Does anyone remember how we got here? Like a disoriented tourist staring nervously around an unfamiliar city, it’s becoming increasing difficult to follow the numerous twists and turns of 2020’s nigh-incomprehensible political conversation. It’s been less than two months since the killing of George Floyd sparked universal outrage about the abuse of police power and the need for change. In that time, we’ve moved from demanding that the police be reformed, to defunded, to abolished. And then the nation as a whole seemed to forget entirely about the police as well as any problems with that institution, turning its collective attention instead to the far more pressing issue of statues.
Sen. Mike Braun was forced to withdraw his bill to end qualified immunity for police after a feckless performance on Tucker Carlson’s show. Rep. Justin Amash’s “Ending Qualified Immunity Act” hasn’t moved an inch since it was introduced a month ago, despite garnering 64 cosponsors in the House. Qualified immunity is a doctrine created by the Supreme Court that protects police and other government officials from civil liability for their actions, and creates a double legal standard that enables the abuse of power, as well as flying in the face of the Fourteenth Amendment’s demands for equal treatment under the law. Ending the practice would go a long way to protecting the rights of individuals from being trampled on by men with guns. But there are no protests in support of Amash’s or Braun’s legislation. Instead, we are arguing over whether dead philosopher David Hume deserves to have his name on a building at the University of Edinburgh.
Protests across the nation continue to see thousands of activists loudly championing a diverse array of causes, from canceling fireworks on the Fourth of July, to tearing down statues of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Ulysses S. Grant, and Abraham Lincoln, to making thinly veiled death threats against billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. It’s unclear how any of these actions will save even one life, black or otherwise, or do anything to prevent the abuse of power by police. Even if every statue in the country is torn down and every university building is renamed, it won’t bring justice to George Floyd, nor will it prevent a future repeat of his killing.
Indeed, even as the news is swamped by stories of rallies, protests, autonomous zones, and riots, death rates have spiked in cities like New York, Chicago, and of course Seattle’s infamous autonomous zone. Why are these deaths glossed over or even excused by protesters, when the very object of their activism is to ostensibly to protect and defend black lives?
This undeniable and incredibly rapid mission creep of the Black Lives Matter movement forces us to question the sincerity of the protesters. I was more than happy to join in common cause with the people demanding that we change the way police operate in this country, removing double standards, increasing accountability measures, ending police unions, and cracking down on those who deliberately abuse their power over the innocent. But all those goals have been conveniently forgotten among demands that we condemn the entirety of America’s admittedly complex and messy past, as well as condemn the capitalist system that has produced the greatest advances in wealth, equality, and civil rights the world has ever seen. We’re expected to do all this while worshipping at the altar of White Fragility, apologizing for our skin color while buying into a fundamentally collectivist narrative that we can—and should—make judgements about others based on their race or ethnicity.
If George Floyd’s death is being used for a smokescreen to advance a broad agenda of critical theory, anti-capitalism, and race-based authoritarianism—and it appears that this is indeed the case—one can hardly imagine a more despicably cynical and manipulative exploitation of a tragedy. I urge those with a genuine interest in police reform to remember what started these protests in the first place, to keep their eyes on the ball, and to distance themselves from those who would sanctimoniously stand astride the graves of real victims as cover for their unrelated activism.
If you want to end needless violence towards minorities at the hands of the state, as I would hope everyone does, you should be spending your time calling your legislators and demanding change to the legal institutions that allow abuse to happen. Toppling a statue or spray painting a building may make you feel like a big, tough revolutionary, but it won’t help those who need it, nor will it bring justice to those who wield violence with state-sanctioned impunity.