Since the killings of the two Brooklyn police officers by a deranged cop-hater on Saturday, there has been a rush to link the event with the nascent anti-police brutality movement that has arisen since the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Thompson, Jr., and Tamir Rice. The New York City Police Union has been very vocal about linking the protests with this violent act, even going so far as to say that NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands” for his past criticisms of some of the actions of the police.
What’s interesting about this situation is that a similar ideologically motivated cop killing incident occurred earlier this year with that anti-government white couple in Nevada:
Jerad and Amanda Miller were deeply involved into the Tea Party, anti-federal government, anti-Obama movements, and hoped to incite a right-wing revolution by assassinating police officers. During their shoot-up, the Millers explicitly said that, “This is a revolution!” and that they regarded police officers as “Nazis” and fascists.” However, the various movements that they were associated with were not tarred by their association with these cop-killers, as last month’s Tea Party inspired GOP electoral wins indicate. After the initial shock of the Las Vegas shootings wore off, the Millers were dismissed as a couple of loony, white trash stoners and their story faded from the media. Compare that with the current situation in Brooklyn, where the blame for the officer deaths has been put squarely on protestors and their fellow travelers.
What this shows is that whites can get away with certain actions that blacks can’t. Or to be more precise, white offenders can engage in a horrendous act, like cop killing or shooting up a school, but white people as a whole won’t be blamed for it or tarred with the same brush merely by being of the same ethnic group, whereas blacks are continuously having to defend themselves and their causes against the actions of a few. It never fails to astonish me that whites in the Tea Party movement can parade around with loaded semi-automatic rifles at their rallies as the police smile and nod, while blacks assembling peacefully necessitates the use of tear gas, body armor, and tanks. If the police treated Tea Partiers with a quarter of the force that has been used for black protestors, you wouldn’t hear the end of it.
Based only the preliminary information that is available at this time, it clear that Ismaaiyl Brinsley had a history of violence and paranoia. The fact that he shot his girlfriend in Baltimore before trekking to New York suggests to me that he was engaged in a suicide run that, like so many other spree/mass killers, he expected would end in a blaze of glory and media attention. I think that such a deranged individual would have ended up killing someone, with or without the protests, much like how Mark David Chapman would have killed John Lennon whether he read Catcher in the Rye or not.
If the anti-police brutality movement is derailed by this incident, I think the entire country will end up suffering for it. I have been increasingly pessimistic about the future of the United States, because it seems that this country is incapable of really addressing its long-standing racial problems. We have had opportunities to create a new racial order, during Reconstruction and after the Civil Rights Movement, and both times things more or less reverted back to the previous status quo, albeit under new names. The post-civil rights phenomenon of white flight, combined with the rise of the Tea Party suggests to me that there are many elements in this country that are not willing to invest in a United States that will be majority black/brown, even if their refusal to do so ends up hurting the future of their own posterity.
My experiences in trying to dialogue with white conservotrad Catholics leads me to believe that such people don’t believe that racism exists for the same reason that they choose not to believe in evolution, namely because doing so would rock their ideological foundations. This is why anyone who dares to suggest that racism isn’t something that’s confined to “lifestyle racists” in the KKK or the Aryan Brotherhood, whether its Al Sharpton, the NAACP, or some lowly blogger like myself, is branded as a “race hustler.” Even bringing up historical instances of racism is a cause for opprobrium for this crowd, presumably because it destroys the illusion of America as the teleological end of history. You can’t solve a problem you don’t believe exists, and I fear that unless more whites wake up to the ways in which structural racism is damaging our country, I don’t think that we will have much of a future.