If #BlackLivesMatter, then…

In light of the events of the last weekend, it’s worth asking a cursory question about this new movement that has grown up over the last few months. Based around the slogan “Black Lives Matter“, rallies to this cause have marched and conducted more… exotic activities in cities throughout the USA. This slogan has been so embraced that its adherents have chastised others for broadening the phrase to “All Lives Matter”. It’s worth asking: do the people involved in this actually believe what they are saying? If so, why have they chosen as martyrs the people they have chosen?

How well does the movement actually match the message? (Source)

If the point of the movement is to illustrate random violence, or unjust treatment of blacks by police, why hold up Mike Brown and Eric Garner? Whatever tragedy is involved in these cases (and no one should minimize the loss their families have endured), they remain cases where… well, people engaged in conduct that ensured they would have bad interactions with police.

Indeed, if this movement is really about the terrible toll violence is taking on the lives of black Americans, then why are the poster children for it people (that in any rational examination of the facts) that were treated… well, exactly the way anyone would be treated in their circumstances. In neither case was it a surprise that the police intersected Micheal Brown or Eric Garner’s lives: Mike Brown had just robbed a neighborhood store, and while the law Mr. Garner was breaking may be a stupid, paternalistic law, Mr. Garner was very clearly breaking it.

It’s not my place to know the nature of Mike Brown’s soul, but we can say with fair certainty that he crammed more crimes into his last 30 minutes of life then most of us will ever even contemplate. Eric Garner’s crimes may have been picayune, but they were crimes he habitually committed. Mr. Garner had over two-dozen arrests, including previous arrests for this specific crime (of selling single cigarettes).

This is seven-year-old India Williams, who was shot in Detroit, September 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Police Department.

If, on the other hand, the point is to draw attention to the terrible toll that violence takes on the black community, and the indifference many have to it, are there not many better examples? Consider the tragic case of India Williams (above): a 7 year old girl shot with a stray bullet during a running gun-battle. Ms. Williams survived her injuries but is paralyzed from the waist down. Or Demario Bailey (below)? Mr. Bailey “was shot to death while coming to the aid of his twin brother when the two were robbed on their way to basketball practice, police said.”

Each of these cases cries out for greater attention, yet Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey’s stories have received little more then regional attention, and aroused dramatically less public outcry then the deaths of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner. How can this be squared with the message that #BlackLivesMatter?

A teddy bear and poinsettia are placed on a 63rd Street passageway where Demario Bailey (inset) was slain. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

 

Sadly, the obvious conclusion is difficult to avoid: that to organizers of these movements, Black Lives don’t Matter. The Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey have all of the elements we are told should make for compelling media narratives: attractive and sympathetic subjects, compelling narratives and, most importantly, relatable situations. The fear for a child playing senselessly injured, or siblings being victimized even when doing the right thing, these stories strike at the heartstrings. Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, by way of contrast…

While there is no doubt that many people marching and demonstrating in favor of this cause are sincere and motivated by a deep feeling of injustice. But it’s hard to avoid noticing that the only lives the movement’s organizers seem to find worthy of mourning are… black men killed by the police.

Who can doubt the good will of a protest co-sponsored by the “Party for Socialism and Liberation”?

It’s entirely too pat, too trite, to reduce the people marching in cities all across the USA to dupes or frauds. At the same time, it’s worth asking what this movement is really intended to accomplish other then the aggrandizement of the truly execrable Al Sharpton and the enrichment of his National Action Network. When one of the movers and shakers of a protest is the ANSWER Coalition (or, as Jonah Goldberg termed them, “a slime of Stalinism”), a little bit of suspicion is called for.

‘African American Witnesses’ and the social tragedy of Ferguson

Monday night an American city burned.

Celebration: “Protestors” parade in the parking lot of a burning auto parts store in Ferguson following the grand jury decision. Hopefully the fellow on the left was able to get a tasteful selfy.

There were many, many repellent images and ideas to come out of the fires of Ferguson,

 

Looters at the Ferguson Meat and Liquor, a store decorated with images seemingly in solidarity with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement.

But perhaps the most repellent, and the one that looms the largest over the post-riot dialogue is the invocation of “African American witnesses”;

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly correctly diagnoses the malignancy of rabble-rowsers such as Al Sharpton but she overlooks what I think is the more significant (and more ominous) development, the invocation of “African American witnesses” by both reporters and prosecutor. That this phrase is even used is an indictment of the current interracial climate of the United States: a tacit admission that at this point in time there is a presumption that the oath of truthfulness a witness takes holds less sway over them then racial solidarity. It’s another way of saying that there is so little trust in the system and the police that African Americans will not trust the sworn testimony of random eyewitnesses, if those witnesses are the wrong skin color.

If that strikes you as no big deal, I invite you to reverse the races at issue and to imagine the scene had a reporter asked “where there any white witnesses that testified?”

We’re six years into the term of the first Black president, with an African American man as Attorney General for that same amount of time, about to be replaced by (presumably) an African American woman. Yet faith in the judicial system is so low that revealing reams of documents from the grand jury intensifies racial paranoia across the country rather then calming it. For all the criticism of Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments that ‘the overwhelming majority of blacks are killed by other blacks‘, this is a fact, which has been argued about for decades. Martin Luther King Jr. himself noted the terrible phenomenon;

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

That was fifty years ago. Today, the structural, formal racism of that era has been all but banished from America. For all that today we are told that the race of witnesses is of great importance and that ‘police need to look like the people they police’. Dr. King’s dream of people being being judged by “the content of their character” has never been further away.