Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 25 June 2020


Black Lives is silent on everyday US violence

There were dozens of shootings over the weekend, mostly of African-Americans, yet protesters say nothing about them

Gerard Baker
The Times
Last weekend, while protesters everywhere denounced American police as fascist agents of a white supremacist state, a large detachment of FBI officers was urgently dispatched on a crucial mission.
At the Talladega Superspeedway racetrack in Alabama in the heart of Dixie, the authorities that run NASCAR, America’s most popular motor sport, had reported a sickening incident that seemed almost too perfect and grim a parable for our times.
Someone had hung a noose in the garage of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the most successful African-American racing car driver in the country, ahead of the weekend’s big stock car race. The noose of course is the loathsome symbol of a lynching. NASCAR is huge in the deep south and the organisation has sought to purge racist elementsfrom its fan base.
The incident was immediately seized on as a powerfully symbolic example of exactly the kind of endemic racism that has driven America to boiling point this hot summer. Mr Wallace described it as a “painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society”. The media, celebrities, politicians and everyone with access to a smartphone piled in. Oddly, in an age when the merest misdeed can go viral, no one had seen a picture of the noose. But no matter. Fifteen FBI agents descended on the track.
After what must have been one of the simplest and shortest investigations in the agency’s long history, on Tuesday it was reported that the “noose” was in fact a rope tied in a small loop knot for a pulley used to open the garage door. It had been there, officials said, since at least October last year when no one could possibly have known that Mr Wallace would be parked in the garage. Video later circulated that showed in fact many of the garages in the same row at the track had exactly the same door-pull.
Meanwhile as the fleet-footed successors to Eliot Ness were hunting down imaginary racism in Alabama, in Chicago last weekend more than 100 people, almost all of them black, were shot, 14 of them, including a 13-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy who had just proudly got a haircut with his dad, fatally. In New York there have been 125 shootings in the first three weeks of June. Again, almost all the victims have been black. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd’s death last month started the protests, at least 30 people were shot between Friday night and Monday evening.
Not a single police officer was involved in any of this violence. In cities across America, the picture is the same as it ever was: young black men, single mothers, students, children with lives and hopes ahead of them, gunned down by black criminals.
These killings, unlike NASCAR’s now notorious non-noose, received almost no public attention, little media coverage and still less outrage or protest. Instead, crowds of African-Americans, supported by the wealthy young, white commissars and foot soldiers of the people’s woke army, fresh out of colleges where they’ve learnt critical race theory and the legacy of white imperialism, continue to march through cities, raging at police lines, condemning white privilege and tearing down statues of increasingly random historical figures.
Leaders of Black Lives Matter, the organisation that is now, quite possibly, the most powerful in the country, if not beyond, had essentially nothing to say on those dozens of black lives lost in a single weekend to violence. They, and their allies who seem in control of almost every media organisation, college and corporation in America, continue to insist that the greatest evil facing black Americans is police brutality and the “systemic racism” that empowers it.
The data — stubborn things — continue to suggest otherwise. The latest statistics from the FBI tell us that in 2018, 2,925 black people were murdered in the United States. Of those, 2,600 were murdered by other blacks. The number of whites killed by blacks was more than twice as many as blacks killed by whites. Also, twice as many whites as black people were killed by police officers that year.
Now it is completely legitimate to ask why there is so much black-on-black crime and part of the answer, without doubt, lies in the blight of poverty and lack of opportunity that are a reflection of the inequality that persists in America, though the role played by social pathologies such as fatherless children that are particularly prevalent in black communities should also be addressed. But talk to those communities in those cities and it’s not the police they’re scared of. It’s the criminals.
It has become increasingly clear in the orgy of recrimination, statue-toppling, cancellations and social-media shaming that what is at work here is a much larger political programme aimed, not at redressing racial wrongs, but at remaking this country, its self-image — and much of the world.
This summer of rage is not really about people coming together to seek ways to save black lives. If it were, it would surely devote attention at least as much to the conditions of three-year-old black children in Chicago as to the provenance of 150-year-old statues in Washington DC. It’s still surprisingly little understood that BLM wants a revolution: defunding the police; dismantling the institutions of capitalism and white supremacy.
That’s why the NASCAR incident is so telling. Like other instances of late of supposed white hatred that turn out to be false, it provides a useful narrative of blame to promote a cause that is actually doing nothing to address the daily outrages that ruin so many American lives.

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