(Originally published January 6, 2017 in Atlanta Black Star)
A young Black woman in Chicago participated in and streamed an unquestionably horrible and ugly attack on Facebook Live. She operated what appears to be her smartphone’s camera as three others (also Black) brutalized a white 18-year-old with what authorities describe as “mental health challenges.” The disturbing events occurred over a period of several hours, during which he was continually threatened at knife point and had pieces of his clothing and haircut (which drew a small amount of blood from his scalp). The young man also was punched and kicked while being laughed at as his assailants exclaimed “F–k Donald Trump” and “F–k white people.”
The four young people were charged yesterday by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office with committing a hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, burglary, robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
It is clear to even a casual viewer of the unnerving video that the people who committed the alleged assault were far more interested in showcasing disturbing acts than making a savvy, symbolically political statement. The only thing more obvious from viewing the video is that these young people had no connection to Black Lives Matter. From the conception and execution of their actions to the utter lack of any strategic thought invested in the message sent by both their words and deeds and everything in between, seasoned social justice leaders these are not. Amateur community leaders these are not. These are disorganized, disaffected, disconnected and, frankly, disappointing youths with no community-action training or legitimate political affiliation.
However, white conservatives saw this as their opportunity to push a false narrative and a false equivalence. Several months ago, three white youths in Idaho sodomized a disabled Black student who was the mascot of their football team with a hanger. The victim in that case was an 18-year old who, while being sodomized, was called “n—-r,” “Kool-Aid,” “watermelon” and “chicken eater.” Conservatives did not equate this action to Trump’s support of white nationalists. Dylann Roof’s mass murders also have not brought an outcry from these same people about being evidence of white pathological behavior.
These acts and many other hate crimes never generate an emotive outcry from this same conservative clique that now looks to capitalize off of a terrible act. Their deceitful narrative centers on linking Black Lives Matter and Black resistance universally to criminal acts by creating silly hashtags to go viral, with #blmkidnapping leading the pack in both popularity and stupidity. Today, it’s relating #BLM to isolated acts by those on the fringe such as what just happened in Chicago or the sniper shootings in Dallas. Yesterday, it was equating the Panthers to the KKK.
Unfortunately, some involved in the “movement” now feel forced to respond, as if any sane person thinks there could possibly be a connection. The Chicago police even stated that this attack had nothing to do the Black Lives Matter movement. It does not matter because these usual conservative voices are fighting to extinguish the spirit of activism that the Black Lives Matter movement helped to produce after the Trayvon Martin murder.
In a frantic attempt to chill dissent just as Trump is about to enter the White House, these conservatives have adopted a desperate (and decidedly dumb) tactic: equate and promote any negative actions by Black people to be a blanket attack on all White people. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House blamed Obama for increased “racial tensions” in this country during his presidency. On an interview on Fox News he stated: “We have to oppose white racism, we also have to oppose black racism,”. The strategy is not new, as most Black people know. The idea that one act by a Black person means we are all responsible for said act, particularly if it is something destructive, is rhetoric that is as familiar as it is absurd.
The false equivalence suggests that whites face the same concerns about race as Black people do. White people are being convinced that something called Black “racism” exists (it doesn’t) and has an effect on their lives and their future (again, it doesn’t). White anxiety over demographic shifts in no way compares to the history of the Middle Passage, enslavement, rape, sharecropping, imprisonment, second-class citizenship and economic depreciation. White Americans in general have been trained for countless generations to fear Black revenge and retaliation for slavery, and that has now evolved into fearing Black criminality, which, conveniently, continues to feed a prison system for cheap labor. The uncontrolled Black body is a threat to their existence.
This fear of Black people helps political and economic elites control the general white populace, focusing them on the “fear of a Black planet” as opposed to the fear of an elitist planet where wealthy whites control resources and show no concern for the well-being of working-class whites or any other group. As long as theses elites can convince white people that Black people or “others” are on the rise and the white working class is facing oppressive conditions at the hands of these “others,” the longer these elites will retain control. Many would agree that this racial phenomenon was the primary fuel that propelled the obnoxious yet undeniably effective locomotive that is the Trump ascendancy.
Are we are now really supposed to believe that somehow these conservatives, who include former government and media figures and other so-called organizational leaders, are concerned about this teenager and the terrible actions of several Chicago youths. The truth seems to be that they are interested in creating reductive hashtags that ultimately push this story into a national piece that fits a narrative of Black hate against the white race. This story sells the narrative that keeps white people looking at the shiny object as elites continually pick their pockets.