In light of the new information that has come to light in the police shooting of an elderly woman, I’d like to repeat my earlier concerns about the public perceptions of this case.

Why is this being spun more as a civil rights issue than as a human rights issue?
Might that be because black people are seen as chess pieces in a game of identity politics, while white people are seen as neutral, and therefore simply human?
Forgive my cynicism; I don’t write these rules.

For what it’s worth, I think the victim’s race has everything to do with it — even in a city like Atlanta. Had the house been in a white neighborhood and occupied by an elderly white woman who lived alone, I don’t think a warrant would have been issued on such flimsy, made up evidence as this:

The confidential informant on whose word Atlanta police raided the house of an 88-year-old woman is now saying he never purchased drugs from her house and was told by police to lie and say he did.
Chief Richard Pennington, in a press conference Monday evening, said his department learned two days ago that the informant — who has been used reliably in the past by the narcotics unit — denied providing information to officers about a drug deal at 933 Neal Street in northwest Atlanta.
“The informant said he had no knowledge of going into that house and purchasing drugs,” Pennington said. “We don’t know if he’s telling the truth.”
The search warrant used by Atlanta police to raid the house says that a confidential informant had bought crack cocaine at the residence, using $50 in city funds, several hours before the raid.
In the document, officers said that the informant told them the house had surveillance cameras that the suspected drug dealer, called “Sam,” monitored.
Pennington on Monday evening said the informant told the Internal Affairs Unit hat he did not tell officers that the house had surveillance equipment, and that he was asked to lie.

The story keeps changing, and the cops are obviously in full coverup mode, so it’s tough to pin down exactly who told who what, but I think that even if we place drug war concerns aside, this evinces a pattern of unconscionably sloppy police work aggravated by an institutionalized ratification of the sloppiness — all provided that the raids are conducted in “low income” neighborhoods. Had this been a middle class or wealthy widow, you can be damned sure that everything would have been gone over line by line, and the judge would have asked questions.
What about the judge who signed the warrant? Is there no duty of care to conduct himself as more than would some Soviet apparatchik? Again, I think that had the same allegations been made against an elderly white woman, the entire case would have been looked at differently, and subjected to a completely different level of scrutiny. It’s as if lowered standards of enforcement and review are expected in cases like this. It begins with child protection and schools, and a lowering of standards tends to be overlooked, excused, or even advocated. (In an educational setting, this has been called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”) When minority police, bureaucrats, and social workers are in charge, these lower standards can become further institutionalized, and a conspiracy of second class treatment is allowed to masquerade as compassion, even “self help.”
I’ve written more than one long blog post about the conspiracy of silence which takes the form of the anti “snitching” movement, and what disturbed me the most about the phenomenon was the realization that there is a different definition of what constitutes snitching in lower income communities. It’s as if the entire community considers itself in an institutionalized setting, and any contact with the authorities is analogous to (and is regarded as) a prisoner talking to a guard.
In a prison setting, “snitches” (aka “informants”) are of course the lowest of the low, and they are candidates for death. I don’t doubt that the informant who fabricated the story about a drug buy in the elderly woman’s house was either facing drug charges himself, or being paid. He may have made a drug buy somewhere, but for whatever reason (maybe to preserve his life) he might not have wanted to inform the cops of the true location. The marvelous thing about snitching out a wholly innocent party is that it acts as a general deterrent in communities dominated by criminals out to stop snitching.
The whole thing stinks, and I think efforts to focus on the race of the victim by treating this as a civil rights matter play right into the problem. The fact that this took place in “the neighborhood where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family once lived” should be as irrelevant as the victim’s race. But because we live in a country where such things are highly relevant, the concerns with race have a sneaky way of defining down what should be a human rights inquiry into a civil rights inquiry.
Paradoxically, this is why I wish Ms. Johnston had been white.
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution asks some good questions:

Before narcotics agents went to Johnston’s home last week, did they ascertain who lived there? Considering it was two days before Thanksgiving, did they establish whether visiting children or other family members were in the home? Did they lean on an informant to lie on their behalf?
If the informant never fingered Johnston’s house as a drug source, how did police end up there? What evidence did police have that the drug quantities involved were significant enough to call for forced entry?
Based on what is known so far, it’s hard to argue that Johnston was at fault. She was not the professional trained to investigate a situation before taking any action that could endanger innocent people. She had no information to alert her to what was really happening in her home that night.
Unfortunately, it appears that the APD didn’t either.

And unfortunately, concerns over civil rights will cause this case to be spun as a minority issue. But because the victim is black, the chief of police is black, the only way for the case to receive major attention (apart from civil rights activists and libertarians) would be if the officers themselves turned out to be white.
Again, much as I hate to say this, if everyone involved had been white, there might be more of a debate on the real issue — human rights and the war on drugs.
Just to disclose my bias, I think the war on drugs ends up being a war against human rights, and cases like Ms. Johnston’s are a classic example of why. Interjecting civil rights into the analysis causes people to overlook the inherent nature of the war on drugs, and ultimately gives it a pass.