A few months ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote what is a perfect response to what we just saw from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on this Sunday's Meet the Press, when he decided to play the "black on black crime" card as a way to distract from the discussion about a lack of diversity in the Ferguson, MO police force and the response to the grand jury's decision on the shooting of Michael Brown.
The politics of changing the subject
I'm slowly catching up on my reading on the week's events in Ferguson and trying to get my head around what exactly happened. In the meantime, one idea creeping into the discourse—that black people are unmoved by intra-community violence—deserves to be immediately dismissed.
Coates quotes a portion of a post written by Eugene Robinson, but his response applies here as well.
There are a number of things wrong here. To the extent that killings by the police generate more outrage, it is completely understandable. Police in America are granted wide range of powers by the state including lethal force. With that power comes a special place of honor. When cops are killed the outrage is always different than when citizens are killed. Likewise when cops kill under questionable terms, more scrutiny follows directly from the logic of citizenship. Great power. Great responsibility.
More importantly Robinson's claim is demonstrably false. The notion that violence within the black community is "background noise" is not supported by the historical record—or by Google. I have said this before. It's almost as if Stop The Violence never happened, or The Interruptors never happened, or Kendrick Lamar never happened. The call issued by Erica Ford at the end of this Do The Right Thing retrospective is so common as to be ritual. It is not "black on black crime" that is background noise in America, but the pleas of black people.
There is a pattern here, but it isn't the one Eugene Robinson (for whom I have a great respect) thinks. The pattern is the transmutation of black protest into moral hectoring of black people. Don Imus profanely insults a group of black women. But the real problem is gangsta rap. Trayvon Martin is killed. This becomes a conversation about how black men are bad fathers. Jonathan Martin is bullied mercilessly. This proves that black people have an unfortunate sense of irony.
The politics of respectability are, at their root, the politics of changing the subject—the last resort for those who can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye. The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts—they evidence them.
Michael Eric Dyson did a nice job of attempting to make some of the same points when he wasn't being talked over by Giuliani. Chuck Todd for his part just completely lost control of the segment once the two of them started going at each other.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on Sunday said the response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has been misdirected.
Giuliani said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a larger issue that hasn't been discussed as much during the fallout is the issue of African Americans committing violence against each other.
A grand jury is expected to announce in the coming days whether it will indict the white officer, Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Wilson has maintained he was acting in self-defense.
The August shooting has sparked a national conversation about the use of force by police officers in the country, as well as how police forces deal with race in predominantly African American communities, such as Ferguson.
Giuliani sparred with Michael Eric Dyson, a civil rights author, on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"The white police officers won't be there if you weren't killing each other," Giuliani said during the heated exchange in which the two men spoke over each other.
"Why don't you cut down your crime so so many white police officers don't have to be in black areas?" Giuliani asked. "Ninety-three percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. We are talking about the exception here [in Ferguson]... I would like to see the attention paid to that -- that you're paying to this."
"Black people who kill black people go to jail," said Dyson during the exchange. "White people who are policemen and kill black people do not go to jail."
"It's hardly insignificant. It is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community," Giuliani said. "Why don't you cut it down so that so many white police officers don't have to be in black areas?"