Ambulance-Chasing Opportunism

Shelby Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who is critical of the civil rights movement, and of leftism in general. In The Wall Street Journal, he recently wrote that there are two tragedies as a result of the Trayvon Martin slaying.

The first tragedy, he says, is the death of a teenager who at the time was unarmed and committing no crime. “Dressed in a ‘hoodie,’ a costume of menace, he crossed paths with a man on the hunt for precisely such clich of menace,” Steele writes.

The second tragedy, says Steele, is that even after the strides in civil rights during the 1960s, black Americans continued to base their group identity on the victimization by whites. “We could not have made a worse mistake,” Steele writes in the Journal. “It has given us a generation of ambulance-chasing leaders, and the illusion that our greatest power lies in the manipulation of white guilt.”

“The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ubiquitous icons of black protest, virtually battled each other to stand at the bereaved family’s side — Mr. Jackson, in a moment of inadvertent honesty, saying, ‘There is power in blood … we must turn a moment into a movement.’ And then there was the spectacle of black Democrats in Congress holding hearings on racial profiling with Trayvon’s parents featured as celebrities,” Steele says.

The comments by Steele reportedly brought a storm of furious reaction from the White House and civil rights activists.

Of course Steele’s comments provoked rage. Steele is a black man. He’s supposed to think like Obama and the civil rights movement claims all black people think. The fact that he doesn’t pokes major holes in their racist assumptions that ideology is determined by race, that there is a ‘white reality’ and an “African-American reality’ and that you’re destined to be a victimizer in one case, and a victim in the other.

I recently wrote an article in the Daily Dose of Reason criticizing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for their ambulance-chasing opportunism, rushing to the crime scene of Trayvon Martin, before the facts could be collected, to declare that Martin was the victim of institutional racism. I questioned how this could be, given that the American government is now controlled by the policies of the very people who are seeking to undermine capitalism, individual liberty, private property and all the things they erroneously consider to be exclusively ‘white’ values.

A liberal reader of my article wrote in the following: ‘You diminish [Trayvon Martin’s] life by asking an inciting question like, ‘What if Trayvon was White, and Zimmerman was anything but White?”

So let me get this straight. A young man is killed, perhaps unjustly. The details are unclear and may never be known. Prominent civil rights celebrities rush to the scene and declare the facts are known after all, and to suggest otherwise makes you a racist. I criticize them for turning the crime scene into an opportunity. And this makes me an ‘inciter’? I’m simply responding to what they incited, not the other way around!

This is a liberal tactic. I see it all the time from the hate mail I receive. I also see it from the way non-liberals are routinely attacked throughout the media, academia and in today’s culture. (Liberals are not kind and sensitive people, not in their politics, at least.) Like dictators, they call any disagreement with their views ‘inflammatory’ or ‘inciting.’

What does this mean, exactly? These terms refer to a call to violent action, or at a minimum a call to violent protest. Jesse Jackson says there is ‘power in blood.’ Isn’t this inciting? Why isn’t this a target of the liberal’s attack? It won’t be, and obviously being ‘inciting’ is not the real offense here, not in the mind of this liberal.

Whatever it started out as, the civil rights movement in 2012 is nothing more than a victim parade. That’s why its leaders are nothing more than warmed over leftovers from the 1970s and 1980s, such as Sharpton and Jackson. The psychological state of these men is not hard to understand. They’re seeking out new prominence in a world that has forgotten them. No doubt they want money and attention, too.

What about others? The need to be seen as a victim, even when you’re not, comes from a certain kind of despair. It’s the mentality of someone who has more or less given up on life. ‘I’m not going to achieve anything of worth in life. So I’ll have to get attention in some other way.’ This leads the person with the victim mentality to distort facts, jump to conclusions or look for ‘gotcha’ moments where they can claim victimhood. The sympathy and adoration they experience while being a victim is the only way they know to get it. They have nothing else to offer, or at least feel that they don’t.

This is what people who sympathize with this ambulance-chasing pathology are enabling and endorsing. In the process, through their sympathies, they perhaps reveal something about their own inner mental states.