Dr. Ben Carson, one of the more interesting characters running for the GOP nomination, knows who to blame for the riots in Ferguson.
“Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities, where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority,” Carson said. “So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you have really no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system.” […]
“I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me generation,’” he replied. “‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us.”
Gee, and all along I thought it was a cop who shot an unarmed man, not some selfish woman looking to burn a bra.
Except that Michael Brown was raised with a father and a mother. So too was Trayvon Martin, as was Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old in Cleveland who was shot to death by police last week.
There’s another perspective, though, on why there has been seething rage in places like Ferguson or other places where demonstrations against oppression have taken to the streets and rousted the cable news anchors out of the studio. It’s the rage the cameras don’t see or pass by without acknowledging what it is. It is, as Carol Anderson writes in this Washington Post op-ed, the white rage against equality.
Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.
White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash.
So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.
Only then does Ferguson make sense. It’s about white rage.
We have seen this played out in other areas as well. The advancement of LGBT rights and marriage equality has led to a rash of claims of “Christian oppression,” as if 80% of the country suddenly lost their right to worship in their own fashion instead of writing laws and promoting discrimination against the gay community.
This comes from the viewpoint that in order for one group to be granted the rights they are entitled to, someone else has to give up their rights. But where does anyone get the idea that rights and the right to them is a zero sum game? Granting African Americans the right to vote or granting same-sex couples the right to marriage does not require a white person to give up their vote or a straight married couple to get divorced. It doesn’t even dilute them. It strengthens them because letting everyone vote brings out the truth.
What the oppressors are afraid of is that after generations of holding people back, the floodgates will open and those they’ve kept locked up will seek them out and exact revenge for all the wrongs that were done to them. They’re not afraid of the riots or the looting; after all, they have the police to protect them against unarmed teenagers. What they’re most afraid of is that they will vote and elect people who will right the wrongs and enforce the rights. That’s what makes them truly angry.
Bonus: Jon Stewart.
HT to CLW.