All posts filed under: BLM

No, Critical Race Theory Isn’t a New Civil Rights Movement. (Just the Opposite)

Critical Race Theory has become a prominent subject in American political discourse. Several state legislatures have advanced measures aimed at banning it from public schools, on the basis that its rigid moral categorization of people as either “privileged” or “oppressed” is offensive and even racist. Yet supporters argue that Critical Race Theory is vital to the project of eliminating racism, which they see as an omnipresent contaminant in every sphere of American life. Only by constantly and explicitly taking race into account in every aspect of policy-making, the theory goes, can we rid ourselves of its presence. One of the most ideologically ambitious defenses of Critical Race Theory presents the doctrine as the next logical stage in the process that began with the civil rights movement. This is the argument made by the American Bar Association, the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. The ABA instructs us that Critical Race Theory provides a “powerful approach for examining race in society,” as well as a “lens through which the civil rights lawyer can imagine …

Black Lives Matter and the Psychology of Progressive Fatalism

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder, but the ramifications of his fateful encounter with George Floyd will reverberate through American culture and politics for years to come. The revival of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer produced the largest protest in American history and a groundswell of anti-racist activism across America’s major institutions. A year later, we can begin to see the ripple effects of what one Atlantic contributor has called the “Third Reconstruction.” More than 30 states have passed more than 140 police oversight reform laws; efforts are being made to introduce reparations for black Americans in various forms; and the progressive vision of racial inequality has penetrated American institutions and culture. Police are facing renewed pressure to perform their duties with discretion, and awareness of historical racism and its lingering effects has risen. On the other hand, the homicide rate is soaring in cities across the country amid a historic surge of violent crime—in Minneapolis, for example, the murder rate has returned to the days when the …

Debate and Disinformation: The Ugly Quarrel Over the UK Government’s Race Report

Howard Beckett is the deputy leader of the largest trade union in the UK, a frontrunner in the race to be its new leader, and the elected representative of the country’s unions on the executive of the UK Labour Party. On Friday, May 14th, the party suspended Beckett, and he was reported to the police for tweeting this about the Home Secretary, a woman of Ugandan Asian descent: Although its use in the US dates back to the 1960s Black Power movement, the phrase “institutional racism” gained political currency on this side of the Atlantic following an official investigation into events surrounding the racially motivated murder of a black British teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in 1993. The report produced by this inquiry concluded that the Metropolitan police force investigating that murder was guilty of: …a collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. [Institutional racism] can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, …

When Will Activists (and the Media) Get Honest About Police Shootings?

Minutes before Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts of murder and manslaughter, Ma’Khia Bryant, a black teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, was shot dead by police. Almost immediately, enraged protestors gathered outside police headquarters. “Say Her Name!” they chanted. The New York Times reported that the girl’s grieving mother, Paula Bryant, had told WBNS that her daughter was “a very loving, peaceful little girl.” In an attempt to correct a tendentious version of events immediately promoted by civil rights attorney Ben Crump (and uncritically repeated by the Times) in which the young victim was described as unarmed, the Columbus police department took the unusual step of releasing the officer’s body-worn camera video the same day. During a briefing at which the footage was exhibited for the press, police played the video twice, the second time in slow motion—because events on the ground escalated with such rapidity that it’s the only way to follow what happened: The police officer gets out of his squad car and approaches a group of people milling about in …

Rinaldo Walcott’s On Property—A Review

A review of On Property by Rinaldo Walcott. Biblioasis, 96 pages (May 25th, 2021) The true founder of civil society was the first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, thought of saying, “This is mine,” and came across people simple enough to believe him. How many crimes, wars, murders and how much misery and horror the human race might have been spared if someone had pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch, and cried out to his fellows: “Beware of listening to this charlatan. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth itself belongs to no one!” Even if most sober-minded readers might dismiss Rousseau’s counter-factual history as a symptom of a dangerous utopianism, his critique of private property has fired the imaginations of radical thinkers and activists since before the French Revolution. While Rousseau himself did not believe we could return to a propertyless state as the “solution” to modernity’s problems, his view of history as a “fall” from …

Black Lives Matter, So Refund the Police

During the summer of 2020, following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it was easier to count how many cities didn’t have Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests than to count the ones that did. Metropolitan areas across the United States, and the world, saw massive turnouts protesting police violence against African Americans, and the movement received endorsements from a number of corporations, all pledging to do their part to combat racism. It didn’t take long for BLM activists and supporters to capitalize on this newfound popularity, quickly adopting what former President Obama called a “snappy” but “counterproductive” slogan for their supporters to shout in the streets and on social media: “Defund the Police.” This new rallying cry became the subject of much debate, and the source of much confusion. Many observers remain unsure what the practical application of defunding the police entails. Although some hope that one day the police will be completely abolished, the majority of those calling to defund the police say they want to reallocate police funding to social programs …

The New Age of Empire—A Review

A review of The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World by Kehinde Andrews. Bold Type Books, 288 pages. (March 2021) In the days and weeks following the death of George Floyd, as Americans marched, and in some cases, burned their own cities, the world of public relations swung into action. They advised their clients to take note of these developments, and to be aware that hitherto innocuous attitudes and products might cause unintended offence in the new climate. This produced some surprising and counter-intuitive behaviour. When a happy customer congratulated Yorkshire Tea on Twitter for resisting the urge to make a fashionable political statement, a representative curtly responded that Yorkshire Tea “stood against racism” and then, for good measure, added: “Please don’t buy our tea again.” The PG Tips tea company owned by Unilever rapidly expressed solidarity with its rival. As anti-BLM bloggers and tweeters began demanding a boycott of Yorkshire Tea, Unilever issued a statement: “If you are boycotting teas that stand against racism, you’re going to have to …

Towards Practical Empowerment

The following critique of anti-racism is intended to empower people of color and stave off the modes of disempowerment I see in my field of rhetorical studies. Rhetorical studies examines persuasion in all its forms, but just like everyone else, rhetoricians have a hard time communicating with one another, especially when it comes to anti-racism. I’m not suggesting that all scholars, activists, and pedagogues interested in anti-racism abide by the detrimental ideology of orthodox anti-racism, but enough do that a dissenting voice is in order. Critiques like mine are often understood as oppression or “punching down” because they threaten a narrative of anti-racism in which people of color are perpetual victims fighting the ubiquitous and systemic specter of white supremacy. Anti-racists go to great lengths to discredit such views, even—or especially—when they are espoused by people of color. Consider the newly coined term “multiracial whiteness,” which NYU professor Cristina Beltrán defines as: …an ideology invested in the unequal distribution of land, wealth, power and privilege—a form of hierarchy in which the standing of one section …

Unspeakable Truths about Racial Inequality in America

This is the text of a lecture delivered by the author as part of the Benson Center Lecture Series at the University of Colorado, Boulder, on February 8th, 2021. I am a black American intellectual living in an age of persistent racial inequality in my country. As a black man I feel compelled to represent the interests of “my people.” (But that reference is not unambiguous!) As an intellectual, I feel that I must seek out the truth and speak such truths as I am given to know. As an American, at this critical moment of “racial reckoning,” I feel that imperative all the more urgently. But, I ask, what are my responsibilities? Do they conflict with one another? I will explore this question tonight. My conclusion: “My responsibilities as a black man, as an American, and as an intellectual are not in conflict.” I defend this position as best I can in what follows. I also try to illustrate the threat “cancel culture” poses to a rational discourse about racial inequality in America that …

Did the BLM Protests Against the Police Lead to the 2020 Spike in Homicides?

Serious crime, particularly murder, soared while everyone was supposed to be locked indoors. Between 2019—by no means a famously peaceful year—and 2020, homicides alone surged by 42 percent during the summer and 34 percent during the fall. Many politically acceptable explanations have been advanced for this, with left-leaning publications like Vox preferring to focus on the undeniable economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, an alternative explanation fits the data far better: crime increased because major police departments had their budgets slashed and reeled in their stops dramatically—and similar chaos has followed such “woke” policy moves nearly every time they have been implemented. The plain fact of the crime surge is a matter of little if any dispute. According to a serious 20-plus page report from the Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (CCCJ), “homicides, aggravated assaults, and gun assaults rose significantly beginning in late May and June of 2020.” As just noted, murder rates jumped more than 30 percent fall-over-fall and more than 40 percent summer-over-summer from 2019 to 2020. Across just the …