With the specter of George Floyd still looming heavily over America, one cannot help but sense that change is in the air. What this change will entail is not entirely certain, for it hinges less upon the outcomes of one or two trials and much more upon which theory of reality prevails after the smoke clears.
Today’s dominant theory of reality—steeped in historical grievances, liberation theology, and critical theory—sees America and Western civilization as irredeemably racist. Its epistemological approach privileges lived experience over data, and only uses data when it can be cherry-picked to fit the a priori assumptions of its theorists. It is important to understand that this particular type of theoretical framework can never be satiated; it already has all the answers, and thus places its own political goals before the truth. It sees all disparities between groups as the result of “interlocking systems of oppression,” and it will not rest until those systems are knocked down and equity is finally achieved.
Unfortunately, this particular theory’s reliance on selective anecdotes also makes it better suited for the age of social media, since nothing arouses human emotion quite like a horrific incident gone viral. Numbers and data are dull and unstimulating, but a single tragedy caught on video can spark a revolution.
The alternative to this theory acknowledges the racism of the past and its lingering effects but is less pessimistic about the current state of affairs. Its epistemological underpinnings are more empirical, and thus it uses rigorous methodologies and multivariate analysis to control for other extraneous factors. This theory isn’t quite as social media-friendly as the former and can even seem a bit restrained and callus on the surface. Consequently, it is far less useful to those who might wish to tear the entire system down and replace it with something new.
With the Black Lives Matter narrative continuing to gain mainstream acceptance, it’s pretty clear which theoretical framework is winning. The alternative theory—which also happens to be the more rigorous and accurate of the two—is heretical by comparison.
Don’t believe me? Just try telling a classroom full of students or a group of friends that you don’t fully support BLM. Prepare to be met with looks of astonishment, followed by words meant to invoke shame and silence. And if you are truly brave, try posting something on social media about how violent crime rates should be taken into account when analyzing data on policing. The pejoratives and accusations that will be hurled in your direction are so trite and predictable that they’re not even worth repeating anymore.
And while the BLM narrative may seem like the more radical and revolutionary, who has it really benefited thus far?
Netflix has a new Black Lives Matter collection, so they are exploiting the trend while it’s still profitable. Media outlets—on both the left and the right—have certainly benefited; the so-called “mostly peaceful” protests and lootings have given them enough sensationalist material to attract ratings for the next six months.
BLM’s founder Patrisse Cullors seems to be doing well for herself with the four homes she purchased in affluent white neighborhoods. Her organization raised over 90 million dollars in 2020 while inciting riots that caused over 1 billion dollars’ worth of damages in cities where many blacks live and work.
Thousands of protesters were allowed to break social distancing requirements and participate in the largest public gatherings since the COVID pandemic began. Subsequently, many “peaceful protesters” and BLM activists got their first taste of reparations in the form of stolen Nike and Gucci products. They also got to feel like righteous revolutionaries without incurring any real social costs (some even got bailed out by celebrities like Seth Rogan).
And what about the lives for whom the leaders of BLM claim to be fighting?
So far, BLM’s cry to “defund the police” has only led to more violent crimes and murder, which disproportionately affect men of color. BLM activists have been silent when it comes to the countless instances of black-on-black gun violence (for example, the recent shooting of a 7-year-old girl outside a Chicago McDonald’s) but were quick to protest the police shooting of a carjacker (until they discovered he was white).
Disrupting the “Western prescribed nuclear family structure” was high on BLM’s list of goals, that is, before the organization scrubbed the phrase from its webpage a few months ago. I’m not entirely sure how this helps a community that already has a 72% out-of-wedlock birth rate. Even Barack Obama acknowledged how this one factor alone puts children at a huge disadvantage, making them “five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”
BLM’s founding myth—that blacks are being “systematically targeted for demise”—is not only rooted in lazy scholarship but also muddies up the conversation and exacerbates already-existing tensions. As if being taught they live in a nation fundamentally rooted in white supremacy wasn’t bad enough, a whole new generation of black children is also hearing that policing is “intentionally and inherently racist.” How this will improve morale in black neighborhoods is not clear, but it certainly gives people more reasons to mistrust the police and resist lawful arrest.
All criticisms aside, you at least have to give BLM some credit for keeping the conversation going for this long. But after yet another week of riots and more on the horizon, it’s high time for the adults to come back into the room and take control of the conversation.
What has been wrongly framed from the very beginning as a problem of systemic racism in policing actually has much more to do with poverty, violent crime rates, destructive cultural norms, and the difficult nature of a job that puts officers in contact with dangerous individuals each day. Yes, there are violent, unqualified, and even racist police officers out there, but study after study show no racial disparities in police shootings after you factor in the disproportionately high amount of violent crime in predominantly black neighborhoods. Simply put, if you live in an area with a higher level of street crime, you are much more likely to come in contact with the police. More often than not, these interactions with law enforcement occur without anyone getting killed, but unfortunately, there are exceptions.
These exceptions happen too often and need to be reduced, but contrary to what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would like you to believe, they are not evidence that the system isn’t working. But if your theory of reality insists that the system is inherently racist and is always to blame for everything, then all disparities between groups will be used as a justification to burn it all down. And make no mistake—that is the dominant theory promoted by establishment democrats, activists, academics, celebrities, media outlets and corporations, even if they don’t all realize it.
The alternative theory is admittedly less cool and punk rock on the surface, but in this unique moment in history, it is actually the more radical and anti-establishment position. More importantly—and this cannot be stressed enough—it is the more intellectually honest one, and thus has the greater potential to actually improve the lives of black people.
Radicals in the past spoke truth to power at great personal and social risk. They not only put their bodies in harm’s way but also risked losing friends, family, employment, and their overall social standing in the service of something greater. In the long run, what they did worked despite the lack of corporate sponsorship and media support. Why did it work, you ask? It’s really quite simple: they had the truth on their side.
So, as you “mostly peaceful protesters” gear up for yet another week of looting, twerking, and setting fires, just remember that you’re the ones on the wrong side of history. You are the flat-earthers. You are the Q-anon conspiracy theorists. You are the hysterical church ladies who see the hand of Satan everywhere. You are the ones who we’ll all be looking back on while shaking our heads and wondering “what the hell were they thinking?” You may believe your cause is radical and righteous, and I don’t doubt that some of you have good intentions—but feeling morally right while being factually incorrect isn’t cool anymore.
Image: Clay Banks, Public Domain