By Edward Achorn
I appear from time to time on a public television show in Rhode Island called “A Lively Experiment.” Each episode concludes with an outrage or kudo of the week from each guest.
My outrage this week was the attempted assassination of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in Compton, California. A suspect approached their car and shot them in the face.
Outside the hospital where they were taken, protesters (how quickly they are dispatched!) chanted, “Let them die!”
Moments after the shooting one man in the street taking a selfie video seemed gleeful about the violence.
“Ohhhh! … Ohh, two sheriffs shot in the face! Two sheriffs shot in the face! They trippin’. It’s going up in Compton! (N-words) bust on the police, (N-word). (N-word), they just got aired out! Somebody ran up on the car and bust on they ass, right through the window, in the face and all, (N-word)!”
A sustained message
I argued that the sustained message by sports, corporations and the news media that police as a group are incorrigibly racist inevitably leads to attacks on the police.
I further maintained that there are systems in place for holding bad police officers accountable, and that mob justice, riots and violence are not the answer.
Love, peace, and the rule of law are the answer.
I do not know how badly the deputies are injured.
One officer, a 24-year-old-man who was shot in the forehead, was miraculously released from the hospital within a week of the shooting. But how much of his capacity for a normal life has been destroyed?
Another officer, a 31-year-old mother of a six-year-old boy, was still in the hospital as I write this.
A racist system?
The position of Black Lives Matters activists at the hospital seemed to be that the victims deserved it as agents of an inherently racist system.
I don’t believe they deserved it. I don’t believe indiscriminate violence is the path to social justice. It’s the path to chaos and hatred.
Americans were justly outraged by the initial footage of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, while Mr. Floyd gasped and said he could not breathe. It seemed de facto evidence of egregious abuse.
Later, further footage revealed that Mr. Floyd had made the statement in the back of a police car, as well, when no one was brutally kneeling on him. And an autopsy found no signs of asphyxiation and that Mr. Floyd had a “fatal level” of fentanyl in his system. When the officers asked him if he had taken drugs, he had answered no.
The officers in that case are charged with crimes, and our legal system will adjudicate that matter. Police officers deserve due process — as does every person they arrest.
But America did not deserve the brand of systemic racism for this case. Those who want to portray the nation that way exploited the horrifying initial video to divide Americans and unleash a wave of violence in American cities. Riots ruined black neighborhoods, killed black people, and destroyed black-owned businesses. Riots have continued for months.
There was no similar outrage over the attempted assassination, which seemed a more cold-blooded effort to murder. By the end of the week, people had mostly moved on.
The persistent message of sports organizations, corporations and the news media that police are racist — even black officers under black chiefs with black mayors — has had predictable results. The narrative is endangering police and reducing their willingness to get involved in potentially violent situations. That will make the world more dangerous for all of us.
In Minneapolis, where officials voted to defund the police in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death, violent crime is through the roof.
The American Way
Most Americans, polls suggest, do not support this narrative. Black Americans want more police protection, rather than less. A majority of Americans, black and white, oppose the riots.
Maybe I am naïve. But most Americans, I believe, emphatically oppose the mistreatment of minorities (or anyone) by police. They do, however, want police empowered to restrain violent criminals of all races.
Reforms of the police should be the result of peaceful interactions with people whom police serve and with their elected representatives. We have the means to resolve our problems peacefully, through our free institutions. Existing laws criminalize racial injustice and protect civil rights.
Violence and hatred are not the answer.
(Read Edward Achorn’s books about American history.)