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Friday, January 2, 2015

Obeying The Wizard By Not Looking Behind The Curtain

Toward the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions confront the Wizard in order to force him to deliver on his promises. The Wizard, a man-made apparition, tells Dorothy et al not to look at the man behind the curtain who was to the side of the Wizard. And while Dorothy and her 3 friends complied, Toto did not as he kept pulling back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard was a fraud, he was only a mere man.

When confronting the conflict between the Black Lives Matter movement and police departments, such as the NYPD, we are often commanded to not look behind the curtain of the actions that take place, to not be a Toto. Thus, when citizens commit crimes or when police either overreact or commit crimes in response, we are often told to take those actions at face value. And an example of doing so can be seen in a couple of articles written by radio talk-show host, Carl Jackson. Jackson endured a very difficult early life only to become a zealous Christian and political conservative. We should note that Jackson's conservatism seems to have moved him to scapegoat nonconservatives for many of the problems Blacks have experienced.

Here, this blog will review two of Jackson's opinion pieces that appeared in the Christian Post: Hands Up, Won't Shoot: Black Protest Is Not Black Progress and 'They Can't Breathe': A Salute To New York City's Finest. In reviewing his writings here, this blog will compare them to the writings of other Blacks who have commented on the recent conflict between Black Lives Matter and the police with its supporters. 

In the first opinion article mentioned, it seems that Jackson plays fast and loose with the facts. The title itself, is not what was chanted by the protesters.  Protesters were chanting, 'hands up, don't shoot,' and 'hands up, don't shop'--the latter chant was also used in NYC on Black Friday.  The accuracy of his claim that 'the Watts riots were the first urban race riots driven by blacks,' revolves around the word 'driven.' For there had been plenty of race riots before 1965, but many of them pitted Whites against Blacks. However, the Harlem riots of 1935, 1943 and 1964, as well as the Philadelphia riot of 1964 consisted of the response by Blacks  either rumored or actual acts of police violence against Blacks (for a list of race riots, please click here and scroll down to riots in the United States). The Birmingham riot of 1963 was a response to bombings of Black targets.

We should note that the inaccuracies do not end there. In focusing on the Watts riot, Jackson stated that it was White Communists and hippies, it is not clear whether Jackson makes a distinction between the two groups, who used 'protest, altercation, and arrest' to draw attention to the issues. According to Jackson, key members in the Black community imitated these Communists or hippies in how they protested. And here, we have a suggested merging of protests with riots. Jackson states that the rioting had replaced the 'gradualist' approach of people like Martin Luther King Jr. And so Jackson goes on to draw a parallel between the rumor based riots of Watts with that of Ferguson. We should note that Jackson boldly asserts that Michael Brown aggressively attacked the officer despite the conflicting testimony presented to the Grand Jury and the criticisms of Missouri's Attorney General of the prosecutor's case presented to the Grand Jury.

Jackson is not finished in his blaming Liberals, hippies, and Communists for the race riots in Watts and Ferguson as well as the plight of Blacks in America today. He accuses people like Frances Fox Piven of telling Blacks to choose welfare over 'low-level jobs.' 

Just to offer some challenges to this opinion article by Jackson, we should note that while he calls King's approach a gradualist one, King condemned the gradualist approach to gaining Civil Rights. In his I Have A Dream speech (click here), King said the following:
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy…It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.
King preferred a militant approach to protesting. But his militancy was nonviolent and his objections to rioting revolved around the use of violence, not sudden change or provocation. King opposed the riots for both moral and practical reasons. In addition, King did not share Jackson's view of those who rioted because of racism. King said the following about riots (click here):
A riot is a language of the unheard

and
The riots in Negro ghettos have been, in one sense, merely another expression of the growing climate of violence in America. When a culture begins to feel threatened by its own inadequacies, the majority of men tend to prop themselves up by artificial means, rather than dig down deep into their spiritual and cultural wellsprings. America seems to have reached this point.1
And so while Jackson would like to scapegoat nonconservatives for the riots of Watts in the '60s and Ferguson today, King, though he adamantly opposed these tactics, saw riots differently. And lest anyone think that King was only referring to the domestic turmoil at the time, in his speech against the Vietnam War, King linked our government's use of violence overseas with the use of violence by Black youths in the city.

We also need to address Jackson's assertion about White liberals telling Blacks that they should seek welfare rather than work in the form of 'low-level' jobs. For example, he makes that claim about Frances Fox Piven. The problem here is that while Piven did tell low income people to apply for welfare, it wasn't for the same reason which Jackson suggests. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Piven believed in a guaranteed income for all. And her concern in telling people to apply for welfare was that some who qualified were not seeking help because they didn't know how to. In addition, Piven was also cared about the working poor (click here).

But most egregious Jackson's contention that false rumors initiated the riots in Watts in the 1960s and Ferguson today. Such suggests that these riots would have occurred if Blacks have never suffered from racism and police violence. That these single instances triggered Black rage and that those on the Left taught Blacks how to express that rage. This is where Jackson is obeying the Wizard by refusing to look at what is behind the curtain where Black activism was occurring. 

In America, we seem to have a tremendous emotional and cognitive disconnect with the profound and pervasive sins of oppression we have committed against those from selected races. We seem to have no clue why some Blacks and other minority members behave the way they do because we have not admitted to ourselves how we might react if we were treated in the same way we treated others. 

Jackson continues his tirade against nonconservatives in the other article cited above: "They Can't Breathe": A Salute To New York City's Finest (click here).  He mentions the alleged chant by protesters calling for dead cops even though the TV station that had reported the chant apologized for their editing that caused viewer to believe that was what the protesters chanted (click here and compare the dates of Jackon's article with the news article). He goes on to  report on the murderer who, in cold blood, assassinated two New York City police officers. And while Jackson cannot determine whether the assassin's religion, Muslim Brotherhood, or his mental illness was the leading factor in causing this man to slaughter the police officers, he pre-emptively castigates the "left-wing" media for their placing the blame on the man's mental illness. 

Jackson states that after the cold-blooded killings of the two NYPD officers and the Ferguson riots, that neither police officers nor Black youths are safe. Why? Because 'racepreneurs' on the Left, the Left includes Obama, Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and de Blasio, will frame the conversation on race in ways that endanger the police. In fact, Jackson accuses these racepreneurs of being accomplices in the ambushing of the two police officers. As a result, Black youths will be in danger because there will be fewer police officers rather than more. Jackson makes these assertions without presenting neither data nor the dynamics of why this would occur. In other words, there is no looking behind the curtain where our problems stand. There is no attempt to identify more than one or two factors and every attempt to use the tragedies of both police violence and the assassination of police officers to castigate nonconservatives. 

If one wanted to look at more thoughtful piece on the police assassinations, the shooting of unarmed Black police officers, and recent protests and riots, one would do much better by reading Kareem Abdul Jabbar's article in Time Magazine (click here). For in this article, Jabbar looks at the 'institutionalized racism' that has triggered the protests. We should note that Blacks from all ideologies and many occupations have experienced this racism. Black Conservative Christians have reported being harassed by police officers because of their race as well as off duty Black police officers. 

An even more profound analysis of the racism of his day comes from Martin Luther King Jr. King stated that we could not separate racism from other problems such as poverty, materialism, and militarism. For not only do these problems feed of each other, they have the same cause: living in a thing-oriented, rather than person-oriented, society. 

Now many of us may not like either Jabbar's or King's assessment because it calls for all of us to change. And change is our least favorite hobby or occupation. That is because change takes the most energy. Our reluctance to change has caused many of us to regard Black victims of police violence in the same way as how some have treated rape victims. Rather than acknowledging the horrible crime that has been committed, their first response is to ask how the rape victim might have initiated the crime by their behavior.

So when both we are satisfied with the status quo and there is great injustice in our society, to quell the impulse to change we demand that our society's victims be qualified for canonization to sainthood before we are willing to give them a hearing and to consider change. And any flaw in their behavior or character could be used by us to both their victim status and the need for all to change. 

Of course, we make this judgment with a conflict of interests since changing is our last preference. And this is what those police officers who are guilty of abusing their power and of racism would have us do. Why? They wish to void themselves of accountability for their actions. And it isn't just police officers who are doing this, it is many who are in power today. And the spike in authority figures fleeing from accountability began with our federal government's continued response to 9-11.

But what are we to make of Carl Jackson's slipshod treatment of facts and superficial analysis of racism and police abuse of power? His earlier cited biography might give us some clues. For Jackson had a very rough earlier life and he was saved, both from troubles in this life and in an eternal sense by embracing the Christian faith. And with that embracing of that faith came a close association of conservative politics with something that is very legitimate in his life. 

Such an association might make it tough for Jackson to look at the above issues objectively. So he becomes tribal in how he attacks liberals and Leftists--I am not sure if he knows the difference--as he would attack anyone who would potentially set upon his Christian faith. In fact, my guess, and this is a guess, is that he would have a difficult time distinguishing between where his Christian faith ends and where political conservatism begins. And such is unfortunate because instead of looking behind the curtain at the details and dynamics of some important problems, he settles for superficial analysis and opportunities to scapegoat political nonconservatives with whom he disagrees. Such an attitude both hurts the national conversations we can have on police violence, racism, and crime as well as it discredits the Gospel.  

Our society needs to host multiple conversations between police officers and those in the Black community. Both sides need to listen to the grievances each group has and the difficulties each group lives through. It is only then that perhaps we can reduce the instances of police violence, abuse of power, and racist actions on one hand and criminal activity on the other hand. Jackson's articles do not positively contribute to the fostering of these conversations. And one of the reasons why his articles provide no help here is because he seems content with a superficial understanding of the problems where the curtain hiding those problems is never pulled back so that the problems could be thoroughly examined.





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