Intersectionality Meets BLM

George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks committed violent crimes against women and children. This is being completely erased from the public consciousness.

I don’t think that these crimes make it ok for police to kill them. Or for anybody to hurt them in any way. But we have spent several years parsing every uncomfortable date of every pouty socialite, resentful grad student, and unsuccessful starlet under the guise of #MeToo. Why are the female victims of Floyd and Brooks less deserving of being noticed? Because they are black? Because they are not upper-middle-class?

BLM is a gigantic hypocrisy. It wouldn’t hurt the cause to say “Floyd and Brooks were vastly imperfect yet they didn’t deserve to be killed by police.” It would be a lie in Brooks’s case but the argument itself would be quite noble.

But no, nobody wants to notice that these were violent men who made women’s lives hell. Floyd and Brooks are being treated as heroes when the only heroic thing they did was give well-to-do white people a reason to preen and posture on social media.

As Eliseo Alberto, an exiled Cuban writer, used to say, a lot of damage is done to the world by aging US intellectuals who want to imagine themselves as revolutionaries.

21 thoughts on “Intersectionality Meets BLM”

  1. I don’t disagree with you on the facts. Rayshard Brooks had a criminal record that included battery of women and children. George Floyd had one that included armed robbery, where one of the victims was a pregnant woman (he held her up at knifepoint, the record didn’t state that he hit her).

    The point of the MeToo movement was to hold men accountable for the crimes. And these two men were! They were charged for their violence against women and/or children. That’s the difference, and it’s huge. The women who told their stories as part of MeToo tried to get the men convicted at least in the court of public opinion because most of them weren’t even charged in criminal court.

    As for the BLM movement making those men into heroes – I agree that they weren’t. I can handle the complexity of knowing that they committed crimes and didn’t deserve to be extrajudicially killed by police. You can also hold both of those ideas in your mind simultaneously.

    But for centuries, white people in this country have been justifying lynching black people for minor infractions, which were sometimes made up. After constantly being told “he did X, therefore he deserved to die”, when you bring up “he did X” during the discussion of yet another death, people don’t hear the rest. There will still be people who will say “he did X, therefore he deserved to die”, and you will be lumped in with them.

    Humans are emotional creatures. Obviously you agree that slavery was wrong, as was lynching and mistreatment of black people that persisted after the Civil War. With this post, you’re effectively saying “after black people have been dehumanized for centuries and portrayed as deserving of all the violence that has been done against them, now I expect those who were killed to be portrayed as not one bit more virtuous than they were, and for retribution to not go an inch beyond what is fair”. This is just not how human psychology works.

    Read the recent post of yours, titled How Propaganda Fails. Replace “one generation” at the bottom of that post with “centuries” and “a steady stream of inescapable propaganda about worker exploitation” with “treating black people as though they are subhuman”. We’re living through the backlash to that now. How long has it been, 2 decades?

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    1. Look, I’m in the leadership of the largest association of Hispanic feminist scholars in existence. To me, the idea that women should bite it for some worthier cause is not appealing.

      But leaving that aside, with the enormous demand that exists for a black victim of white cops, why is it so hard to find one who is not an addled habitual criminal? If the situation is really as dire as we are told, it should be easy. Instead, the reality of these two men is being cutesified with obvious lies. Why is that? Are we being sold a huge pile of baloney with this whole narrative?

      This is an important question to be asked.

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      1. It is mysterious to me that Breonna Taylor, whose case came up around the same time, and who was very clearly an innocent victim of idiot cops, has not been the name on the movement spearhead. There was a little flurry, but I’m seeing her name less and less.

        I think the movement needs– perhaps requires– someone like Floyd or Brooks. It’s the ambiguity that gets everybody riled up, and excuses mass violence and destruction. If you focused on Breonna Taylor, you could make a clear case for an end to no-knock warrants– and you see that has been done! Louisville has banned those now. Other places are considering it. They were clearly a bad thing, that got an innocent woman killed, in her own home, by cops. There was no ambiguity there, so everybody’s on the same side: that’s wrong. We need to change that.

        With Floyd and Brooks, you get resistance. Cops and people who sympathize with them can clearly see that the situation was dicey. The men were not innocent bystanders. So when the agitators hoist their names up the flagpole and use them to say that cops are evil, resistance from people who have critical thinking skills is automatic. And then they can pretend there’s a big systemic problem, because look! People are fighting them! That means we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys, and it’s a big culture-wide problem! Fight! Fight! Fight!

        Having an enemy justifies violence. When it’s a clear-cut case like Taylor’s, we’re all on the same side. There is no enemy. That’s not what BLM et al actually want.

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    2. “But for centuries, white people in this country have been justifying lynching black people for minor infractions, which were sometimes made up.”

      So I have a few questions:

      1) Do you mean all “white” people, most “white” people, some “white” people, a few “white” people did the “justifying”?

      2) Did most “white” people, some “white” people, just a few “white” people oppose “lynching black people”? (If most or even many “white” people opposed “lynching black people” does this matter at all to your narrative? One might perhaps need to consider as relevant that by definition lynchings were against the law)

      3) Do contemporary “whites” have blood-guilt because “for centuries” their ancestors justified “lynching black people”? What about “whites” whose ancestors arrived in the USA after, say WWI, do they share in the historical blood-guilt because of their skin-colour? What about present-day “whites” who have some mixed proportion of ancestors who were early immigrants and some who were more recent immigrants – would a “one drop rule” be the way to go?

      4) If “lynching black people for minor infractions which were sometimes made up” has been going on “for centuries” what should one make of the left-wokish Wikipedia entry that says “Lynchings in the United States first became common in the Southern United States in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, at which time most of the victims were white men. Lynchings of blacks rose in number after the American Civil War during Reconstruction; they declined in the 1930s… According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites. “

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      1. I still don’t understand why the name of the Democratic party – the party of slavery and the KKK – isn’t triggering. If people can’t stand to look at a statue of Columbus, I’d think that hearing the name of the party that opposed civil rights only a few decades ago would be completely intolerable.

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      2. First of all, I agree with Clarissa that much of the action by white people is empty virtue-signaling undertaken at little or no cost to them. Putting up a “black lives matter” sign in your window or writing it on facebook means nothing.

        I was trying to understand the emotion behind current events that could be reasonably experienced by black people given the history of this country, and describing the events in terms of feelings, not statistics. But I’m happy to answer your questions.

        A few white people participated in lynchings and gathered to view the dead bodies afterwards, some white people approved, and enough white people didn’t care enough for the practice to stop. My main point is that it wasn’t black mobs lynching black people. You can argue that “mobs” is inconsistent with “a few”, but we’re talking a few out of all the white people in the country.
        Let’s define “oppose”. If in your heart, you think murdering a specific person or type of person is wrong, but say and do nothing about it, you don’t oppose it. If you think it’s wrong and tell no one but a close friend or a family member, you don’t oppose it either. Opposing killing someone means taking action – lobbying lawmakers, voting for people who would change the laws or look to it that laws are followed, trying to defend people being killed, trying to stop people committing murder.

        By this definition, some to many white people opposed lynchings. As for laws, it’s enforcement and successful prosecution that matters. I’ve just read the Wikipedia article on lynching, and it looks like no white men were convicted for a lynching until the 1960’s.

        No.
        Yes, my wording was wrong. I lumped in slavery with lynchings. Slave owners could kill any of their slaves for no reason at all. I was focusing on white men killing black people without repercussions. This is the gist of my narrative. If I were black, I would feel that my country is OK with white men killing black people for as long as white men were not convicted in such cases. Wouldn’t you?

        I just spent some time googling, trying to check whether the first time this happened was indeed the 1960’s. I found this story in the Montgomery Advertiser – one of the white men (Howard) confessed and named the others.

        “The testimony led to something almost unheard of in the United States in 1901: A white jury convicted four white men of the lynching of a black man, handing down sentences no Alabama court would match in a case involving the lynching of an African-American until 1981.”

        The governor pardoned three of those men the next year: “On June 9, 1902, Jelks pardoned Howard, Strength and Fuller.”. The fourth wasn’t pardoned and died in 1906.

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        1. Shit. My numbers got eaten by wordpress. My answers start with the 3rd paragraph.

          Answer 1: A few white people…

          Answer 2 (middle of 3rd paragraph): Let’s define “oppose”…

          Answer 3: No

          Answer 4: Yes, my wording was wrong…

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          1. This is all very true.

            But here’s my point. What is today’s equivalent of the lynchings, of Jim Crow, etc?

            Is it the epidemic of murders of black people by white cops that is not supported by any data at all?

            Or is it a complete indifference towards Baltimore where the murder rates of overwhelmingly black people are worse than those of Tijuana? Or towards Chicago where dozens of black people are shot, many fatally, every week?

            White people get their fix of fun and games egging on and participating in these riots. Last time it happened close to where I live, the white people got bored and moved on. And the murders of black people skyrocketed right after that. Several hundred black people are dead right now as a result of that harmless spot of fun.

            So what is the modern version of lynchings? I believe that it’s not what happened to George Floyd. It’s what the very sheltered and privileged white people did in response.

            Everybody is going to move on to some new big story in a couple of weeks. And hundreds of black people will die. Will literally lose their lives to pay for this weird form of entertainment we all engaged in at their expense.

            Everybody who went to these protests is responsible. Every single person. Their need to pose for social media pics is going to have terrible consequences. And they don’t care.

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            1. And I know this sounds harsh. I know almost everybody who went to these protests is well-meaning and thought they were doing the right thing. But it’s time to learn something. It’s time to pay attention to consequences.

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        2. “enough white people didn’t care enough for the practice to stop…”

          Yes, thanks, got it. “Black” murders occur because “white” people don’t “care enough” to stop them. So true.

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          1. You asked me how many white people were justifying extrajudicial murders of black people by white people.

            Even when authorities started charging white men with those crimes, grand juries wouldn’t return indictments. It looks like a successful conviction without a confession wasn’t obtained until the 1960’s. I would argue that convicting men of murder is a pretty good way to stop them from doing it.

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  2. It doesn’t seem like there is an epidemic of police officers shooting unarmed Black people; otherwise, there would be at least a few cases every month of each year. But it does appear true that the police and security workers stop and harass Black people disproportionately (e.g., driving while black, stop and frisk, shopping while black, etc.).

    What someone pointed out above about Breonna Tayler is certainly interesting. I think that George Floyd, instead of Breonna, may have become the face of the movement because there’s a video of the incident that went viral.

    I really dislike identitarian discourses. I think the focus needs to be on police brutality and not solely on Black lives. I was somewhat disturbed when I heard Michael Eric Dyson (I think it was him) a couple of weeks ago on TV point out the difference between the way white police officers are treated after killing a Black man versus the way Black officers are after shooting a white person. Dyson brought up the case of the Black Somali police officer who shot a white woman and was then arrested almost immediately, whereas it took some time for charges to be filed against the murderer of George Floyd and his fellow officers. (I do think this is a problem.) What bothered me was when Dyson said that the case of George Floyd was clearly an instance of premeditated murder, whereas the case of the Black Somali police officer was arguably an “accident.” I was taken aback by this comment, which seemed to express indifference to the murder of one person in order to focus outrage on the murder of another. Yes, the circumstances in these two cases were clearly different, but we should be upset about both of them. So this is why I’m not a fan of identity politics.

    The other thing I don’t like about identity politics are the internal contradictions one finds in the public discourse around identity. Here are some examples:
    1) “We need to have a conversation about race.” vs. “Don’t ask a Black person about race. Black people are tired of performing the emotional labor of explaining race and racism to white people. Use Google.” (And by the way, Google is apparently racist–there’s a book entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.)

    2) “White people, you all created this (racist) mess. You’re the ones responsible for racism. So it’s your responsibility to stop it. Don’t ask Black people to do it.” vs. “We don’t want any more white savior narratives.”

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    1. Great comment, thank you.

      The party apparatchik at my work shut down a conversation people started having on the discussion board of all this.

      “This is not the time for white people to center themselves!” he announced. “You need to let black voices be heard!”

      After that he recommended we all read Robin DiAngelo’s book. DiAngelo is white, so I have no idea how this “decenters white voices.”

      But at least we have official permission not to talk about this any more, which is a relief.

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  3. Capitalizing the adjective “Black” when referring to race while writing “white” with a small letter is either very inconsistent grammar, or a subtle sign of creeping internalized racism.

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    1. I think this is the current, politically correct way to write these two words. And if I don’t capitalize “Black” then everyone will know I’m a racist. LOL.

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      1. // I think this is the current, politically correct way to write these two words.

        Will it soon be a requirement in academic articles too? Or only on social media, including blogs in English from abroad in countries whose citizens have a different history and sensibilities?

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