With the nation still trying to cope with the corona virus and just as the devastation to the economy seems to be on the way to improvement, America is steeped in new turmoil initiated by the death of “another unarmed black man” at the hands of police officers, three white, one Asian. The original focus of the ensuing social protests was police violence against blacks and an alleged general lack of equal justice for blacks by the country’s law enforcement and judicial agencies. These are the claims which produced the name of the most prominent organizing group in the protests, “Black Lives Matter”. Now the original focus has quickly been expanded to include numerous groups and governmental bodies, into a broad radical agenda of societal upheaval.
The physical circumstances of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the four Minneapolis police officers is not in doubt. The video of the event speaks for itself. What occurred before the video started, what possibly motivated the officers to do what they did, must be investigated to achieve a full understanding of the “why?” But causing the death of a man restrained by handcuffs can’t be justified.
The demands of “Justice for George Floyd” will be met by the criminal justice system itself. The four officers involved have all been criminally charged and the legal process will be completed through the normal and accepted rules and procedures; but that is not the goal of the nation’s racial activists and the radical Left. The death of George Floyd has now been transformed from a personal tragedy into a tool to be exploited by these ideological and racial extremists.
The leading organization in that movement, Black Lives Matter, itself is not simply focused only on criminal justice reform, although that was the issue stated as the original ,basis for it’s creation, as its web site explains.
“BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. ”
The facts are that there was no police involvement in the death of Trayvon Martin. He was shot by George Zimmerman a mixed race Hispanic, who was acquitted of murder charges in Florida while defending himself after being attacked by Martin. There was no evidence submitted at trial that race was a motivating factor in the incident. An investigation by Obama’s Department of Justice found no violations of Martin’s civil rights.
But since then BLM has adopted a much broader, more militant, public ideological orientation. Again, from their web site:
“Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy.”
“We foster a queer affirming network. We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege”
“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement”
However, using the public perception of Black Lives Matter as simply i.e. a racial justice organization, fringe ideologues on the radical Left are defending looting and destruction of buildings. Even more extreme are their claims that police departments should be defunded or even abolished, as the recent vote by the Minneapolis City Council intends. Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti wants to cut funding to the L.A. police department by $150 million and give the money to the “black community”. Left wing school superintendents are removing police “school resource officers” to show their displeasure with police in general and are supporting anti-police activists. Of course the presence of police officers at schools is intended to protect the children and faculty, a policy widely supported after the rash of school mass shootings in recent years.
What is obvious are the race based and anti-police tactics of collective guilt and thus collective punishment. “Systemic racism” has become a popular charge even among white Democratic politicians, which is an easy way to claim universality without identifying “ the system” or providing any data to substantiate the claim. Of course there are racists in the world, they come in all colors and exist in all societies. It’s an unfortunate remnant of tribal mentality. Fortunately, in the U.S. racial extremists are a tiny minority and awareness of racial differences in the general population is mostly cultural and doesn’t substantiate racial bias in “the system”.
The individual acts of a very few police officers does not prove racial hostility among all of the nation’s 800,000 officers. In some of the largest urban cities police department demographics would indicate otherwise (2013 figures: “Govern.com”): New York City Police Dept.: minorities 48%; black: 16%: Los Angeles.: 65% minority; black 12% : Chicago: 48% minority; black 25%: : Detroit: 67% minority; 63% black.
Claims of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” nation wide are vague concepts and essentially themselves racist slogans which too few are willing to challenge and which are distortions of outcomes in social and political status largely based on demographics. Blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population; the white population is 68%. Disparities in wealth and income have many causes including cultural factors that black intellectuals have identified. Shelby Steele , Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, University cited the “75%” figure for black children born out of wedlock; “no fathers” (6/9/20), as just one important factor, and government dependency as another. He points out that confrontation and violence won’t solve either of these problems. Oft cited imbalances in incarceration rates are based on imbalances in criminality which improvement in the factors described by Steele would have help ameliorate.
The protests and marches have quickly become politicized and offer opportunities for politicians at all levels of government for exploitation for their personal benefit. The fact that the country is in the final five months of an election year is a stimulative for these kind of behaviors and has had a serious negative impact. Since politics is adversarial by nature, the political exploitation adds to the hostility and societal divisiveness that already plague the nation.
Democrat House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrat Senate Minority Leader Charles Shumer made sure to wear their printed version of Kente cloth African attire when recently announcing a hurried, “knee jerk”, Democrat sponsored federal “law enforcement reform bill” in an “us against them” theatrical news conference. The “them” of course is President Trump and the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Protests, rallies and marches also stimulate demagoguery among those who seek status and profit by being self appointed “leaders” among aggrieved groups. Al Sharpton for whom racial conflict is a career, is planning yet another “march on Washington” in which he will be the “drum major” at the head of the mob. He is no doubt hoping for prime time coverage of conflict with local and federal police which he and sycophantic CNN commentators will brand as evidence of “systemic racism”. Thus the underlying need for clear thinking and conflict resolution is pushed aside and the conflict is perpetuated.
What is to be done? A single bill passed by Congress won’t be enough. Inane overreach like attacks on the nation’s police forces will make things worse. This conflict has been accurately described as a “culture war”. It is not new and has little to do with the death of George Floyd except as the flash point in a new Leftist offensive in the “war”. Radical educators in the nation’s public schools and in its universities, have been indoctrinating young adults for generations with anti-social, divisive class warfare, and hostility, towards their government, culture and history. Products of this “education’ in anger, victimization, and divisiveness, inhabit the media in all its forms where “news” has become opinion, and discord and ideological hostility have become the currency of the information market place.
Honest, realistic, issue oriented leadership is needed from top to bottom in the political establishment and in the nation’s minority communities. Ideological extremism must be opposed and replaced by measured compromise on all sides. This process might seem to be impossible given the role of the mainstream media and social media and the access they provide to all angry voices. The radical Left, both in the streets and in politics, riding the heady wave of support by the media and market fearful corporations, are expanding their demands and claims to ever more extreme levels. Still there is hope. The popular rejection even among the political Left Democrat Party, of Bernie Sander’s social and economic “revolution” indicates a still healthy respect for moderation and stability among a majority of Americans. The majority of American blacks who were gainfully employed and enjoying increased wages in the economic boom prior to the corona virus, and who value the social aspects of traditional family values, might find new leadership and speak up. Once the excesses of the 2020 election are over, and the inevitable bitterness that will ensue subsides, perhaps a combination of common purpose and crisis fatigue will lead to some level of conflict resolution. It will still take enlightened leadership on many sides; academia, media, business and of course politics. A tall order but the alternatives serve no one.