Grammar Shaming 6/18/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

A friend of mine posted a meme on her social media page regarding the charging of the officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta has been charged with felony murder. With all of the police related deaths of late, if you don’t recall this story, Rayshard was shot in the back while trying to flee from a police officer. The encounter began because Brooks was sleeping in his car at a fast food parking lot. When the officers tried to put him into custody for being intoxicated, Brooks ran.

Garrett Rolfe of the Atlanta Police Department then pulled his side arm and fired three rounds at Brooks. Two rounds struck Brooks in the back, and the third struck a parked car that had three bystanders inside. Brooks fell, and while his partner (I assume) called for a paramedic in a timely fashion, Rolfe strolled over to the struggling Rayshard saying “I got him” and kicked him. Rolfe did not attempt to render aid.

There are a myriad of red flags and broken police regulations in this encounter. My friend’s social media post supported Rayshard as an example of the needs for reform and in support of the protests. One of the comments on her post was from a friend who wrote a very long, rambling comment basically suggesting that Rolfe should have “fired to injure” so as to wound and stop Brooks rather than to kill. The suggestion, of course, was that if he had done so this would not have been an issue.

Her comment betrays a lot of ignorance regarding police regulations, the proper use of firearms (you never shoot to wound) and the influence of pop culture that shows unrealistic skills. As a brief aside, you do not shoot to wound, but you shoot for the torso. The torso (in this case the back) provides a larger and relatively stable target as opposed to the head which is stable but small, or legs which are moving rapidly and small. Unfortunately, often shots to the torso are deadly, which is why there are regulations about the discharge of an officer’s firearm. Unfortunately, these regulations are not always followed. I’ve even had a police captain make the comment to me that he always hoped he had the “opportunity” to kill a suspect, a dangerous attitude showing a lack of respect for life even though he was talking about his time as a police sharpshooter.

The point of this blog, though, is that the person who responded to the meme did so with a multitude of grammar errors. The people reading her comment had a few different choices, beginning with not commenting at all. I wanted to respond pointing out her misunderstanding, but there were several dozen (no kidding) comments already. I didn’t read them, but the one I saw basically was a list of every grammatical error. It’s clear that rather than pointing out the valid issues with her thinking, the point was to grammar shame her. What’s the point to this? It doesn’t mean this person is smarter than she is, just that they know the rules of grammar better. This is probably because of educational inequities, and bypasses all of the valid counterpoints.

I have corrected grammar. When I have done so in the past, it was intended to point out what I thought was a simple oversight, so my friend could (if s/he wanted to correct the post. This is significantly different from grammar shaming, which is a form of suppression of free speech. Shaming is a way of making the target too embarrassed to state their opinions which are valid, and speech protected for all of us. Grammar shaming is a form of bullying, plain and simple.

By the way, here are the mistakes made by Rolfe in my humble opinion. First, he discharged his firearm at a fleeing citizen who was not suspected of a serious crime. It’s one thing to shoot at somebody who is suspected of serial rape or murder, where it becomes critical to stop them from doing more harm, and something entirely different to shoot at a man guilty of falling asleep in his car. Technically he was guilty of DUI since he was in his car, but this is only a technicality. At least he was sleeping it off. Second, when he discharged his weapon, he did not have a clear line of firing. Civilians were clearly in the direction that he was shooting which is a huge liability. Police will give up vehicle chases if there is a risk to civilian populations. Third, he used his firearm as a lazy alternative to giving chase. I don’t know what kind of shape this officer is in, but he and his partner should have been in good shape as that’s part of their job and chasing down an inebriated individual sounds like an easy task. Finally, there was no reason to worry about losing him. If they were preparing to arrest him, they probably already had his driver’s license, and since the car most likely belonged to him, they could have traced him through the car ownership as well. Rayshard was murdered for a misdemeanor at best, all for the sake of Rolfe’s convenience. That should have been the response to this person’s comment.

2 thoughts on “Grammar Shaming 6/18/20

  1. I don’t know who this is, but I highly doubt that it was you whoever you are. From the context of this message, it sounds like you know me personally, and I don’t know the person whose comment inspired this blog. I apologize to you and anybody else who might feel personally targeted by this post as this was not my intention. It’s more of a call for all of us (myself included) to be a little more cautious about how we reply to comments on social media.


  2. I apologize if this was me that you witnessed. I am exhausted with people making bullheaded statements, backing them up with large words (spelled correctly), followed by several grammatical errors (wud, cud, ur, etc). All of our devices these days come with some form of spell check, ability to edit comments, and it’s not like Facebook has a text limit. So there are ways to correct your mistakes, if a person wanted to.
    We should hold ourselves to higher standards, me included.
    I know social media isn’t a formal platform, but it’s a glaring pet peeve for many with Type A personality.
    I should have let this go. I should probably take leave from social media for a while. I’m just exhausted, and I took it out online.

    For that, I’m sorry.


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