Feb 14, 2013 - Issue 504

The Christopher Dorner Episode May Be Over-
But the Questions He Raised Remain

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One of the most tragic and horrifying episodes in the recent history of our city, state and nation has come to an end…or has it? The national manhunt for ex-LAPD officer, Christopher Dorner, came to an end in a fiery shootout on Big Bear Mountain. There was nothing pretty about this at all. It started ugly and ended uglier. Obviously, it started long before the first shot was fired or the “manifesto” was published. It will not end with the last shot and Dorner’s death.

Dorner reopened a whole can of worms. The wounds are deep and scars are fresh. What would make a man go off like this? It’s too simple to suggest this was just about a lost job. This was a man stripped of his dignity. It wasn’t just that he lost his job, or even as much about why he lost his job. It was about how he lost his job, which caused him to lose his mind. 

And he went out backwards, sho’ ‘nuff. He obviously wanted to die, but not without cause. 

There is no justification for what Christopher Dorner did. Period. Nobody has a right to take anybody’s life - not even the government. Although we see movies every year about people being pushed to the brink of sanity, losing their minds, not being able to take it anymore and avenging injustice, Dorner’s rampage seemed surreal to us. “Revengers” who seek to “right wrongs,” the wrong way, become dark heroes in our irreverent society. We call them, “anti-heroes.” Anti-heroes, in our society, have all the virtues of heroes but not the recognition or the reputation. They sometimes start out as the villain, but take on virtuous attributes in a stand for what is right. People couldn’t understand how Dorner could be both villain and virtuous at the same time. He was despised for his cowardly acts but heralded for exposing another kind of unjust cowardice once thought a vestige of the past. Everybody knows this is the stuff of movies. Yet, when it plays out in real life, we become judgmental and mercenary around his motives.

Dorner’s motivation was real clear. It was his rationale that was twisted. God avenges while man revenges. Killing everybody is no valid rationale to make up for what happened to him. Dorner was simply pushed past his breaking point. What made some sympathetic towards his plight was that they understood what he was dealing with. It could be stated in four simple words, Los Angeles Police Department. Nothing else needed to be said.

L.A.P.D. has made whole communities lose their minds. Hell, one man is easy. No matter who you talked to, as crazy as they thought this whole rampage situation was, the conversation always reverted back to “the manifesto.” There was something very familiar about the manifesto.

Particularly to the black and Latino communities of Southern California. DWB (driving while black or brown) is real. Seemed like we’d hear it all before. He couldn’t make this stuff up.

Dorner raised some issues that even Chief Charlie Beck was forced to acknowledge. Beck even recanted an earlier decision not to review Dorner’s firing. Of course, he had killed three people already (allegedly) and it was viewed as a ploy to get Dorner to surrender, but the validity of Dorner’s claims didn’t escape us. Hopefully, Beck’s offer was more than a tactic to get Dorner to surrender. It was obvious from the manifesto that Dorner was gonna’ go out on his back. The more the “manhunt” escalated, the higher the bounty got - another vestige of slavery (slave rebellions demanded the biggest bounties), the more talk radio dissected the manifesto.

Then a lot of ex-cops started voicing their own experiences. Suddenly, Dorner didn’t seem so crazy. Irrational, yes. Extreme, definitely. WRONG? Most definitely. But crazy? Nope.

What he said made a LOT of sense to a lot of people who have had “experiences” with L.A.P.D. Inside and out. Seems like Dorner was fired on a technicality. He didn’t make up the event. Maybe he didn’t get all his facts right or didn’t follow immediate protocol of reporting abuse. But he saw something. Oh yeah, and he gave up a fellow officer. Game over. He went against the “blue code of silence” and they served him up. 

Dorner even went as far to say that things hadn’t changed and the consent decree should have never been lifted, and the community’s scar had been opened. It had been said that L.A.P.D. morale was back, after the ten year, two “black chiefs” experiment. That’s code for the blue code had returned and so had some of the racial insensitivity for which the department had long been known.

The community had seen some evidence of it over the past few years but nobody was talking about it. LAPD’s rhetoric has changed. Armed with a smile and a revamped public relations department, it’s a kinder, gentler L.A.P.D. rhetoric but rhetoric none the less. As civil rights attorney, Connie Rice, likes to say, “It’s not your grand-daddy’s LAPD, but it’ still LAPD.”

It is our hope that some of the issues raised in the Dorner manifesto can be revisited in the aftermath of this public trauma. Christopher Dorner traumatized the whole state for a couple weeks. L.A.P.D. traumatized whole communities for several decades. People haven’t forgotten that.

The Dorner manhunt was “Racial Americana” on so many levels. Every black man (and even little old Latina ladies) in California was suspect (and a suspect). That’s not usual. What was unusual was the shoe was on the other foot, and the targets weren’t the usual suspects. The hunters became the hunted. Everybody was vulnerable and public panic is no way to live - although some have been forced to do so for a couple centuries. The police panic was evidence of the stress some communities live under, everyday. Police and their families got a small taste of the dangers of police encounters in inner city life. Why should their panic be any different than that of the community’s? Yet it was. Random deadly encounters became everybody’s reality.

There’s a thin line between patriotism and payback when those our society has trained to kill are, themselves, violated, abused and thrown away like they are worthless. And as we found out, everybody doesn’t deal with humiliation the same way. The same dignity Dorner had in his work, he lost in his death. But he made his point. The system he once believed in, and defended, is still broken and nobody seems to care. They will care now…or it can happen again.

Christopher Dorner may be dead, but his manifesto, and the issues raised in it, lives on. So do the questions.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Twitter @dranthonysamad. Click here to contact Dr. Samad.