The leaders and participants in the protests related to incidents of excessive police force and violence—real, imagined, manufactured or equivocal—are creating an environment of racial distrust, fear and hate that cannot avoid resulting in violence. Yet astoundingly, they not only deny the natural consequences of their words and rhetoric but feign indignation (and racism, of course) when the effort, long underway with the assistance of such accomplices as Eric Holder, Barack Obama and Bill De Blasio, is properly condemned as the dangerous and reckless attack on society that it is.
I am not sure which amazes me more: that demagogues like Al Sharpton would have the audacity to proclaim that his organized campaign of hate against police, accusing them of being both racist executioners and the embodiment of a racist justice system, or the caliber of pundits who have rushed to Sharpton’s defense. How can this be? African-Americans are told, for years now, that whites with guns are hunting them; that police are determined to kill them, that the justice system is rigged to let the carnage continue. The carriers of this message includes members of Congress, celebrities, civil rights activists, the Attorney General and the President of the United States. False accounts that support this gross characterization of disparate incidents, each with unique circumstances, are turned into rallying cries, such as “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” The left-biased media openly endorses the narrative, which says that black Americans are being hunted coast-to-coastby an armed force, determined to kill their children.
But the protest is “non-violent.”
This is massive deceit. OK, the protests aren’t directly killing anyone. The message of the protests, however, if it is believed and trusted, tells a large portion of American society that their lives are in danger from whites, especially those wearing blue uniforms. This is a call to violent resistance and aggressive self-defense. If I am called by someone I trust and told that a group is planning on killing my children, and that the system is rigged so that the murderers know they will not be held to account, I’m not going to just sit and wait for the worst to happen. I don’t expect any black fathers to react any differently.
Here is an example of the dishonestly of the self-proclaimed “non-violent” protesters. Ijeoma Oluo is a feminist activist and Twitter addict who gives lip service to the “non-violent protest” sham. Then she tweets out messages like these, gathered approvingly by Alas!, the leftist blog:
Don’t play in the park with toy guns and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t ask for help after a car accident and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t wear a hoodie and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t cosplay with a toy sword and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t shop at Walmart and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t take the BART and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t ride your bike and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t reach for your cell phone and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t go to your friend’s birthday party and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t sit on your front stoop and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t “startle” them and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t “look around suspiciously” and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t walk on a bridge with your family and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t play “cops and robbers” with your buddiesand maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t work in a warehouse repairing instruments and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t stand in your grandma’s bathroom and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t pray with your daughters in public and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t go to your bachelor party and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t have an ex boyfriend who might be a suspect and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t call for medical help for your sister and maybe they won’t kill her.
Don’t hang out in the park with your friends and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t get a flat tire and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t park in a fire lane and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t reach for your wallet and maybe they won’t kill you.
Don’t let your medical alert device go off and maybe they won’t kill you.
“This is the context,” continues blogger “Myca.” “And every fucking time it happens, white people pop up to explain why it’s fine, it’s okay, none of that is important and black people have nothing to complain about. Don’t comment if you can’t handle not being a jerk about this. You’re discussing people’s lives and deaths. Show some respect.”
That’s the context, all right: factually complex incidents, all gathered, presented and characterized to make the case that cops are hunting unarmed blacks. The links are actually valuable, though Myca and Oluo must assume that few will check them as they show how dishonest her descriptions are. I checked the stories, many of which I hadn’t heard about. All are tragedies. Many involve facts legitimately in doubt. Many involve attempted police cover-ups or lies to investigators; many of these also involve incidents where the police may not have been at fault, but were trying to build a record that didn’t place them in range of the Sharptons and the Oluos. In some cases there were indictments, prosecutions and convictions; in some where there weren’t, there were million dollar settlements paid by the police. Some of the incidents involved bad cops, some inexperienced cops, and some involved dutiful and competent cops trying to cope the best they could with difficult and stressful law enforcement situations. In many of the cases, the victims made stupid, terrible, provocative choices that unnecessarily placed them in harm’s way—like Michael Brown. Some were undoubtedly accidents. Few of the incidents appear to have had any racial element other than the colors of the officers and the victims.
Nonetheless, Ijeoma Oluo describes them all as if objectively innocent conduct is likely to get any black American shot by “them”—that monolithic group of killer racists called “police officers.” That’s also the “context”: It’s “them” versus “us,” black America! They shoot you for all these harmless things, because they are just lying in wait for an excuse to kill you or your kids. What are you going to do about it?
Tell me that’s not an incitement to violence.
Oluo’s descriptions are almost entirely misleading, and designed to create fear, even panic
John Crawford, for example, was not just “shopping at Walmart” when he was shot and killed by police. He was walking down the aisles holding an air rifle, which prompted a police call, and may have been unable to hear an order to drop the gun because he may have been listening to music. He should not have been shot, but “walking around holding what looks like a gun while being oblivious to what’s going on around you” is a long way from “shopping at Walmart.” Why does Oluo characterize the incident like that, and why does Alas! endorse the false description? They want people to think, “Hey! I shop at Walmart! That could have been me!”
Oscar Grant was the victim of a homicide, and the police officer responsible was tried, sentenced, and jailed, though he may have been guilty of far worse than involuntary manslaughter. Grant’s death did not come as the result of his merely “taking the Bart.” He was duly arrested while engaging in a fight in the subway station, and resisted arrest. The officer still should not have shot him, but he was not just a random transit user, either.
What about the outrage of a black man shot for “praying with his daughters in public”? Here’s the somewhat more complicated facts of that incident:
[The shooting of 31-year-old Manuel Loggins Jr., a married father of three] occurred before dawn on Feb. 7, 2012, in the parking lot of San Clemente High School.Loggins was at the wheel of his GMC Yukon with two of his daughters inside when he crashed through a school gate about 4:40 a.m., authorities said. Deputy Darren Sandberg, a 15-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department and a former Marine, heard the crash and drove up to investigate, according to records. Loggins left his daughters, aged 14 and 9, in the SUV and walked to the athletic field carrying a Bible. When Loggins returned to the SUV, Sandberg ordered him to stop and show his hands, but he ignored the deputy…”Give me my kids back,” Loggins said, according to authorities. After Loggins climbed back into the SUV, Sandberg shot him three times through the window. Authorities said Loggins’ family was on a religious fast, that he was off his medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that he had been on the field the day before yelling, “Get away, Satan!”
He shouldn’t have died. However, describing Loggins as being shot while harmlessly “praying with his daughters” is intentionally misleading and inflammatory.
Falsely sowing hate and fear in a community that is already distrustful is not non-violent protest. It is a clever, effective, cynical and constitutionally protected way to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, but the theater is the African American community, and “Fire!” is “The police are out to kill your kids, and whites don’t care!!!”
Real non-violent protest doesn’t encourage violence. Let the protesters honestly deal with the complexities of community relationships, institutional racism, the realities and dangers of police work, and the need to balance public safety with civil right, and participate in developing policies and measure that acknowledge the difficult balancing required. Using lies and deceit to convince African Americans that police are looking for excuses to murder them is heinous, however, and those using this strategy are accountable for the deaths that result.
Related: An excellent overview of the issues here by Heather McDonald