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Friday, August 18, 2017

Black Lives Matter is not analogous to white supremacy

A person on Facebook wrote:
They are both identity politics. And both have had extremists that have killed innocents.
I strongly disagree.

Black Lives Matter is not identity politics, it is a demand for policy changes so that, first of all, the legal system works as well to support justice when government agents kill black people as it does when people kill each other in general.

The legal system does not currently seem to do that, but it should. Black Lives Matter has not "had" extremists that have killed innocents, because killing innocent people makes absolutely no sense in the context of the goals and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter.

That is, killing innocent people would not only be strategically inadvisable, it is contrary to the core values and goals of the movement. (This is ridiculously obvious, but I'm stating it for clarity.)

Whereas overt white supremacy, as exhibited with crystal clarity in Charlottesville, has the goal of using fear and the threat of violence to enforce the singular power of white people over people of color; Fields's actions are not just permissible given those aims, they are instrumental.

There are plenty of white supremacists who see particular incidents of violence as strategically inadvisable, but only for their inconvenient tactical side effects.

What critics of Black Lives Matter don't get (ok, one of many things they don't get) is that when the police are pressured to be professional and to treat black victims of crime as seriously as they do wealthy, politically connected white men, ALL of us benefit. Including the police.

That's why its incorrect to say that Black Lives Matter is fundamentally identity politics. It is fundamentally humanism, focused on demanding that that humanism be as universal in practice as we pretend it is in public rhetoric.

Re: the attack on DeAndre Harris in Charlottesville, I simply cannot believe that no one would have been arrested yet if the victim of the attack on DeAndre Harris (in a police precinct parking garage!) were not DeAndre Harris, but rather the (white) Charlottesville mayor or the (black) chief of police. Or any cop. And I simply cannot believe an arrest would not already have been made if the victim were a middle class white Charlottesville citizen being attacked by a group of avowed black nationalists from out of state.

I spoke with an "officer Beretta" (I trust that's his real name and not a cruel joke) of the Charlottesville PD on Friday, and we politely debated this point. He insists that the wheels of justice are turning for these attackers just as surely and rapidly as they would for any victim in Charlottesville, and points out that there are jurisdictional issues that complicate matters; for instance, he said, Charlottesville can't issue an arrest warrant without being sure of the identity of the attackers, being sure of the address at which to serve the warrant, and that arrest being in Charlottesville.

I'm far from an expert on criminal justice law, but I think there is counter-evidence that suggests there is leeway for police to obtain an arrest warrant for a suspect whose whereabouts are subject to an ongoing investigation.

The Virginia attorney general's office referred callers to the Charlottesville PD. Again, I don't know the relevant law, but I think there's more to this buck-passing than just what's legally required.

Another way of looking at this: if police stopped killing black people without appropriate consequence, and America became a place where being black did not mean the denial of justice and opportunity, Black Lives Matter activists would declare victory, move on and write memoirs.

But if police stopped killing black people without appropriate consequence, and America became a place where being black did not mean the denial of justice and opportunity, white supremacists would freak out and declare a state of emergency.

There can be no equivalency drawn between neo-Nazis/white supremacists and the Black Lives Matter movement. Full stop.

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