Ferguson, MO is burning, and wild bands of black people are roaming the streets demanding justice. More likely, they’re setting fire to stores (usually owned by members of their own community), vandalizing and burning vehicles (usually owned by members of their own community), and beating random out-group members whose only fault was being white.
If you’re one of the self-righteous social-justice moral crusaders who thinks they’re going to save the day by “standing with Ferguson”, then you need to read this. I’m talking to you. You’re having the right reaction, but you’ve got the wrong solution.
Here in idyllic Bloomington, Indiana life moves differently than anywhere else around the country. This is a Big Ten college town which is still strongly majority white, and the number of foreign students and non-white students (in-state and out-of-state students combined) creates a unique place where any number of ineffectual liberal do-gooders can try to change the world. The most recent episode of this type of activity in Bloomington was lead by author, feminist, social-justice activist and PCUSA clergywoman Mihee Kim-Kort at her local #NMOS14 demonstration.
Kim-Kort organized a National Moment of Silence demonstration to raise awareness about what’s going on in Ferguson, Mo. The event was organized to provide,
“A chance to be a visible presence speaking out against the violence against our youth and young people, anti-black racism, police brutality, and to mourn and grieve with families of these victims, and those who continue to live under the oppression of such structures.”
Her local demonstration was part of the larger network of NMOS events and rallies around the nation and can be followed on Twitter with #NMOS14. By now everyone should know that Twitter slacktivism doesn’t accomplish much. Well, it does, but not in the real world. You know, the place where people die because of excessive use of force and police brutality?
Kim-Kort’s local NMOS event billed itself as being opposed to violence against youth and young people, anti-black racism, police brutality, and presumably that magically intangible thing called institutionalized racism. Kim-Kort declined to respond to interview questions about her NMOS event, so until she does decide to make her statement more clear I’m left to give it my own interpretation (Don’t say that I didn’t ask you first, Mihee…).
The first part of organizing a demonstration is identifying the group that you are trying to affect a change in. Kim-Kort’s event is self-described as being in opposition to excessive use of force and police brutality against young people and black people. The demonstration should have been directed towards the Bloomington Police Department, or maybe even the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, but instead the demonstration was held outside the city hall after regular working hours. This is generally par for the course for demonstrations in Bloomington. The local Occupiers demonstrated against Chase Bank on a Sunday afternoon when Occupy was still popular. Nothing says revolution quite like shouting at an empty building.
Never mind that they spent their evening holding a demonstration against police brutality on the complete opposite side of the downtown area away from the police department (almost a full mile away!). But, what do they want? The shortest and easiest answer is that they want police brutality and use of excessive force to stop. Good intentions, but bad execution.
I’m as much opposed to police brutality as the next guy, but let’s get realistic here. Kim-Kort’s demonstration had less to do with police brutality than it did with cop-on-black violence. It must have been all too good for her to have found out that the offending cop in the Ferguson, Mo. shooting is a white man. A perfect confluence of social-justice tragedies, and all she had to do was organize a demonstration to cash in on the feel-good.
Okay, but what did the local NMOS participants really want? That’s even easier. They want to feel morally superior and they want to be the ones who get to save the day. Matt Parrott spelled this out in a recent article, saying,
“For most White Saviors, especially hucksters like Glenn Beck, corrupting and shifting the natives’ social and political life to orbit around themselves instead of around traditional, indigenous, local leadership is a feature, not a bug. White Saviors are White Supremacists in disguise, and are as much wolves in the hen house as male feminists. Just as the male feminists have no sincere intention to actually empower women and no observable effect of doing so, White Saviors also fail to actually empower brown people. If brown people were actually empowered, the last thing they would wish to do is praise and grovel to White American interlopers.”
Picture a mob of people standing shoulder to shoulder holding their arms up in a symbolic gesture to say, “Don’t shoot me!” It happened. The pinnacle of their demonstration was performed facing a closed city hall, and with their backs towards the local police department. They’re all posing for a photo. One more time: They’re all posing for a photo. This isn’t even the social-justice equivalent of a circle jerk. It’s nothing less than self-aggrandizing moral masturbation designed to get their conscience off.
There is no indication that Kim-Kort, nor any of her supporters, contacted the Bloomington Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, or even the Bloomington Human Rights office as part of their demonstration. It is well and good to oppose police brutality and excessive force, but Kim-Kort (who couldn’t be bothered to stay for the entirety of the event) isn’t offering any solutions. The real winner at the end of the day was Kim-Kort. She racked up some new Twitter followers and received a pat on the back for being the social-justice crusader of the hour.
The solution to the problem of anti-black cop-on-black violence is to empower the black community to police themselves. Kim-Kort knows what the solution to this problem is, but she won’t commit herself. I’ll give her the benefit of a doubt that she knows the solution because of how extensively she quotes Malcolm X in her recent blog post “#BlackLivesMatter”. The solution is to empower the members of the black community in Ferguson, Mo. to police themselves. Give them black cops from their own community members. Stop treating them like 3/5s of a person, and above all else stop trying to be their savior. They don’t want social-justice do-gooders like Kim-Kort to save them, they want Kim-Kort and her ilk to get out of their communities and to stop telling them how to live.