McWhorter: ‘I’m Not Against Black Lives Matter’ But White Cops ‘Not The Main Thing’ Hurting Black Community

Columbia University professor and author John McWhorter argued that while “I’m not against Black Lives Matter,” “fighting only for the black lives that are taken by whites is arbitrary,” and cops are “not the main thing hurting black communities now” on Tuesday’s “CNN Tonight.”

McWhorter explained his comments in a column that the movement is “pretending that it’s still 1965,” “Because there’s this idea that the black community’s biggest problem is the one white cop, and that’s a real problem, but if the one white cop is a bigger problem than the fact that the black guy who was killed by the cop, was in much, much more danger of being killed than another black guy from somewhere in the neighborhood. Everybody wants to focus on the white cop only, out of the sense that our job is to fight racism, which it was, in 1965. Today, if we’re talking about what ails the black community, racism is one thing, there is racism involved in what happens between the black men and the cops. I’ve said that. I’m not against Black Lives Matter at all, but there’s another huge problem which is black people killing each other. But we’ve got this whole punditocracy that are teaching us that it’s a bad thing to even talk about black-on-black crime.”

He added, “to have an organization in 2015 fighting only for the black lives that are taken by whites is arbitrary, because we’re trying to improve conditions in the black community. And when it comes to murder, okay, these people can’t do everything. They can’t change eating habits, they can’t change all sorts of things. But if we’re talking about murder, why would we only be focusing on the murder by the occasional white cop? It’s because of the sense that racism is the main thing, because we’re stuck in the notion that to continue the struggle of 1965, we have to focus on what white people are doing wrong. But, in this case, there’s this beautiful argument that a lot of smart people make, that it’s the state murdering, rather than citizens, and it’s more important if the state does it. No, that’s just throwing a political science term around. Imagine telling a woman in Philadelphia, who’s lost two boys to gang warfare, ‘Well, that’s really sad, Mrs. Williams, but we’re more interested in what the state did.’ That doesn’t make sense.”

McWhorter continued that by focusing on the actions of white people, “You create a brand new reality, where to be black in 2015 is still to be living with the white person’s foot on your neck, and, you know, that’s an interesting idea, it can sell a lot of books, but, the truth of the matter is, it’s different now. And that doesn’t mean racism is gone, but it’s different.”

He further argued, “A great many white people really don’t want to be racist, and they will allow what they say to depart from what they believe because they feel that the most important way that they can show that they’re good people is to show that they’re not racist. So, there’s that dissonance. And I think that for us, because of the history of black America, I think, for a lot of us, there’s a temptation to think that the most interesting thing about being black, the most charismatic way of being an authentically black person is to portray yourself as a sufferer, to and point to somebody who’s been doing you wrong, rather than being an individual, or being black in all sorts of other ways. You have those two things combined, and you have a situation where a lot of us are teaching one another not to tell the truth, and not to deal with modern reality. It’s a shame, because you’d think we’d be getting past it by now.”

In the second segment, McWhorther reacted to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) comments on the Black Lives Matter movement. He said, “I think that she’s saying something true, but she’s leaving something out. Elizabeth Warren knows good and well that another problem that all of us must face is that too many black men kill too many other black men in the same communities, and that they live under exactly that threat. She knows that, but she’s in a position where she feels that she’s not supposed to say it, because what she thinks is most important, as the politician that she is, is to show that she isn’t racist. She’s not unique in that, but she knows, deep down, that she’s only telling half of the truth, and she knows very much that what she’s talking about, is not the main problem in those communities. It’s time for us, unfortunately, — you know if I were Elizabeth Warren, I would do the same thing. I get it. She’s in a position. I can imagine what it would be like to be white in 2015 and making public statements. We have to take the responsibility for telling the truth, which is that it’s both the cops, but that we also have to have a national effort, where we start working on the black-on-black crime within these communities, too. That’s real civil rights work today.”

He continued, “It’s a performance, in that, she is saying, I am not a racist. I agree with the concerns that you are expressing. I will pretend to think that those are the main concerns facing black communities. Therefore, you see I’m not racist. That’s a performance, but that isn’t action. If she were genuinely interested — and this isn’t just her, she’s a stand-in for a phenomenon. If she were genuinely interested in these communities, she would say, that really, what’s going on, in terms of day-to-day life, is more the black-on-black crime, and that problem deserves at least as much attention, even though that would mean turning away from racism for that part of the problem.”

McWhorter then turned to arguments that racism is the cause of black-on-black crime, stating this is “just designed to shore up the idea that everything that ails black people is about something white people are doing wrong, which is not true in 2015.”

He further argued, “this business of saying, well, look, there’s Stop the Violence marches. It’s a first step, but, there isn’t a national movement. Nobody is as upset about the black-on-black crime as they are about the one Michael Slager, the one Darren Wilson.”

McWhorter concluded, “Stop the Violence needs to become a national effort. We need to start thinking of it it as strange if a community is committing more effort to smoking out the kinds of people who killed Freddie Gray, rather than the kind of people who are killing one another, too. The idea that you would only focus on the white cop should seem strange. The fierceness of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I do admire it, and I have said it in print, we need to have that focused also, on figuring something out with the cops, so that nationwide we can get this minority of black men from killing one another all the time. There’s no reason that couldn’t happen. We’re just not as interested, because we think what we’re supposed to be fighting is what Darren Wilson has in his heart, but that’s not the main thing hurting black communities now. That’s what we should focus on. That’s what activism is supposed to be in 2015.”

(h/t Mediaite)

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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