On Thursday afternoon, Philadelphia protesters gathered around city hall to protest police brutality. Being that I live in Philadelphia, I decided to attend the first hour to further understand their grievances. I don’t agree with the narrative of “white racism”, nor do I think police are entirely at fault (more on that later). My observations confirmed what I expected to see, but were equally enlightening.
A large group surrounded the leaders of the protest. They spoke from a mega phone to a crowd that chanted their every word on command. Each speaker addressed a different perspective and each were variably infuriating to me. Many of these ideologues, though well-intended, seemed more concerned with perpetuating their own narrative rather than addressing the much bigger problem at hand.
The first man I heard was clearly anti-capitalist. He justified the burning of CVS because “it’s not a mom and pop store” and “evil corporations drove them out of our neighborhoods”. I find this repulsive. For one, many “mom and pop” stores were destroyed in Baltimore, and failing to acknowledge that undermines their significant loss. Furthermore, by destroying CVS, you are also destroying what little employment opportunity remains in Baltimore, thus negatively affecting the very people you claim to represent. Why is there such scarce employment? Not because of CVS.
The second speaker, a young black woman, was much more convincing. She spoke about major problems that are much more tangible than “white racism”. Her main grievances were the drug war, criminal justice system, and broken education. Unfortunately, she didn’t acknowledge it as a failure of government, but it was still refreshing to hear something other than “racism”. At least she acknowledged a government program. My favorite part of her speech, which almost had me with a fist in the air, was her chant that “all lives matter”. She even mentioned all the races and said “whites are our brothers; even if you don’t see it. Police brutality is everyone’s problem”. To be honest, I didn’t expect to hear that from her.
Speaking to protestors was entertaining just as much as it was frustrating. Some were full blown socialists using the opportunity to push minimum wage and other redistribution schemes. In many ways, the protest was just as much anti-capitalist as it was about Freddie Gray. I saw signs reading “white silence is violence”. On the other hand, there was a group of young black boys (about 8 to 12 years old) impressively performing various dances and another group singing traditional African music in full dress.
Rather than perpetuating racial divides, these protestors were sending a more unifying message: stand with us in solidarity by observing an artistic expression that doesn’t have spiteful signs. I thoroughly enjoyed watching instead of being lectured about my “white supremacy”.
One particular thing stuck out to me: not a single mention or awareness that government central planning has resulted in socioeconomic racial disparity. They continually chanted “stand up with your hands up”. While I can sympathize with their feeling of disparity, it left me with a big question: who are you standing up against? White people? The police? I certainly didn’t inflict any of these grievances, nor do I believe every police officer wakes up in the morning thinking “how many black people can I shoot today”.
In other words, they seem to miss the bigger picture based on their own satisfactory narrative. This does not mean there is no racial disparity, but the protests were narrow-minded and misguided. Frankly, it’s just as much a narrative as whatever litany of mainstream media narratives, but only a different perspective.
The left cries racism, the right says “black thug”, and the media shows you images of burning cities. They’re all wrong in their own way, but they’re all far too simplistic to draw meaningful solutions.
Government policy dating back to the first minimum wage, which was nothing more than a eugenics plot, began the journey that finds us here. Post-civil rights era education policy left blacks behind and opened the door to centralized education that has thus far been a total failure. At the time, it was the equivalent of taking a person from community college and dropping them off at Harvard, but then acting surprised when they can’t keep up. In fact, research has found that school integration was a net loss for black educational attainment.
As if that wasn’t enough, the liberal bureaucrats created the Great Society. Since minimum wage and failing education left them behind, they “fixed” the problem by “helping” them. Family units declined and single mother’s sky rocketed. They’re now forced to choose: minimum wage job (if they can find one) or higher paying welfare. The decision is obvious to anyone in that situation, and so began generational poverty. It’s no surprise that the Great Society coincides with a mass exodus of blacks from the labor market.
Drug prohibition proved to be another government policy imposed on blacks. From all the aforementioned policies, the result was less employment and generational poverty. Here comes this lucrative opportunity to provide your family with food. Only one problem: it’s illegal.
Since they’re in abject poverty, the benefits far outweigh the risks. The decision is an easy one. As a result, blacks become increasingly conflicted with police officers, who they see as diminishing what little opportunity they have left. Police officers do their job under the order of higher bureaucrats playing statistical games to their own end. Not that it justifies brutality, but prohibition plus bureaucratic aggrandizing makes it inevitable. Thus, the poorer, easier-to-convict blacks are adversely affected by zealous policing policies.
We have reached a storm of policies for which no one will address or think to change. In past articles on my website, I have more detailed the causes of racial disparity as well as offered solutions for reversing the incumbent trend. It pains me to see fellow humans suffering under a divisive guise. Thankfully, the Philly protests ended much differently than Baltimore and my hometown is peaceful.
I hope we can see beyond these petty narratives and address the decades of policy failure. America is not a country filled with racism. We have evolved, but policy makers wrongly thought they could legislate our black citizens into prosperity. Their abysmal failure to do so must be acknowledged before any real change and progress can be made.