right or who was wrong, at least for a little while, and they were only concerned with making sure that people got the help they might need at that particular moment in time.
However, their actions alone are not enough. Examples of compassion like this needs to take place across the country, coming out of both minority and white communities, in order to begin healing the cultural tears that have been ripped open over the past several years. What we need more than just justice is reconciliation–a commitment that all sides will frankly and honestly discuss the truth, without concern for who “wins” or “loses” that conversation, and then move forward together in order to heal society’s wounds.
Without reconciliation, the question isn’t whether or not there will be another McKinney, or Ferguson, or Baltimore. It’s a question of when.
UPDATE 6/8/15: This article was updated to include additional information.