“Hand ups, don’t shoot” is a meme used by professional protestors, celebrities, even NFL players during pre-game warm-up.
The problem is, it never happened.
Michael Brown didn’t put his hands up – he put his fists out. Brown attacked a police officer and then tried to take his gun.
“Justice for Michael” is equally inaccurate sloganeering. Michael Brown is no Medgar Evers. He’s not James Earl Chaney, Jimmy Lee Jackson, or even James Reeb. Brown wasn’t struck down struggling for civil rights or equality. He started a street fight with a cop.
Agitators chanting “No Justice, No Peace” have taken to mobbing restaurants, bullying diners with angry diatribes. Their stated goal – for participants who actually understand it – is to make the general public so fearful and uncomfortable they’ll support nebulous anti-law enforcement policies activists are demanding. There’s another name for this tactic.
No one is saying Brown deserved to die. But even Eric Holder’s DOJ investigation, like the Grand Jury, found no wrong-doing by Officer Williams. So if we are going to do anything more than shout at each other, we must at least be honest about what actually happened.
We need a real conversation about our criminal justice system. We need to talk about the militarization of police and actual instances of excessive force – like Eric Garner and Kelly Thomas. We must talk about forfeiture abuses, mandatory minimums, and overzealous surveillance. We need to talk about pension costs and reform.
And, we need to talk about communities where crime is so pervasive, it is understandable that almost everyone is suspect. Michael Brown’s casual brutality of the store owner and violent encounter with a police officer were not isolated incidents, it is a narrative that is repeated time and time again.
Failing schools, rising crime, and government dependency destroy self-worth and create a cycle that cheapens life and glorifies criminality. Gangs are devouring whole communities. Abject poverty, hopelessness, and desperation breed distrust that is tearing communities apart from within, while law enforcement tries – perhaps in vain – to maintain order. In the midst of this miasma, confrontation is all but inevitable.
It is the same potion of desperation that breeds radicalism all over the world. Hopeless abnegation always seeks a target to vent its rage.
Too many of our citizens are trapped in this cycle of government dependency and failing schools. There is little hope for a future other than the improbability of becoming a professional athlete or an entertainer making money glorifying gangs and violence which they leave behind as soon as they can afford a house in Bel Aire. For most, with little opportunity and fewer options , gangs and crime seem like an option. The result is more Michael Browns. The results are in our prisons, morgues, and on our streets.
Those who cash in by exploiting racial tensions for political and economic gain aren’t trying to solve problems – only to capitalize on them. Al Sharpton launched his career by ginning up racial tensions, organizing protests and exploiting Tawana Brawley, while falsely accusing the police and a prosecutor of raping her.
Professional agitators like Sharpton depend on tensions and an enraged base to keep them in office or fund their political lifestyle – which is far removed from the desperate situation of those they are exploiting. And the media gives these provocateurs a platform, dramatized with scenes of riots and outraged mobs that generate headlines and b-roll.
The inflammatory rhetoric is not intended to solve problems, it is designed to exploit them. At best, it is a distraction that prevents rational discussions from taking place. At worst, it’s a terror tactic – threats of violence and disruption designed to force political action.
The situation in some communities is as bleak as any strife-riddled third-world country. It is politically, economically and morally wrong to let it continue. But targeting cops isn’t the answer.
My experience, working with law enforcement on the front lines and in top management, is that most of them are dedicated and eager to ensure the highest levels of service and integrity. But prurient criticism, bloviating protests, and violent attacks cause them to close ranks to protect their honor and their lives.
We need to shove the angry professional instigators out of the limelight and off the screen so the adults can start talking about ways to actually help people.
Education or vocational training are the surest path to a better life, that’s why we must start by fixing broken schools. We must liberate schools from the iron grip of unions that have controlled them for half a century, and give parents and communities more choice.
We’ve seen power of education innovative at schools like Downtown College Prep in San Jose, an inner city school that now helps send a majority of students to college rather than to jail.
Owning a small business and/or buying a home – and passing either on to your children – are time-tested ways to build capital that also make communities better. But it is getting harder to do either.
President Obama recently announced his plan to increase taxes on homes, and California Legislators are talking about reducing Prop 13 protections that keep homeownership affordable.
High taxes, confusing tax codes, burdensome regulations, and expanding mandates are strangling small businesses. Big corporations and unions can absorb – or get exempted – from costly mandates that simply crush small businesses.
Escalating crime and growing distrust of police in inner-city neighborhoods were not caused by police. They are a byproduct of the absence of opportunity and self-worth. The death of any young person is a tragedy. But it’s a tragedy that will be repeated with greater frequency unless the adults take control away from the professional demagogues, and start working to restore hope and opportunity.