This year began with a brutal, violent act: Four black adults apparently tortured a white man with special needs for several days in Chicago, livestreaming on Facebook portions of the assault. The next week, in a superficially unrelated story, a white man was sentenced to death for killing nine black people in an attack at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Both of these incidents were motivated at least in part by race. Dylann Roof, the white man who opened fire in a church even after praying with the parishioners, picked Charleston because “we have no skinheads, no real KKK” there, and “someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world.” Meanwhile, in Chicago, the four assaulters shouted “F*** white people” during their assault.
However, the social reaction to the stories reflects the continuing rift to how the Left and the Right respond to race.
This is not true. The condemnation of the act from black activists was swift and consistent. On Twitter, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. wrote, “This savage act of violence must be condemned. So sick.” Rev. Al Sharpton wrote, “Just talked to Rev. Hatch in Chicago about this senseless, vicious crime. We pledge 1k to the family. A hate crime is deplorable PERIOD!” Cornell Wm. Brooks, the CEO of the NAACP, tweeted, “Rising hate crime, lowers our humanity. This crime took place in the basement of the heart. We need love AND justice.” And on the Black Lives Matter feed: “BLM has consistently called for less violence, not more. Like our family in Chicago, we condemn this behavior.”
These statements appeared within a day of the news breaking. Each had responses insisting that they weren’t good enough. One complaint cynically suggested, for instance, that $1,000 wasn’t enough and that Rev. Sharpton was more concerned about his tax write-offs than in condemning the act.
President Barack Obama called the act “despicable,” saying that the race relations problems that we’re having in this country are not new but that social media and smart phones have made them more visible.
Montel Williams called the act “cold-blooded,” and rejected blaming the assailants’ backgrounds: “Plenty of people grow up in the hood – myself included – the notion that’s an excuse for torturing another human being disgusts me.”
Even those black pundits who resisted calling this a hate crime were clear that it was a horrific act. Speaking on CNN with Don Lemon, Symone Sanders repeatedly called the act “sickening” while balking at the term “hate crime.” In the same conversation, Don Lemon said the act wasn’t “evil,” blaming “bad home training” instead, while admitting the act is “inhumane.”
Sanders’s point is not that the act is acceptable. She calls it wrong and grotesque and says that the perpetrators need to be punished. Her point is that motive matters when using the term “hate crime”: Were the assailants saying “F*** white people” out of true hate, or were they using that as an excuse? That’s a fair question.
The next day, Don Lemon asked a group of black community leaders: “Does anyone on this panel … believe that this is not a heinous, despicable act?” The response was unanimous: This was a heinous, despicable act, even if there is also a larger social narrative at play.
Shaun King made the clearest statement on the core issue. He begins by calling the act “truly awful,” but argues that the difference in this case, the thing that makes this case not an example of injustice, is that the system worked the way it’s supposed to. When someone does something terrible, the police are supposed to arrest them. That happened here.
For civil rights activists, for Black Lives Matter, the claim is not that only white people do violent things, or that only white people should be punished. I have yet to see anybody of any stature suggest that the act in Chicago was anything other than horrific. Those four assailants deserve the full extent of punishment.
Justice should be blind. The claim is that justice is not blind.
Newt Gingrich suggested that, had this been an act involving white assailants and a black victim, liberals would have treated it differently.
There was a somewhat similar crime a year ago: Three white football players allegedly assaulted a black special needs teammate. The case did not receive the same level of national attention, no doubt in large part because of the absence of the visceral images of a streamed video as well as a long delay between the act and the report of the act. Last month, John Howard, one of the assailants was sentenced to probation as part of a plea deal.
Where were the calls for white activists to defend their movement? Why was Richard Spencer not ordered to come to FoxNews to argue that this was an isolated incident, not indicative of a general trend of white to commit violence?
On Twitter, @kiethahodges responded to BLM’s tweet about the Chicago assault by noting, “every black person is not a representative of BLM that’s like every white person is a member of the Klan.” On Don Lemon’s program, Dimitri Roberts suggested that the people who are missing the point are the ones demanding responses from BLM each time a random black person does something extremely violent: “Why are we talking about black or white anything when there is another human being that has been tortured?”
Those people who seem to feel that BLM Activists and other liberals want blacks to have differential treatment in the eyes of the law are indeed missing the point. The point is that people of color, particularly blacks, are currently getting differential treatment under the law, and we want this to stop.
Dylann Roof, a white person, was sentenced to death for killing nine black people in a barbaric, heinous, vile act. Unlike in the case of John Howard, justice has been served. Some of the survivors of his victims agree with the death penalty, but some do not. This is not about POC wanting special treatment under the law, it’s about them wanting equal treatment.
Equal treatment includes being held accountable for when POC do terrible things, too. Black activists have been clear in that, even if they shouldn’t have to be.
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