Racism, Police and CNN’s Sally Kohn

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made some good points about the recent killings of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn. He said, “…it’s certainly true that we have been treated to about three to four months of propaganda about how the police are the enemy. [About how] the police are the problem. [About how] they are the major problem between the police and the black community.”

Giuliani also pointed out that such a killing of a New York City police officer has not happened since 1988. Ideas and attitudes have consequences, and in recent months the hostility towards police generated by media talking heads, professional intellectuals and others have been relentless.

Giuliani wondered why someone with an African-American child, and worried about that son being killed, would “talk to him about the one percent of the time, which is the police, and not the 92 percent of the time, which are all of the other people in the neighborhood who are the ones more likely to kill him.” Another good point. The numbers don’t fit with the concern for innocent black people dying. It’s almost as if the anti-cop people want to find evidence of white racism against black people, even if it’s not nearly the problem the numbers lead us to believe. [Source: Newsmax.com 12/21/14]

The interesting thing about anti-police talk is the lack of an alternative. People who bash the police and at least implicitly encourage going after all of them, on principle, appear to assume that we don’t need them. Yet a state of anarchy is just as dangerous as a government that does too much, or does the wrong things. In a state of anarchy, we would not have police to protect us from genuinely bad people. I define bad people as initiators of force — killers, rapists, thieves and thugs. Who wants to live in a world where such people are allowed to run free?

Remember that the kind of police we have reflect the kind of government we have. The kind of government we have, in turn, reflects the underlying dominant ideas of a culture, primarily the ideas held by the intellectuals and thinkers who advise people in our governments. Not everyone listens to professional intellectuals, but everybody cannot help but absorb a certain set of ideas and attitudes that are ultimately conveyed in the actions of government officials and — in the most basic case — the police on the beat.

As an example of how the typical intellectual (or what passes for an intellectual) encourages leaders and citizens to think, here’s what CNN’s Sally Kohn recently wrote in an op-ed:

When black people are protesting in Ferguson and across America, they’re not protesting against white people. Maybe this seems obvious, but it’s worth stating. In fact, in the case of Ferguson, the protests weren’t (primarily) about one white cop. Black communities are ultimately protesting systems of injustice and inequality that structurally help white people while systematically harming black people. Just because you’re white and therefore generally benefit from those systems doesn’t mean you inherently support those systems — or need to defend them. Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice.

Privilege is like oxygen: You don’t realize it’s there until it’s gone. As white folks, we can’t know what it’s like to go through life without racial privilege because we literally haven’t.

These are the sort of ideas that are undermining the police, and allowing mindless, crude activists such as Al Sharpton to stir people up against an enemy that doesn’t really exist.

Kohn thinks she’s attacking racism here, but she’s utilizing the wrong definition of racism. Racism refers to making race the most important factor in a person’s psyche, mindset or value system. If you make the fact a person is white the dominant or most important characteristic of a white person, then you’re just as racist — by this definition — as if you make the fact of someone being black, Asian or any other race or color the most significant factor.

Kohn attempts to evade this proper definition of racism by encouraging people to adopt a policy of determinism (or fatalism). In other words, “You’re white and you can’t help but be racist.” So what, then? What are we guilty white people supposed to do about this fact? Aren’t some of us guiltier than others? Isn’t there a distinction between a white person who joins a white supremacist group as opposed to a white person who could not care less about what anyone’s race is? Not according to Kohn’s premises. She’s basically saying that racism — which she labels “privilege” — is inevitable, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

Kohn’s ideas are easily refutable by anyone who engages in a few minutes of thought. All you have to think about is somebody who is racist, and somebody else who isn’t. What this shows you is that people have free will. They can choose different attitudes and beliefs, and they can also choose whether or not to act on them. People are not helpless over what they think and feel, and nothing is inevitable.

Yet people like Kohn feed a lot of people’s fears they are helpless over their minds. She also feeds a lot of unearned and neurotic guilt. What’s she after here? I don’t know for sure, but most likely she’s after what most people are after who make these kinds of proclamations: More government control over the economy and over people’s private lives, so that government may play the role of redistributor and nationalizer in favor of the “progressive” social goals people like Kohn typically advocate. That’s what activist government is all about: Not progress so much as control. Not limited government, minimal taxes and a government exit from major spheres such as education, health care and the financial industry; instead, more and more government intervention, in all areas of life, all the time. But in order to control, you need police — and lots of them.

It’s quite ironic. On the one hand, we’re told that we must hate police, because police (at least when they’re white) exercise arbitrary and unjust power over (always) innocent black people. Yet on the other side, we must give the government even more power, money and ability to make arbitrary edicts so that it may shape people into the sort of citizens that progressives like Kohn feel they should be. Yet there’s a huge contradiction here. If whites are hopelessly and inevitably racist, then how are they to be shaped and molded into the types of people she would consider ideal? It makes no sense on even its own terms.

The murderer of these two NYPD police officers was reportedly an insane, imbalanced individual who probably would have done something violent eventually anyway. I’m not suggesting his actions be categorized as a political act, or an act of terrorism. However, with intellectuals, media people and self-serving activists like Kohn stirring up emotions against police and in favor of the claim that we’re all more racist than we really believe, it creates a climate in which killers feel more free to vent their rage. It gives them an odd kind of permission. No, I am not implying there should by any form of censorship here. But I sincerely wish more people would question the obvious lunacy in these ideas, since they’re designed to foster unearned guilt and will ultimately lead to only more of the racism we’re supposed to be moving beyond.



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