For most of my lifetime, a vocal mixture of liberals, African Americans, and historians have insisted that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. Until recently, conservatives always responded that this was PC nonsense, and that the flag merely indicated Southern pride.
Of course, within the last few weeks, everyone from NASCAR drivers to Mississippi state legislators have said, “You know what? It is a racist symbol. Let’s get rid of it.” They behave as if they never noticed the overt bigotry before, like they had to squint to see it behind all those stars and bars.
Now, this is the exact same emblem, long championed by the exact same people who are now denouncing it. All of this begs the question of why we have to fight with conservatives over and over again, sometimes sparring for years in heated debate, only to have them eventually discard their supposedly principled arguments, shrug, and say, “Oh yeah, everybody knows that. Old news.”
Nothing exemplifies this abrupt switch from loathing to loving as much as Black Lives Matter. As we all know, until recently it was perfectly acceptable to call BLM a mob of racial agitators or even a terrorist group.
But today, majorities across multiple racial and ethnic groups express support for BLM. In fact, “two-thirds of U.S. adults say they support the movement, with 38% saying they strongly support it.” Not surprisingly, this sentiment is “particularly strong among black Americans, although majorities of Hispanic (77%), Asian (75%) and white (60%), Americans express at least some support.”
Yes, it seems like everybody now supports Black Lives Matter.
Well, maybe not everybody (certainly not these two).
In any case, studies show that the percentage of Americans who consider racism and discrimination a “big problem” has skyrocketed since Trump oozed his way onto the political scene. Currently, three-quarters of Americans think bigotry is a national crisis, but as recently as 2015, barely half of Americans believed that. Furthermore, 57% of voters say that the anger behind the George Floyd demonstrations “is fully justified, while a further 21 percent call it somewhat justified.”
So only about one-quarter of Americans look at the protests and say, “I don’t see what they’re complaining about.” I am sure you will be shocked to know that the people who are most likely to dismiss BLM are white Republicans.
Keep in mind that the GOP “might want government to be ‘smaller’ when it comes to providing essential services, but it wants the violent authority of the state to be a constant intrusion into the day-to-day lives of many Americans, particular the lives of people of color, women and/or poor people.”
This attitude lines up with their standard bearer, old Mr. Racial Reconciliation himself. As we know, Trump is fine with ethnic minorities… as long as they never, ever disagree with him or question his authority in even the slightest way.
However, it is not enough to point out the hypocrisy of Republican attitudes, nor is it sufficient to state that they are woefully out of touch with mainstream American thought (i.e., the Silent Majority is as real as Pizzagate).
It is worth considering what, exactly, the conservative opposition to BLM is based upon.
After all, it is easy to pinpoint what Black Lives Matter protesters stand for (i.e., racial justice and an end to police brutality).
It is more difficult to ascertain what BLM opponents want. The most generous interpretation is that they believe cops are being unfairly maligned and even endangered. This viewpoint, of course, doesn’t line up with statistics that show how the police disproportionally target ethnic minorities. Nor does it sync with the images we have seen over the past few months (unless you think an unarmed septuagenarian hypnotized a good cop into pushing him down and cracking his skull, brainwashed all the other good cops into walking away without offering help, then convinced all of them to lie about it).
So at its best, opposing BLM’s goals requires a strange suspension of disbelief. As we climb the ladder of probable motivations, we encounter familiar unpleasantries such as denial, delusion, fear, weaponized privilege, subconscious racism, and overt hatred.
In case you’re wondering, none of these are good.
All of the white conservatives who insist that racism is not an issue are basically saying that they understand the lives of ethnic minorities better than African Americans and Latinos do themselves. They are saying that we are imagining hostile interactions with cops and racial epitaphs casually tossed our way and smirking slights that can have only one origin.
The white conservative believes that he alone is plugged into the happenings of the urban cities that he avoids as much as possible. The GOP stalwart insists that the 84% of African Americans who say they “contend with discrimination a lot or a great deal” are clearly wrong. And according to Republican guys with their fingers on the pulse of the nation, the one-third of Latinos who say that they have been slurred are just making it up for attention.
No, systematic racism is just your imagination. We know this because conservative suburbanites have told us so.
By the way, statistics show that African American men receive prison sentences nearly 20% longer “than those of white men convicted for the same crimes.”
Be sure to ask some white Republicans if that’s actually true. After all, they are the final authority.