We The People Speaking.
By: Lt. General, U.S. Army Retired
June 21, 2020
RACISM REDEFINED, ETC
Politics combined with bad events too often leads to a rush to bad policy. This is not breaking news, but it is, unfortunately, too often true. Why is that the case?
One of the principle reasons is that we get caught up in the moment and consumed by emotion and perceptions rather than taking a deep breath and looking at the facts associated with the issue. This article is about a little history, current events and two questions. 1) Have we in the past month redefined racism? 2) Are we consumed with emotion and ignoring the facts?
RACISM, HISTORICAL CONTEXT: General Ulysses Grant, commander of the federal forces in the Civil War, believed in abolishing slavery. He was a champion of African Americans and throughout the Civil War used his influence and leadership to assist slaves escaping from the Confederate states. President Lincoln, a Republican, agreed with General Grant.
Although President Lincoln had previously “freed” all slaves by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1863, during the siege of Richmond Virginia, the final months of the Civil War in 1865, General Grant and President Lincoln met frequently to discuss and plan for what freedom and equality should mean for the freed slaves. Their plan included the right to own property, to vote and hold office. The freed slaves would have access to all educational opportunities, public transportation and commercial activities; the rights enjoyed by every white citizen. Black Americans would finally be aligned with the basis of our democracy guaranteed in the Constitution that “all men are created equal.”
The Civil War ended when General Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April the 9th, 1865. Five days later President Lincoln was assassinated. The vision President Lincoln and General Grant had for the freed slaves died with the President.
Lincoln’s Vice President, Andrew Johnson, a Republican, was sworn in as president. Johnson was a weak, indecisive president and sided with the powerful Democrat leaders in the Confederate states to restrict the freedoms for the freed slaves. The grand Lincoln/Grant plan for post-war reconstruction never came to fruition.
One of the darkest periods in American history, from 1868 through the early 1870s the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) functioned as a loosely organized group of political and social terrorists. The Klan’s goals included the political defeat of the Republican Party and the maintenance of absolute white supremacy in response to newly gained civil and political rights by southern blacks. Fact, THAT WAS PURE RACISM.
It is estimated that there was a KKK organization in nearly every county in the former Confederate states. President Johnson turned a blind eye to the KKK devastation. After becoming president in1869, Grant used US military forces to attempt to crush Klan activity in the South. However, white supremacy gradually reasserted its hold on the South as support for Reconstruction waned; by the end of 1876, the entire South was under Democratic control once again.
At its peak in the 1920s, Klan membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide. Today the Klan’s identity is unclear and their numbers are estimated to be less than three thousand.
For a period of 99 years, from 1865 until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democratic party was the party of segregation. Black Americans could not walk into a restaurant of choice, sit down and order a meal; NO BLACKS ALLOWED, the sign on the door read. Blacks could not attend a school of choice; segregation meant 100% black/white separation in education. Blacks could not take a seat of choice on public transportation; BLACKS SIT IN THE BACK OF THE BUS, the sign said. WHITE ONLY WATER FOUNTAIN, the sign said.
Racism defined: Segregation, supported by the Democrat party for 100 years, was pure, unadulterated, unambiguous, in-your-face racism. That was racism defined by facts.
Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregation illegal in all states. But the Democrat party did not relent easily; 90% of lawmakers from states that were in the Union during the Civil War supported the bill compared with less than 10% of lawmakers from states that were in the Confederacy.
Fast forward to today where we define racism and racist in a different way. I believe we can credit Hillary Clinton for the new methodology. On September 9th, 2016 during a presidential campaign speech, Hillary stood behind a tel-prompter and read these prepared remarks, “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” In two short sentences she defamed me and about 75 million of my closest friends. Which, by the way, many believe was the beginning of the end for her campaign.
The lasting impact of that insane Clinton speech was to make it OK to throw around the word “racist” with complete disregard for facts to the contrary. For example, it is now proper to label all nine hundred thousand cops racist because of a very few tragic interactions between police and black men.
When I say, “very few” I mean it. Back to some facts. In 2018 police, while they had an estimated 50 million official interactions with the public, killed 47 unarmed persons; 23 white, 17 black, 5 Hispanic, and 2 unknowns.
Looking at the numbers, each of those deaths was, literally, about a one-in-a-million happenstance. Each one was tragic, especially for family and friends, but, back to facts, we do not live in a perfect world; bad things happen. Bad things will always happen. Case in point; On 17 June, officer Garrett Rolfe and Rayshard Brooks, according to the video tape, were having as calm, cool-headed conversation about intoxication when in an instant the situation escalated to a point wherein two men were faced off each with a “deadly weapon”, a taser and a gun. Yes, bad things can and will happen; another one-in-a-million. But one could reach the conclusion that one-in-a-million illustrates tremendous restraint on the part of police.
But, you say, those 17 unarmed blacks killed by police in 2018 represent 36% of the 47 fatalities while Black-Americans make up only 13% of the population. You are correct, BUT. In 2018 those Black-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders and committed about 60% of robberies.
In the current environment, calling someone or some group racist no longer needs to be backed up by facts. It is now acceptable to put a racist label on someone you don’t even know but do it because you are angry at them for something they said or did. But what is even worse, individuals and groups are often publicly called racist for simply having differing opinions on public matters and public policy.
Where has all of this ugly, loose, racist talk gotten us? George Floyd died a tragic death at the hands of Minneapolis policemen. Under the new “rules” for defining racism, at warp speed, accusations were made and conclusions drawn that the Minneapolis police force is fundamentally racist. From that incident, politicians and extremist groups across the nation came to the same conclusion about their cities’ police forces. Defund/disband them. This is a classic example of politics combined with bad events too often leads to bad policy.
Furthermore, what has flowed on from the defund/disband policy is the conclusion that anyone who disagrees with the new policy must therefore also be a racist. Just that easily and just that quickly America became divided on another issue. Why, because sides were drawn up based on emotion and perception vs facts.
The racism issue is further inflamed by discussions over slavery. Senator Tim Kane, 2016 Vice Presidential candidate, Harvard Law School graduate, emphatically exclaimed recently that, “slavery was created in the United States.” Ergo, the US is solely to blame for racism.
This type of inflammatory rhetoric does not pass the history test but does throw gasoline on the racism fire.
The facts, Senator Kane, are as follows: Man’s inhumanity in the form of slavery has been one of the great travesties in the history of mankind. Slavery has existed in almost every civilization, dating back 3500 BC. Furthermore about 600,000 Americans died in our Civil War to decide that slavery should no longer exist in the US. President Lincoln made the ban on slavery official on January 1st, 1863 when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby freeing all slaves.
Leftist Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared, after a few days of protests and violence, “The sheer number of unarmed black people who are killed by police as compared to other groups reveals police brutality for what it is: systemic racism. You have to look at the systemic patterns of policing and how they disproportionately result in the deaths of Black people.”
Governor Walz statement is another prime example of emotional, fact-less rhetoric combined with politics leading to a rush to bad policy, defund/disband the police. How would that work out in Minneapolis given that car-jackings were up 45%, homicides 60%, arson 58% and burglaries 28% from January through May, 2020 compared to the same period last year
Minneapolis is not alone with respect to increasing major crimes. In San Francisco, homicides before the riots this year had increased by 19%, burglaries by 23% and arson by 39%. Philadelphia reported a 28% increase in commercial burglaries, 51% in shootings, 22% in auto theft and 28% in retail theft from last year.
Will defunding/disbanding police forces make these crime stats better? Quite the contrary. I would expect the following to begin happening immediately. Breaking and entering will go off the charts rapidly. This will lead to massive new “community watch” initiatives. Gun sales spiked more than 80 percent in May as consumers responded to safety concerns and civil unrest.
Remember Travon Martin, the 17-year old Black man who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. The case was headline news for months. Hold on to your hat because there will likely be a Martin/Zimmerman situation happening nightly across America when the police are gone, or at least in scarce numbers, or untrained resulting from lack of funds and/or unable to function under new restrictive rules of engagement.
All this mess is application of the classic, “people are entitled to their own opinions, no matter how wrong or off base, but they aren’t entitled to their own facts.” But as Joe Biden said, “We choose truth over facts.” In other words, what feels like the truth takes precedent over the facts. Nice going Joe, and where has that great proclamation gotten us over the past few weeks? I’ll tell you where; more dead people, hundreds of injured police, more hatred, tens of millions in damaged property and a little anarchy in Seattle (or, as the Seattle mayor called it, “a summer of love.”)
If we want to be proactive and actually try to reduce the number of one-in-a-million tragic police actions, why not first look at the hot-heads, the poor performers, the anger management failures inside the police ranks and then do something about it. The police know who these malcontents are but have negotiated such ridiculous agreements with the police unions that they are nearly powerless to get them off the streets.
The union leaders say, “The job of a union is to protect the interest of its members, at any cost.” “At any cost” translated means policemen like Officer Chauvin charged with murdering George Floyd are still on the street in spite of being investigated 17 times in 19 years for misconduct in the line of duty and only disciplined once.
I began the above discussion with two questions; 1) Have we in the past few weeks redefined racism? Yes, I believe the jury is in and they have spoken. We do have a new definition of what racism consists of, emotion and perceptions. 2) Are we consumed with emotion and ignoring the facts? Yes, consumed by, obsessed with and led by emotion and perception. The facts be damned.
This overall impact of all this across the nation is? We have for several years been consumed with a culture of hate and blame. That just got multiplied by some factor yet to be determined. We have made continued progress in reducing factual, in-your-face racism since outlawing segregation in 1964. Have actions over the past few weeks, led by the “left” set us back a few years or decades? Unfortunately, probably yes.
Oh, and don’t forget, by some deductions I am at a loss to understand, all this mess is the fault of the Republicans!?
A final question. What do you do when you have an emergency, call 911 and it goes to voicemail? Think about it.