Brandishing Black Bodies to Defend Against Racism

Rebecca:

I’ve used this space to occasionally praise unorthodox conservatives. So let me now mention a conservative whose ideas I really, really dislike.

Her name is Heather Mac Donald. She writes a lot for City Journal. And she writes, mostly, about how cops are awesome and how criticism of cops is bad. (Her recent book is called “The War on Cops.”)  I’m oversimplifying here, but not by much.

Anyway, I’m torn. I hate Heather Mac Donald’s ideas. But I think she has the right to express them. And last week, we watched as campus protesters at Claremont McKenna College tried to prevent her from being heard. Which forces me to … rush to Heather Mac Donald’s defense.

Here’s the short version, which I’ve expressed before: A mob can violate the right to speak just as surely as a government agent with a warrant. The best solution to bad speech is more speech, better speech. These are concepts that liberals have long defended, and should keep defending!

I suspect you and I have a bit to quibble with there, but trust me: You’ll like my defense of Mac Donald more than you’ll like Mac Donald’s defense of herself.

Which goes something like this:

I prefaced my speech by observing that I had heard chants for the last two hours that “black lives matter.” I therefore hoped that the protesters were equally fervent in expressing their outrage when five-year-old Aaron Shannon, Jr., was killed on Halloween 2010 in South-Central Los Angeles, while proudly showing off his Spiderman costume.  … And though it was doubtful that any of the protesters outside had ever lost a loved one to a drive-by shooting, if such a tragedy ever did happen, the first thing he or she would do is call the police.

Oh, for Pete’s sake. There’s few things I hate worse than the brandishing of black bodies as a defense against police brutality against blacks. And Mac Donald does it here expertly. So let’s make a few things clear

First: The existence of crime in no way mitigates the responsibility of police to act lawfully

Second: The existence of crime in no way mitigates the right of communities and individuals to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Third: This “but what about black-on-black” murders is a typical, loathsome evasion of the issue of police brutality questions. It implies, in racist fashion, that black people don’t care about black lives unless there’s a white person to blame for the death. And that’s crap.

Let’s talk about the Aaron Shannon case, for example. In fact, there was a substantial community response to and outcry against his death. AP reported contemporaneously:

Immediately after the shooting, at least a half-dozen city-funded gang interventionists, experts who are often former gang members, and other volunteers hit the streets in a bid to prevent retaliation.

Residents incensed by the killing of a child were quick to provide details to police, who Friday announced the arrests of Marcus Denson, 18, and Leonard Hall, 21. Both are alleged members of the Kitchen Crips, which for years has been warring with a subset of the Bloods known as the Swans.

Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon estimated as many as 15 additional shootings were stopped.

This doesn’t even mention the $75,000 reward the community managed to put forth to get the killers arrested. All in all, a robust community response. One that Mac Donald surely would’ve known about if she’d done even middling research on her topic. (I found it with  a quick Google search.)

Maybe she did. But her use of Aaron Johnson indicates to me she’s mostly willing to brandish black bodies — not even as a defense against allegations of brutal, racist policing, but as a deflection against it. And it strikes me there’s something profane about using the dead body of a five-year-old black child as a bit of rhetorical jiu-jitsu.

Which is why it might be easy for me to throw in with the people who tried to prevent her from being heard, I guess. But I also believe free expression is made especially for expressions we find objectionable. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Heather Mac Donald’s right to express her views should be protected. But those views are still tripe. I can and do believe both things.

— Joel

 

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