Last week, we discussed how conservatives have tended to distort language and reason by defining issues in ways that go completely against all of the facts and logic, considering how the notion of a “nanny state” being imposed on poor people ignores that welfare is always a choice for its recipients and no one is being forced to cash Social Security checks.
This week, I want to discuss a particular strand of thought that gets directed at Black Lives Matter protestors.
I saw it recently in my interaction with a fellow OpiWiki commentator. The man was a nuanced and careful thinker, and not at all bigoted, but he too repeated the “black on black crime” argument, that somehow it’s not legitimate for Black Lives Matter to complain about lives lost to cops as long as lives lost to crime exist. That argument has been debunked in so many ways that listing them is impossible, but a few of the leading ones are that the argument implicitly assumes that no one can complain about anything affecting their community unless there’s no bigger problem; it implicitly assumes that communities of law-abiding people are responsible for criminals; it ignores that stopping crime is a complicated outcome, while citizens can directly stop police brutality by demanding procedural changes to departments, so that focusing on that issue is logical; it ignores that people who have lost friends and family to the cops are angry and that it’s monstrously callous to tell them to protest something else; and it especially ignores that the lack of trust in the police is a major cause of the problems with these communities.
But there was a strand of thought in our interactions that was especially worrisome. It’s the idea that Black Lives Matter somehow holds black people to a lower standard, or are just defending criminals, or are denying personal responsibility. White supremacists in particular like to repeat these canards. We hear about how black people just have a culture of victimhood, often from people who insist that white males are victims or that Republicans are discriminated against or that college is just so unfair to conservatives or that affirmative action cost them a job.
So if I bring up the hypocrisy of a society that imprisons black and white individuals at vastly different rates for drug crimes that they commit roughly equally, or the idea of demonizing people of color for their high rate of homicides when whites commit more DUIs, the response is usually something to the effect of angry sputtering mixed in with “Stop denying personal responsibility!”
Generally speaking, those of us who think that the criminal justice system should be less brutal, less expansive, less bigoted, less focused on jail and prison, and more equitable in its outcomes are accused of denying personal responsibility.
If this were true, Black Lives Matter would be calling for black suspects to never be charged with murder, rape, or any other crime. They’d be calling for a two-tiered justice system.
Does anyone do this? Has there been a single person who has said that the solution to a bigoted justice system is to have special rules for the poor, or for blacks, or anyone else?
Conservatives, on the other hand, routinely call for special rules for their preferred groups. They routinely demand tax holidays for corporations. Will they give ordinary taxpayers a “tax holiday” in tough years? Generally, no.
They routinely demand that American soldiers shouldn’t be tried at the Hague, like any other soldier accused of war crimes, and even passed a law to allow the U.S. to invade the Hague to do so. Never mind that we signed the treaties that hold our soldiers accountable to that, and that that makes it the highest law of the land under the Constitution.
They routinely insist that America should not be held to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s standards. Or the UN Charter’s standards.. Or the Chemical Weapons Convention and its standards. Or the Biological Weapons Convention and its standards. Or the Geneva Convention and its standards.
Every time conservatives say that regulation is choking businesses, they are saying, “Businesses need special rules because they can’t compete under what we have”. Sure, sometimes that may be a valid statement. But how many times is this argument brought up? How often do we hear that small businesses should be exempt from the rules larger businesses have to play by?
So, no, no one supporting Black Lives Matter or supporting community-based policing or wanting to decriminalize and legalize drugs or wanting to stop the cycle of solitary confinement are demanding a separate rule of law for the poor and the rich, or blacks and whites, or Hispanics and whites.
It’s conservatives doing that.
This article was written by Frederic Christie, a writer for dusk magazine.