Monday, April 22, 2024

No Self-Awareness

Oh, for those simpler times. On June 25, 2020, as Blacks Lives Matter/black lives matter protests raged, United States Representative Ayanna Presley eloquently, if misleadingly, asserted

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of every black family that has been robbed of a child. On behalf of every family member that has been forced to see their loved one lynched on national television. Driving while black, jogging while black, sleeping while black. We have been criminalized for the very way we show up in the world. Under the harsh gaze of too many black bodies seen as a threat- always considered armed...

Black lives matter is a rallying cry for the people. It's time. Pay us what you owe. Our black skin is not a crime.


Listening to Representative Pressley, you could be forgiven to fear that if you stepped outside your home at a random time, you would see police systematically murdering black people ("lynched... driving while black, jogging while black, sleeping while black.")  Of those left alive, they were arrested- criminalized- merely for being black, "the very way we show up in the world." 

Fast forward less than four years and, well, it seems the Black Lives Movement, which pushed for less policing and less  has at best failed miserably, at worst, backfired.

The organization and the movement it spawned pushed for less policing and less incarceration. It is now almost four years since the whole of American society was encouraged to reimagine criminal justice enforcement because of the horrific, televised murder by one police officer of one black offender in one major midwestern city. And now we have this:

Nearly four years in from the demands the attack on the "carceral state" and demonization of law enforcement, Representative Pressley again appeared on the House floor and remarked

Mr. Speaker, Walgreens is planning to close yet another pharmacy in the Massachusetts 7th, this time on Warren Street in Roxbury, a community that is 85% black and Latino. This closure is part of abandonment of low income communities by previous closures in Mattapan and Hyde Park, both in the Massachusetts 7th. 

When a Walgreens leaves a neighborhood, they disrupt an active community and they take with them baby formula, diapers, asthma inhalers, life-saving medications and of course, jobs. These closures are not arbitrary and they are not innocent. They are life-threatening acts of racial and economic discrimination.


They are acts taken reluctantly because the stores no longer generate a reasonable profit, perhaps any profit, in their location(s). The company is in business to make a profit and if they could do so, even by increasing security or other significant changes, they would remain.

Medicaid reimbursement for prescription medicine, critical in low-income areas, is lower than for many private prescription plans. Nonetheless, with Walmart and Target, as well as Walgreens, citing losses from theft in decisions to close stores in urban (generally low-income, majority-minority) neighborhoods, it is blaringly obvious that shoplifting has materially harmed poor people.

Difficulty staffing police departments, prompted by the black lives movement and exacerbated by the pandemic, has played a role, as have lax prosecutors and lenient judges. Yet, Pressley and fellow radicals will not acknowledge what through most of the country has become increasingly obvious: the movement they championed in the months following the murder of George Floyd has unleashed ugly consequences. 

These include a backlash among voters who, against evidence, believe that violent crime has burst out like spring. And it includes also a rise in theft which plagues communities that can least afford it, which particularly need the baby products and prescription medication Pressley cites. If she acknowledges the error of her rhetoric of 2020-2021, she should be welcomed back as if the prodigal son. Ideology, however, is more likely to remain a stumbling block.

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