Earlier: Police Racism: A Manufactured Crisis
George Floyd died in police custody on May 25. Since then, there have been demonstrations in his name in more than 2,000 American cities. There has been so much rioting and looting that at least 200 cities imposed curfews, and 31 states and the District of Columbia called in the National Guard. It would be tempting to think this is just one more chapter in our dreary record of race riots; it isn’t. This is different. Whites are important participants and even instigators. For the first time in American history, many whites are thinking—and acting—like aggrieved blacks.
This is because millions of ordinary whites have crossed the color line and adopted the prevailing black view that whites are exclusively and personally responsible for the failures of blacks; that every white is implicated in a supremacist system that exploits blacks.
For centuries, whites believed that inherent limitations prevented blacks from succeeding as whites do. WEB Du Bois (1868 – 1963) played a key role in overthrowing that view, arguing that white achievement was “built on black and brown and yellow suffering.” As for whites themselves, he wrote: “I hate them, Oh!/I hate them well,/I hate them, Christ!/As I hate hell.” In Du Bois we therefore find the two central ideas of the broad movement that comes under the name of Black Lives Matter: Whites became rich through exploitation, and whites deserve our contempt. As whites adopted these views, they started thinking and acting like blacks.
Since the Civil Rights era, race rioters have been almost exclusively black. In the 1992 Rodney King riots, Hispanics joined in the looting, but whites did not. A few whites were on the fringes in Ferguson in 2014 and Baltimore in 2015, but since George Floyd, some of the worst, most persistent rioting has been in majority-white cities: Minneapolis (64 percent white), Seattle (66 percent), Portland (77 percent), and most recently Kenosha, Wisconsin (67 percent). Blacks are certainly taking part in large numbers and are often the first through a broken store window, but these cities would be much calmer—some might have seen no violence at all—without berserker whites. White anarchists and “antifa” often spark the violence, but their role is like that of the Weather Underground in the 1960s and ’70s: They are a violent fringe that gets attention but that has hardly any effect on broader currents of opinion.
The larger shift in white thinking and behavior has created a bitter cleavage in American society that has taken on a religious intensity. It is leading towards antagonism and violence on a scale not seen since the Civil War. I have seen nothing like it in 30 years of carefully observing American race relations.
The change in white thinking is an intellectual revolution brought by ideas that had been quarantined in universities but spread to the whole country. The most important one sounds innocuous—a new definition of “racism”—but it is turning the country inside out.
Americans used to think racism meant deliberate acts of hostility to others because of race, and that once Americans stopped doing those things, there would be justice and harmony. Not anymore. Robin DiAngelo, today’s hottest anti-racist guru, scoffs at what she calls, “The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people.” Whites may have no animus towards non-whites but “the ubiquitous socializing power of white supremacy cannot be avoided. The messages circulate 24-7.” Thus, even the best intentioned whites uphold white supremacy whether they want to or not: “White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism.”
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Sociologist Emily Walton, who teaches college courses in white privilege, explains that her goal is for white students to “understand that being a good person does not make them innocent.” They and their ancestors built oppression of “people of color” and especially of blacks into every American institution, so whites must dedicate themselves to rooting it out. But no matter how hard they try to fight racism, they can never be cured of it. As author and activist Tema Okum explains: “From white racist to white anti-racist is a lifelong journey.”
This is what gives rise to such “anti-racist” slogans as “White silence is violence.” Unless they are actively dismantling white supremacy, they are committing acts of violence against non-whites—by saying and doing nothing. Whites make life miserable for black people without even trying, even when they are doing their best to be kind to them.
Phrases such as “institutional racism,” “systemic racism,” “unconscious bias,” and “color-blind racism” are part of this new definition of racism that no longer requires conscious acts or bad people. All whites unwittingly support an evil system rooted in slavery that oppresses “people of color”; they can’t help it. We would therefore have a viciously racist society even if not one white person were “racist” by the old definition. The only moral course for whites is to renounce “white privilege” and to fight “systemic racism” as one of the central purposes of their lives.
Many whites believe this is the greatest moral challenge of our time—but how do we fight racism perpetrated by a “system” and not by people? A recent statement by the National Museum of African American History points the way. It listed undesirable traits of “whiteness” that oppress blacks: linear thinking, rugged individualism, self-reliance, the intact nuclear family, a strong work ethic and delayed gratification, respect for authority, punctuality, planning for the future, English common-law justice, property rights, and good manners.
This list came in for criticism, and the museum, which is part of the Smithsonian system—took it down but did not disavow it. Why should it? It was certainly saying that the entire texture of American life must be renegotiated to suit blacks, but is this any different from what Joe Biden meant—if he meant anything at all—when he promised on the Fourth of July to “rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country”? How else would you do that?
This zeal for ripping out the roots has spread into every corner of life. Realtors have banned the term “master bedroom” because “master” evokes slavery. An American bird known for 169 years as McCown’s Larkspur got a new name because John McCown, who discovered it, later fought for the Confederacy. NASA has promised to find new names for the Eskimo Nebula and the Siamese Twin Galaxy “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” The 242 KIPP Academies—the country’s biggest network of charter schools—retired their motto, “Work hard. Be nice,” because it “supports the illusion of meritocracy” and “diminishes the significant effort to dismantle systemic racism.” If “Work Hard. Be nice” props up white supremacy, everything does.
All major institutions in American society—but especially the media—support Black Lives Matter to the point that they are sympathetic to violence and rioting, so long as it is said to be in the name of racial justice. They are more likely to denounce police efforts to keep the peace than to condemn looting. On August 27, National Public Radio sympathetically interviewed Vicky Osterweil, author of In Defense of Looting. NPR began by explaining that Miss Osterweil calls looting “a powerful tactic that questions the justice of ‘law and order,’ and the distribution of property and wealth in an unequal society.” Miss Osterweil then explains that when you loot you:
demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free . . . . [I]t also attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy. The very basis of property in the U.S. is derived through whiteness and through Black oppression . . . . Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police.
There have always been whites who excused black rioters, but not in such sweeping terms. And mob violence has crossed a fateful line: Instead of wrecking only their own neighborhoods, looters are sacking top retailers in the whitest parts of Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and Chicago. Astonishingly, the victims then promote the very ideas that inspire the violence. Target Corporation is a good example. Looters—most of them black—struck six of its stores: Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. One industry insider estimated that the inventory losses, physical damage, and shut-down costs were in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Target’s response? Pledge $10 million to black organizations, and 10,000 free hours of consulting for “people of color” who own small businesses.
One researcher compiled a list of 174 major corporations that pledged money to Black Lives Matter and allied organizations. Black Enterprise magazine counted more than $1.5 billion in corporate pledges to BLM, and probably missed millions more. Many of these companies suffered terrible losses on Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive, or Michigan Avenue, but are penitently pouring money into the movement in whose name the looters acted.
The rioting shakes our culture and politics. Blacks say they are offended by Confederate monuments, so across the South, mobs tried to tear them down. When statues refused to fall, the authorities pulled them down. Wikipedia has a list of no fewer than 124 Confederate monuments destroyed or taken down since Floyd’s death. It also lists 36 statues or monuments to Christopher Columbus, and 55 to others, including the Virgin Mary, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, The Pioneer Mother, Avery Brundage, Kit Carson, and St. Junipero Serra. That is a total of 215 statues and monuments.
Like paying millions to groups that inspire rioters, this is completely new. Only a lunatic would have said we had to tear down statues of Columbus because blacks had rioted in the ’60s in Watts or Detroit or Newark. Mass repudiation of a nation’s heritage usually follows only after revolution or occupation by an invader. Are we witnessing one or the other? Both?
There has unquestionably been a revolution in racial thinking, and it leaves some whites feeling so guilty they abase themselves in shocking ways. At the height of the George Floyd riots, blacks accosted whites on the sidewalk and got them to go down on their knees in sorrow for racism. Some whites even publicly kissed the boots of blacks. (A number of humiliation scenes have been removed from YouTube, but a few clips are in the first few minutes of this video.) I don’t think there has ever before been a time in the history of the world when blacks could persuade passing whites to stop and kiss their boots.
Another trait of the revolution is a shocking level of bullying. Roving bands of BLM swarm restaurants and demand that patrons raise their fists in solidarity. In both these clips, mobs—mostly white—scream ferociously at the few white diners who refuse. Here, a crowd barges into a Kenosha grocery store and harangues white patrons with a bullhorn. In this video, another mostly white crowd parades through a peaceful white neighborhood, swearing and shouting obscenities in the fight against “racism.” In Portland, BLM marched in a white neighborhood late at night, leaning on car horns shouting “Wake up, motherfu**er.” Cultural-Revolution-style hectoring will not heal a “deeply racist society,” but is typical of revolutionary zealots convinced that only they can be right and that anyone who is not an ally is an enemy.
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That was the message on a billboard that went up in Boise, Idaho in August: “Black & brown folks built this country. Join us or get out of the way!” The image is a stylized skyline of the city, held up by black and brown hands, even though Boise is only 2 percent black and 8 percent Hispanic and the figures for the state are similar. The burning police car shows what will happen to anyone who does not get out of the way.
The idea that blacks, especially, built the wealth of America is an accepted part of revolutionary thinking. As blue-check Twitter user Solomon Georgia explains, “Black people have every right to burn down a country they built for free.” This got 174,000 retweets and comments, and 702,000 likes. Here, on a building in Madison, Wisconsin, is a slightly less dramatic version of the same message.
This is an old idea. In the 1960s, Amiri Baraka, who was later named Poet Laureate of New Jersey, wrote: “You can’t steal nothin from a white man, he’s already stole it, he owes you anything you want, even his life.” Baraka’s thinking has caught on more than he could have ever imagined.
“Systemic racism” does not require old-fashion racists, but the revolution has unmasked a whole class of them: the police. All police departments are hives of racism; thus the slogan, “All cops are bastards” (ACAB). This thinking ignores the serious studies that search for race-based police mistreatment and find very little.
The media find police “racism” everywhere, and sometimes slant their reporting shamelessly,[i] but in even in the most celebrated cases of “black lives matter” martyrdom—Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Eric Garner—there was never the slightest evidence that racist intent led to their deaths. Furthermore, in all but one, a criminal trial or Justice Department investigation found that the killing was justified; a white who behaved as those black men did would most likely have got exactly the same treatment. In the Garner case, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who brought the 395-pound Eric Garner to the ground, was fired from the New York City Police Department for an improper choke hold, not racism. He says his dismissal was “arbitrary and capricious” and filed suit to get his job back.
The ACLU explains that American police departments have their roots in slave patrols, and that “much of the work police do is merely engage in the daily harassment of Black communities,” with some arrests “made for doing nothing at all beyond being Black.” The solution is to defund the police and “reinvest those funds in communities of color.” This will “address social problems at their root instead of investing in an institution that further oppresses and terrorizes communities.”
Jayvon Hatchett, age 19, got the ACLU’s message. On August 26, he walked into an AutoZone store and stabbed an employee seven times. He said he decided to kill a white man after watching videos of police officers. This is what comes of constantly beating the drum of “police racism,” but will the media wonder if they should change their emphasis? Five days after the incident, not one national news organ had reported the stabbing—though the British tabloid Daily Mail ran a substantial story.
Any ambiguous death of a black in police custody could have touched off the George Floyd riots, but as in all the other famous cases of “police racism,” there is no evidence of racial bias. Floyd was resisting arrest, and Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee to the neck was an accepted Minneapolis PD restraint technique. The original coroner’s report found high, potentially lethal levels of illegal drugs in Floyd’s body, but the media brushed it aside and highlighted the neck restraint. But even more damaging to the “racist murder” story that swept the nation, is a document that surfaced three months after the incident.
In a conversation on June 1, Chief Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker told prosecutors that the combination of drugs in Floyd’s body was so dangerous that if Floyd had been found dead in his home, an autopsy would have concluded that he died from a drug overdose. His lungs were so full of fluid that they weighed two to three times the normal weight. That is surely why Floyd was complaining that he couldn’t breathe, even before Officer Chauvin knelt on his neck.
Why didn’t Hennepin County release this immediately? It’s because our legal procedures were set up on the now mistaken assumption that Americans are patient and fair-minded. When someone commits what may be a crime, prosecutors present the evidence to a grand jury, which decides whether to indict. The proceedings are secret so that if a charge is not brought, an innocent man’s reputation will not be damaged. If there is an indictment, all relevant evidence comes out publicly at trial, presented in context and in an orderly way.
Provocative, piecemeal leaks are what this procedure is designed to prevent so as not to mislead the public and prejudice potential jurors. In “institutionally racist,” hair-trigger America, this procedure fails. If a white cop kills a black, it’s off to the barricades on what may be completely false information. It is possible that the officers in the Floyd case will be acquitted. Will rioters and looters apologize? No. They will riot even harder, because all cops are bastards and because Big Media and everyone on down from the former prosecutor who is the Democrat candidate for vice president say he was murdered. The revolution requires that Derek Chauvin be a murderer.
Portland, Oregon, June 2020 (Credit Image: Another Believer / Wikimedia)
The justice system can still work—but only when there are white victims. In 2017 in Minneapolis—George Floyd’s town—a black policeman named Mohamed Noor shot an unarmed white woman in her pajamas who posed no threat. Unlike in the Floyd case, in which the officers were immediately indicted for murder, Mr. Noor was charged after an eight-month investigation. Some whites wondered what took so long, but none rioted. No one demonstrated. There was a trial, the facts were presented according to the rules of evidence, Mr. Noor was found guilty, and was sentenced to prison for 12-1/2 years. That’s how the system is supposed to work.
However, if Minneapolis and the country had waited patiently for an investigation of Officer Chauvin, there would not have been a billion dollars for Black Lives Matter, videos of boot-kissing, and mass destruction of European heritage. The lesson is simple: Rioting works.
Would the riots have been milder if Minneapolis broke its rules and rushed all the evidence into print? Probably not. On August 26, a black man cornered by the police shot himself. Blacks spread the word that cops shot him. The city rushed surveillance video onto the airways that showed what happened. (Procedures—yes, procedures—forbade releasing body-cam footage.) Blacks rampaged through Minneapolis anyway, smashing or looting bars, restaurants, chain stores, and a mall, and damaging 40 buildings. Police arrested 132 people. The facts didn’t matter—but that’s been the case for years. Even after exhaustive investigations and jury-trial acquittals, BLM crowds still chant “hands up, don’t shoot” and believe a white man shot down Trayvon Martin in cold blood.
Anti-racism has become a religion. Even “progressive” whites act as if they were possessed by demons, oppressing blacks despite every effort not to. Even “good” whites constantly sin by propping up white supremacy. The police are racist, murderous bastards despite overwhelming evidence they are not. This fuels the revolutionary commitment to “root out white supremacy” and to turn the country upside-down to do it.
Although every institution in America at least pays lip service to the new religion, a great many people refuse to convert. They keep quiet to avoid being treated like heretics, but many whites and even a few blacks think the country has gone mad. And now—ominously—both sides of the divide are opposing each other with guns. On August 15, pro- and anti-Confederate groups armed with rifles got into a punch up at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Luckily, no one opened fire. At a similar stand-off on July 25 in Louisville, Kentucky, nearly 100 black riflemen from the Not Fucking Around Coalition faced opposing groups, and one NFAC member accidentally shot three comrades. On August 30, when a group of Trump supporters drove a convoy into Portland, an anti-police demonstrator shot and killed one of them.
On the third night of rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse brought a rifle to help protect property from vandals. In what appears to be self-defense, he shot three men, killing two. The police should never have let rioting get to the point that a teenager felt compelled to restore order. And yet, all across the country, the police have been ordered back while mobs loot stores and burn patrol cars. Property rights and the rule of law are suspended during celebrations of the new religion. Ordinary Americans like Mr. Rittenhouse are outraged by this, and many will try to restore order themselves.
This horrible chapter in our history has one cause. Just as they were in the 1850s and ’60s, Americans are divided because of race. There will be more deaths. The rioting will subside as weather gets colder, but this searing national divide will not go away no matter who is in the White House. Will anyone be surprised if we are on the verge of another “Bleeding Kansas”? Ever since Jamestown, we have groped for a solution to the terrible problem of trying to build a nation of different races. Could it not be clearer that the attempt has failed?
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[i] On June 3, the New York Times published a long article with this headline: “Minneapolis Police Use Force Against Black People at 7 Times the Rate of Whites.” This sounds like horrible police bias, and might well have been if it were true that any time officers arrested a black person they were seven times more likely to use force than when they arrested a white. That is what the article wanted readers to think, but that is not at all what the data say.
The article left out race differences in arrest rates. For the period 2009 to 2014, blacks were 12 times more likely than whites to be suspects in violent crimes and 9.5 times more likely to be arrested for them. Police almost never use force unless they are making an arrest. So it may be true that the average black living in Minneapolis is seven times more likely than the average white to be manhandled or shot by the police, but to leave out the fact that the average black is also 9.5 times more likely than the average white to be arrested for a violent crime is either incompetence or deceit.
The police are much more likely to use force on the average Minneapolis man than the average Minneapolis woman. Is that because they persecute men—as the Times would have wanted readers to believe if it had written a similar article about sex differences? No; it’s because men are a lot more likely than women to be criminals and therefore a lot more likely to be arrested.