Kenosha and Portland
In Kenosha, WI a young white vigilante shot and killed two Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest marchers, wounding a third. In Portland, OR a far-left Antifa supporter in a crowd of BLM protesters shot and killed a far-right Patriot Prayer vigilante. This chaos is intentional on the part of certain elements of both the far-left and the far-right wings of American politics. They crave the media attention, and love being placed center stage in media coverage of American politics. They thrive on the excitement of street fights with their opponents.
BLM displayed its social media messaging skills, and did good service to America, by organizing marchers to protest police killings of unarmed blacks in Minneapolis, Louisville, and other cities. It was especially inspiring to see widespread multiracial participation in most of those protests. The message was that police violence against unarmed blacks was transitioning to a mainstream political issue in the eyes of many Americans of all races. The BLM protests also spotlighted the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on communities of color, and the economic inequality afflicting many black Americans. In one sense the strength of BLM is its absence of organizational hierarchy, so energetic local supporters were inspired to launch and sustain protests in hundreds of cities.
But BLM displays its core weakness by its inability to exclude or control the fringe element of violent protesters and looters who lurk at the edges of the marches. There is no acceptable excuse for the looting which damaged or destroyed thousands of small businesses. Some protesters seem to be opportunistic criminals seeking to loot and steal amidst the chaos. This weakness of BLM is the same as its strength – the absence of organizational hierarchy. No one is in charge. No one is responsible for ensuring demonstrations are peaceful. No one is responsible for formulating and vetting the core message. “Defund the Police” is a slogan, not a thoughtful policy proposal. This core weakness may be the most likely cause of declining support for BLM in recent public opinion polls.
I believe that America is poised to make additional progress on our long journey to achieve our most important national ideal -- “All men (people) are created equal.” This is the ideal that has always made America special among nations, even when we fall short of actually practicing it. I believe the time is ripe, now, and the mood of most Americans is ripe, now, for further progress. But our hopes for diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity will not be achieved amidst chaos. Chaos creates fear, and fear causes withdrawal and exclusion. The black community, and all Americans of goodwill, must unite behind responsible leadership to move our country forward.