Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Police Violence, Disappeared

CNN's Don Lemon discussed the Black Lives Matter movement with actor Terry Crews on Tuesday night in an interview a little more contentious and much more interesting than most. Lemon actually challenged Crews, who had controversially commented on Independence Day

This followed by four days this tweet from Crews:
Arguing "black lives matter" is preferable to "black lives better" was bad enough. But then when Crews followed it up with the suggestion that not all white people are bad and not all black people are good, he had "stepped into it," as Lemon noted at the beginning of the interview.

At 3:38 in the video below, Crews can be seen remarking

When I describe this, when you look in the city of Chicago, there are nine children who have died of gun violence, by black-on-black gun violence, from June 20 all the way to today and you're talking about even with the Atlanta child murders, there were 28 kids who died in two years. You're talking about nine black kids and the Black Lives Matter movement has said nothing about this kind of thing. And you know....

Angry about black children being killed, Crews should not have used the popular phrase "black-on-black." White on black wouldn't have been so good either, while less common because people tend to shoot (or try to shoot) people with whom they are most acquainted. For whatever reasons- blisteringly hot weather, states "opening up" somewhat from the pandemic, pure happenstance, or whatever- gun violence has been worse recently than usual.

But Crews' central point was dead-on- Black Lives Matter, either as an organization or even a movement, has been stunningly, if unsurprisingly, silent. Nonetheless, Lemon responded initially with "What does that have to do with equality, Terry?"

This is disingenuous. Until very recently, the first page of the Black Lives Matter website proudly and loudly proclaimed "Disarm the Police." This proved very controversial and threatened to discredit the entire organization and, ultimately, the movement and the website has been toned down.

Nevertheless, the thousands of protests in the streets of the USA,  prompted by the vicious killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, wasn't, hasn't been, and isn't about equality. It was, is, and has been about police brutality directed toward African-Americans, reinforced by the news coverage of the killing by police of Breonna Taylor and the recognition that blacks have been slain by law enforcement personnel.

There is still in this country housing discrimination including, but not limited to, persistence of redlining by the banking industry; employment discrimination; wealth inequality; and a host of other things directly and indirectly related to equality.  If anyone believes that more than a handful of people were protesting because of any of this, they haven't been watching CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News or been reading The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Philadelphia Inquirer. I have, and I can definitively report what I and everyone but Don Lemon has observed- the dissent pertains to police vis-a-vis the black community.

Lemon continued

... because, listen, there's crime, there are people in these communities who are- those people aren't just being nonchalant about- about gun violence. I lived in Chicago. There are many people who are working in these communities to try to get rid of the gun violence. The gun culture in this country is prevalent but I don't understand what that has to do with a movement that's for equality for black people.

Again: that's a rationalization, an explanation after the fact meant to distort history. There is a reason House Democrats have proposed a set of police reforms and Senate Republicans have countered with a more moderate set of proposals. It's because the protests were about the police. The p-o-l-i-c-e. It is reprehensible that Lemon is now trying to portray the protests as support for a vague, undefined "equality," which no one would disagree with.  It is about the approach of police officers toward blacks. Own it, Don.

But he doesn't, and adds

It's not mutually exclusive that if you care about equality for black people that you're going somehow to stop random violence and unfortunately kids from being shot. It's just apples an oranges.

Apples and oranges, inconveniently for Lemon's argument, are both fruit. If an organization advocates defunding the police, it is promoting abolishing police departments. It's very difficult to run an organization without money.  While there are groups which specifically want to reduce the number of guns on the street- an extremely worthy objective- Black Lives Matter is not one of them. While there are groups which aim more broadly to cut the number of murders, of blacks or individuals generally, on the streets of their city, Black Lives Matter is not one of them.

It is unnecessary for BLM to be focused on either of  those objectives. It is- again- disingenuous- to suggest that because, well, apples are not oranges, BLM need not mention that there are too many killings in far too many towns in the USA. Their agenda is policing, the perception that its excess results in the death of innocent black men and women.  An element of that is the crime which persists, and to which police are expected to respond and discourage whenever possible.

Lemon's fruit analogy would be more applicable to lemons alone. It's as if Don's friend complained that his peach is dry and Don offered to make it juicier with a splash of lemon. His friend demurs, complaining that lemons are sour and would eliminate the desired sweetness of his peach. Don insists, though, because the lemon will- fortunately- make the peach more juicy and the sweetness, well, that just doesn't have anything to do with whether the peach is juicy. 

Despite the host's effort to divert attention from the real issue- Crews' contention that there are good black people and good white people- it was an entertaining, even slightly informative, exchange of views. And to the six or seven people in the audience carefully listening, it was enlightening to see a news host give a tortured defense of an organization which has been extraordinarily successful in escaping examination.

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