The Current Debate on Racial Justice Lacks Nuance

As Matt Kibbe stated in a recent video he posted in the Free the People Community, it seems like our country is unravelling. We are at a tipping point when it comes to racial justice. And as with all things in our country at this time, the topic is divisive and polarizing. If you believe what you see on social media, the “sides” of the argument couldn’t be further apart. It would seem that you must be all in on one side or the other. There is no middle ground.

I think that is so misguided. We all need to take a deep breath and think a little bit about what we truly believe about ourselves and about the state of our country. We need to inject a little nuance into the conversation. Things are NOT as black and white (no pun intended!) as they seem.

If people took a step back from the front lines and were honest with themselves, I believe there is a lot of common ground that can be found if we all use our much under-utilized common sense.

Here are a few simple truths that easily get lost in our hyper-partisan, extremely polarized reality:

  • You can support law enforcement and also abhor racist cops.
  • You can support law enforcement and advocate for fixes to racial injustices and systemic racism.
  • You can support peaceful protests in favor of racial justice and abhor people who take advantage of that protest to riot and loot.
  • Denouncing rioting, arson, and looting doesn’t diminish your protest for racial justice; it likely strengthens it.
  • There is a bright line difference between a protester and a rioter. Not every person protesting is a violent rioter. But rioters should be called out by the left because they are harming the righteousness of the cause.
  • On the other side, every person standing up to the violence, rioting, and looting is not a vigilante. There are legitimate property owners defending their businesses and homes. But the right needs to call out the actual vigilantes—people coming from out of state, armed to the teeth, looking for a fight—because they are inflaming an already volatile situation.

I don’t want to seem naive. Things are not as simple as my list of truths would make it seem. I get that too. And that is where we need to add nuance and compassion. It is clichéd, but we need to let cooler heads prevail. We need to have the empathy to be able to look at these issues from all sides and see that the realties of each side’s experience play a large role in the chasm in understanding that has opened up.

Let me demonstrate by showing a few examples where a lack of distance clouds our judgement:

  • It is abundantly clear that there are real issues with unequal treatment of people of color by law enforcement. However, that doesn’t mean that every violent interaction between police and a person of color is another example of this systemic racism. There can be justified uses of force that aren’t racist.
  • Protesters who chant “no justice, no peace” and opponents who gin up resistance to protests with violent allusions to a race war or civil war or “purge” are equally at fault. Both extremes are tearing at the fabric of our republic.
  • Just as it should be obvious that not every white person is a racist, it should be obvious and acknowledged that people of color can be racist.
  • Attacking a Senator because he is white and a republican isn’t automatically a good idea. When that Senator is Rand Paul, the author of the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, you are attacking an ally.
  • You can support the idea that Black Lives Matter but that doesn’t mean you want to be bullied, harassed, or threatened into public displays of solidarity.
  • Relatedly, When you claim your movement is standing up to authoritarian rule and you adopt authoritarian practices of compelled loyalty and/or solidarity to the cause under the threat of violence, you have abandoned the moral high ground and lost any semblance of respect for your cause from persuadable allies.

Here is where I, personally, stand on the current racial justice debate going on. And, I suspect the majority of non-extremists feel very similarly:

  • I support law enforcement because the vast majority of cops serve their community admirably.
  • I do not blindly support the cop when there is a police-involved shooting or a person of color dies at the hands of law enforcement. I also don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the incident was racially motivated. I judge each incident individually based on the facts of each case.
  • I believe that people of color are, in general, treated unequally by law enforcement and that there is work that needs to be done to correct that systemic issue.
  • I believe fully in the concept that Black Lives Matter.
  • I do not support the the organization that has taken the name Black Lives Matter—it is an overtly marxist organization and beyond the black lives matter sentiment, I don’t agree with any of their other official positions.
  • I support anyone who wants to exercise their constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest the government.
  • Specifically, I support anyone peacefully protesting systemic racism and working to change the way people of color are treated as a group.
  • I do not support any individual protester who resorts to violence, rioting, looting, or arson.
  • Anyone who resorts to violence while protesting should be called out by the peaceful protesters to protect the validity of their movement.
  • Anyone resorting to violence during a protest should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  • I support property owners exercising their second amendment right to bear arms to protect their property and their life.
  • I do not support armed vigilantes arriving at the scene of a riot looking to “restore order” on their own. There is a difference between protecting YOUR property and showing up uninvited to “protect” the property of people you don’t know.

There is no magic bullet here. I get that. But I do think that if we take the time to be considerate of opposing viewpoints it can go a long way toward moving us forward to a point where our nation can begin healing and we can grow stronger together.

There is no question that libertarians are uniquely qualified to take the lead in this debate. Our focus on individual rights and placing individual liberties over collectivist ideology allows us to agree with the strongest arguments from both sides of this issue. We need the leaders of the liberty movement to step forward into the fray and act as referees. Send both sides back to their corners and attempt to broker a peace that leads to better understanding and a stronger, freer America for all parties involved!

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Matt Genovese

Matt Genovese is a 911 dispatcher and writer from New Jersey. He has written on topics ranging from first responders and emergency management to local politics, civil liberties and the liberty movement. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattgenovese.

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