Christopher Dorner and Racial Battle Fatigue

It's easy to say that Dorner could have expressed his grief in a productive way. But by acting on his sense of vengeance, Dorner has shown us how susceptible we are to participating in the cycle of abuse.
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With respect to Charles M. Blow's article in the New York Times, "Don't Mythologize Christopher Dorner," I agree. Dorner is no hero. My condolences go out to the families who lost their loved ones and to those Dorner turned into his quarry. No human being should know the feeling of being someone's prey. The fear and trauma they experienced will have lasting effects.

But to ignore Dorner's grievances would be a mistake. There is an offering here -- it is somewhere between the bloodshed and his diatribe.

If the assumed deceased Christopher Dorner had written his manifesto in the form of a testimonio, he would have been offering what Critical Race Theorists refer to as "Racial Battle Fatigue." Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF) -- coined by William Smith in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society (2008) -- is a theory attributed to the psychological attrition that People of Color experience from the daily battle of deflecting racialized insults, stereotypes, and discrimination. RBF is the cumulative effect of being "on guard" and having to finesse responses to insults, both subtle and covert. In academia, we discuss having an "arsenal of responses" to protect ourselves. This arsenal is deployed as tools of self-protection from racial microagressions and racialized aggression. RBF is experienced by People of Color as they work in mostly white institutions and, within these institutions, are confronted with prejudices, discriminatory behavior, and denigrating comments from peers and/or superiors. Racial microagressions compose a concept that has been used to describe People of Color in academic institutions, but the concept clearly holds true in other institutions -- and, indeed, in society at large. To understand the scope of RBF, we must first understand racial microaggressions (Smith, Yosso & Solórzano, 2008). Racial microagressions are defined as:

1) subtle verbal and non-verbal insults directed at people of color, often automatically or unconsciously;

2) layered insults, based on one's race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname; and

3) cumulative insults, which cause unnecessary stress to people of color while privileging whites.

So, what does a racial microaggression look like? When and where do microaggressions take place? During classroom lectures in an elite university, staff meetings in elementary schools, or in line at the local coffee shop. Racial microaggressions are subtle remarks that the speaker often considers a compliment.

• "Well you are not like the other Mexicans."
• "You don't look Mexican."
• "You speak English without an accent."
• "You're not like a Mexican Mexican."

Racial microaggressions are part of the "psychological warfare" endured by People of Color in environments with mostly white peers.

Where is Christopher Dorner in all of this? Sections of Dorner's manifesto are a page straight out of the research material I gathered as at doctoral student at UCLA. One part of my study of Scholars of Color pursuing doctoral degrees addressed questions of institutional support. Participants voiced a common complaint about a lack of support from professors, peers, and the academic environment in general. They spoke of microaggressions they endured and had witnessed other People of Color undergo across campus.

If Dorner's manifesto were data, we would proceed by tracing the racial themes that run throughout his tirade. Dorner references two high-profile cases (Rampart Scandal and the Rodney King case) that illuminated and validated grievances that People of Color had had for years. Both cases exposed corruption as a common occurrence. The Rampart Scandal lay bare a culture of misconduct and a cavalier abuse of authority by the LAPD, with such acts as planting false evidence, using excessive force, dealing narcotics, robbing banks, and framing suspects. The Rodney King case, in which LAPD officers were captured on amateur videotape viciously beating King, exposed police brutality and left the LAPD's reputation eviscerated. "Serving and protecting" was revealed as a sham as images of cruelty and malice at the hands of our so-called protectors flooded the media.

One year after the incident, the officers involved in the beating were acquitted. Minutes after news reports of the acquittal were broadcasted, the unrest began, in the form of the Los Angeles Riots, so named by popular media -- an incident referred to by Critical Race Scholars as the Los Angeles Uprising of 1992. The Uprising resulted in 53 deaths, thousands of injuries, and more than 6,000 fires. In solidarity, San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas erupted in smaller-scale uprisings.

The LA Times states that Dorner had a "seemingly bottomless grudge born when the LAPD fired him in 2009." Dorner had served for three years and states in his manifesto that he had brought his grievances up the chain of command. They were dismissed, and he was ultimately discharged. Dorner believed that he was terminated for crossing the sacred "Blue Line" -- an unspoken decree of secrecy among police officers.

Dorner was considered by a former FBI profiler a an "injustice collector," as he held tight to detailed scenarios of what happened when, who did what to whom, and what each outcome was. He tracked the racial microagressions against himself and others. He cites those victimized by the LAPD -- People of Color, immigrants, the mentally ill, the elderly. Who is more vulnerable than these people?

At times, Dorner speaks the voice of the vigilante emerging from the shadows of injustice to right the wrongs. But he quickly crosses over to the dark side in collecting dead bodies as his severance.

According to researchers, symptoms of Racial Battle Fatigue include -- but are not limited to -- a loss of sense of control, insomnia, rapid mood swings, high blood pressure, ulcers, and other stress-related symptoms. The authors suggest the stress from racial microaggressions can become lethal when the accumulation of physiological symptoms of racial battle fatigue are untreated, unnoticed, misdiagnosed, or personally dismissed. The sufferer of RBF may feel haunted by his or her perceived discrimination and suffer from multiple mental health issues. But how do we attend to each grievance -- imagined and perceived, real and relentless -- to prevent the violence and carnage of Dorner's end-result?

It's easy to say that Dorner could have expressed his grief in a productive way. He could have gone public, done an exposé, written a book or a screenplay, or protested in front LAPD headquarters. But when he took his first shot, he joined the cycle of abuse; he went from victim to predator. His terrorizing acts whitewashed all valid reasons for his frustration. His violence became the story.

By acting on his sense of vengeance, Dorner has shown us how susceptible we are to participating in the cycle of abuse. As a witness to fellow officers' excessive force, he served as the rescuer by reporting the incident(s). Dorner cites multiple examples of unchecked power:

Those Caucasian officers . . . with the sole intent to victimize minorities who are uneducated, and unaware of criminal law, civil law, and civil rights. You prefer the South bureau because a use of force/deadly force is likely and the individual you use UOF on will likely not report it.

Those Black officers in supervisory ranks and pay grades who stay in south bureau . . . intent of getting retribution toward subordinate caucasians officers for the pain and hostile work environment their elders inflicted on you as probationers. . . .You perpetuated the cycle of racism in the department as well. You breed a new generation of bigoted caucasian officer when you belittle them and treat them unfairly.

Those Hispanic officers who victimize their own ethnicity because they are new immigrants to this country and are unaware of their civil rights. You call them wetbacks to their face and demean them in front of fellow officers of different ethnicities so that you will receive some sort of acceptance from your colleagues. . . . Most likely, your parents or grandparents were immigrants at one time, but you have forgotten that.

Those lesbian officers in supervising positions who go to work, day in day out, with the sole intent of attempting to prove your misandrist authority (not feminism) to degrade male officers.

Those Asian officers who stand by and observe everything I previously mentioned other officers participate in on a daily basis but you say nothing, stand for nothing and protect nothing. Why? Because of your usual saying, " I......don't like conflict".

Dorner methodically confronted each group for its actions--or inactions--and cited the responsibility of each one to stop it.

Joe Jones, a former LAPD officer, understands at a visceral level how it feels to be a target of aggression:

1) I had my home viciously attacked by a gunman with my family and myself inside the house. No arrests were made and my family and I received very little support.

2) I had my Civil Rights violated on several occasions. I was falsely arrested at gunpoint by the Sheriffs as an Officer who ID'd himself and was conspired against by both LAPD and the Sheriffs when my Civil case went to Trial.

3) I was falsely accused on more than one occasion and simply placed in a position that the trust was so compromised that I could no longer wear the Uniform. Also know there were many more episodes. All of these issues are well documented.

Joe Jones pleads (via his own manifesto posted on his Facebook page) with Dorner to stop killing innocent victims. He makes clear that Dorner wasn't the only one with these grievances. He makes an appeal to the citizens of Los Angeles, the government, politicians, honest members of the LAPD and dishonest members of the LAPD -- and Christopher Dorner. Jones shares his own story after 18 years: 18 years of psychological strain, self-doubt, and torment.

Many of us who have suffered at the hands of our superiors have done so in silence. Perhaps we have spoken to our small circle of family and friends because confronting our perpetrators comes with a risk -- first, that you will not be believed, second, that you will be discredited, third, that you will be blamed and last, but perhaps worst, that you will be silenced by inaction. The inaction is the most troubling. You learn that your grievances mean nothing.

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