By Malcolm Gladwell
In Tom Tyler’s work on procedural justice, he makes a crucial—if sometimes overlooked—point. Most people are more sensitive to the form of law enforcement than the content. That is, we are perfectly willingly to accept sanctions of various kinds, even those aimed at ourselves, so long as the sanction fits the criteria of legitimacy: that it allows for voice, that it is fair, and that it is predictable. I’ve always thought that that is quite an incendiary observation. We are accustomed to thinking of resistance to counter-revolutionary measures as a feature. Repression breeds resistance. But Tyler’s observation suggests that they might instead be a bug. That counter-revolution breeds resistance only when it’s done badly. If you are nice about it, and cloak your activities in some kind of emphatic cover, then you can get away with a lot. In other words, if police forces had lots of black cops, and shoot innocent white people and black people in equal numbers, and conducted public reviews of each shooting incident, then maybe we would be fine with it. What if counter-revolution was all tactics, and no strategy?