In The Bonfire of the Vanities, a bond trader becomes The Great White Defendant. In Tom Wolfe’s 1987 novel, the authorities in New York City hope to ingratiate themselves with racial progressives by charging a white man in an ambiguous situation.
I usually find it prudent to avoid talking about the Current Thing. But here I am making an exception.
Imagine if the races in this situation were reversed. Suppose that Jordan Neely, the man who died, had been white. Suppose that Daniel Penny, one of the men who subdued Neely and used a choke hold, had been black. Suppose that Jamelle Bouie, the NYT columnist who led the charge against Penny, had been white. Suppose that Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA who had Penny arrested and charged with manslaughter, had been white.
Imagine that this had happened in Alabama in 1963, with a white man dying after being subdued by a black man. And suppose that instead of AOC it was Governor George Wallace making inflammatory remarks about the case.
If the races were reversed in this way, the people who are now clamoring for Penny to be punished would be complaining about a “lynch mob” going after Penny.
But in America in 2023, progressives galvanize a lynch mob, as long as its target is The Great White Defendant.
I wrote elsewhere that this case is much, much closer to a homicide than the George Floyd case. I don't reasonably doubt, at least at this point, that Penny's actions did lead to Neely's death. I think the D.A. should have at least taken this case to the grand jury (and may yet do so, if he hasn't).
Penny was in no-win situation, though- you have a vagrant ranting and raving, threatening violence against the riders in moving subway car, so what do you do if you were in his situation- what would you be thinking? I know I would be very concerned for myself and the other riders, and I would feel like a coward if I just got up and left the other riders to Neely's threatened violence (which is what I probably would have done if I were completely unarmed depending solely on my physical capability to grapple with him- but I would have been ashamed of my walking away). Penny faced a choice do nothing and let Neely harm someone, possibly killing them, and then act, or act pre-emptively. Penny chose the pre-emptive approach, and once grappling with Neely, had a tiger by the tail.
Twelve years ago, the last time I was in New York, it was illegal to possess and carry stun guns and tasers for personal protection, and I imagine that hasn't changed. Neely would almost certainly be alive today if Penny had a stun gun or taser to use rather than having to depend on a risky submission hold. Given what I have seen on the video, and what the other passengers described to some of the journalists who covered the story, I would acquit on the present charges (manslaughter at this point) simply because the government of New York, state and city, aren't doing their jobs any longer in enforcing the civil order. I am not going to second guess Daniel Penny here and send him to prison.
The tit-for-tat oppression of Catholics v Protestants, Protestants v Catholics in England spanned over 200 years starting in the reign of Henry VIII, and resulted in civil war, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms regicide and dictatorship. The last flames of that burning until the late 20th Century in Northern Ireland. Just exchange Black & White for Protestant and Catholic.... and consider yourselves warned.