White Witch

She appeared without warning Thursday morning, like a grieving mother, standing vigil at the Ghost Bike corner. Six years ago, a man was killed on his bicycle at this intersection. It was unusual for a hit and run as it took place in a residential neighborhood at Christmastime. Due to quirks in the street grid, our little enclave is closed to thru traffic, which meant the driver likely either lived here or knew someone who did, and a local mystery was born.

Signs appeared, urging confession, an appeal to conscience, a whisper to authorities.  None came. After a year, the Ghost Bike was removed, and the baleful accusation went away with it.

We assumed the sudden arrival of the witch after so many years heralded a revival of interest in the case. Why else would she be there?  It turns out she was a harbinger of something altogether different.

Yesterday I went to Lowe’s and was greeted by this sign at the freeway offramp. I did some masonry work for a few hours, then poured a beer and settled in front of the TV for this:

The looters assembled at three historic civil rights locations: The Grove, Rodeo Drive, and Melrose Avenue.  Then they went shopping in full view of the police.  Beverly Hills didn’t let them in.  Nordstrom’s was briefly breached at the mall, but private security asserted order.

Melrose, on the other hand, is the City of Los Angeles.   Which means they could steal with impunity.  They started small, with the shoe stores.  Hand items, like sunglasses.  LAPD set up a block away and didn’t move in.   The local news stations circled overhead, beaming endless footage of mobs stepping across broken thresholds and scurrying out with all they could carry. The disembodied voice of Mayor Garcetti played host, murmuring concern as he called into each station to announce an 8 pm curfew the police had no intention of enforcing.   He didn’t dare show his face on TV, and the news anchors didn’t inconvenience him by asking what he intended to do about the breakdown in public order.

Properly incentivized in real-time, looters brazenly pulled up in cars.  They worked in teams.  They moved up to luxury items.  Finally, the Mac store was cleaned out completely while getaway drivers idled out front, trunks open and ready.  This went on for hours.

I can’t tell you how depressing it is at this point in my life to note nearly all the looters in Fairfax were black and gleeful and to hear the tawdry excuses offered for them by the media, as though pigmentation rendered one incapable of moral agency. The sin of looting was not that stealing was wrong, but that it was a distraction. America’s irredeemable racism is non-negotiable. Theft invites disapproving response from white people, who should not be speaking at all right now, only affirming.

If the goal last night was for no black person to be seen in handcuffs, the police could have done business owners a whole lot of good simply posting a uniform in front of each storefront with a camera recording license plates and faces.  They may have been told not to protect, but the least they could do was serve.

But that’s the point. We have entered a new era, haven’t we?  E Pluribus Unum no longer prevails.    The media chooses which groups must submit to the Law and those which are immune. Homeless encampments were the beginning.  Once we carved out a subset of the population to whom the rules did not apply,  our Portlandization was inevitable.

Tonight the looting is widespread. Santa Monica. Long Beach. The White Witch is here.