The mob's destruction or removal of statues appears an attempt to erase the history of the United States... What they are doing looks like just an old-fashioned power-grab. The first law of power-grabbers is that if no one stops them, they keep on going -- often with catastrophic consequences. Pictured: Protesters pull down a fence surrounding the statue of Andrew Jackson, in an attempt to topple the statue in Lafayette Square, near Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, on June 22, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
On May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a police officer, Derek Chauvin, who already had 18 complaints lodged against him, killed a black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Angry protests in Minneapolis quickly turned into riots that ravaged the city. The police did not intervene; the mayor had ordered them to withdraw and do nothing.
More protests soon broke out in major cities throughout the country and rapidly led to widespread disorder. In the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, 1,500 buildings were vandalized, looted or destroyed. Again, the police did little to intervene: the mayors of most of the cities had asked the police to act with restraint.
The riots ended, but the damage was immense. An area of Seattle's city center that was taken over, the "CHAZ" or "CHOP" zone, has since been disbanded, but a copycat effort to take over an area has installed itself in New York, near City Hall.
Statues throughout the country were attacked -- first Confederate statues, then tributes to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Prominent politicians supported the rioters. The mayor of Boston said he wanted to remove from a city square a statue of Lincoln standing in front of a liberated black man. Members of the New York City Council requested that a statue of Thomas Jefferson be removed from the City Hall. In Portland, Oregon, a statue of George Washington was pulled down and set on fire. Statues of Christopher Columbus were toppled and some beheaded.
The mob's destruction or removal of statues appears an attempt to erase the history of the United States and to treat great men such as Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, George Washington, first president of the United States or Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, as if they were irredeemably despicable. What they are doing looks like just an old-fashioned power-grab. The first law of power-grabbers is that if no one stops them, they keep on going -- often with catastrophic consequences.
"Why do I even worry about some silly little statues coming down or some silly little street names changing?" asked Elizabeth Rogliani, who lived through Venezuela's transition to communism.
"[W]hen I was living in Venezuela. Statues came down — Chavez didn't want that history displayed. And then he changed the street names. Then came the [school curricula]. Then some movies couldn't be shown, then certain TV channels, and so on and so forth....
"We didn't believe it could happen to us. Most Venezuelans — Cubans warned us — and we were like, 'This is Venezuela, we know about freedom. That's not going to happen here.' Yet it happened. And there are literally a lot of people wanting to destroy the U.S."
Two movements have been active in the violence. One is Antifa, which has been called "a revolutionary Marxist/anarchist militia movement that seeks to bring down the United States by means of violence and intimidation." Antifa, although it claims to be antifascist, behaves in a fascistic way.
The other movement, Black Lives Matter, was founded in 2013 by three black women, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. Cullors declared that she and Garza are "trained Marxists". The Black Lives Matter founding manifesto, published in 2016 (then removed from BLM website), describes the United States as a "corrupt democracy originally built on Indigenous genocide and chattel slavery" that "continues to thrive on the brutal exploitation of people of color" and that perpetuates "the ugly American traditions of patriarchy, classism, racism, and militarism". In December 2014, a slogan at a Black Lives Matter demonstration organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network, was: "What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now."
If Antifa is widely rejected, Black Lives Matter is not. Its name has become a slogan on walls, storefronts and restaurants. The posters state: "No justice, no peace."
There are widespread calls for defunding or abolishing the police. The city council of Minneapolis in fact voted on June 6 to disband its police force. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio cut $1 billion from New York City's $6 billion police budget. At least six other cities have also slashed police budgets.
What seems to be trying to gain more influence is a wish -- born before the riots -- to rewrite the history of the United States. The New York Times, for instance, on August, 14, 2019, launched "The 1619 Project". Its author, Nikole Hannah Jones, wrote that the United States had been founded on slavery and is therefore -- presumably still -- guilty of "structural racism."
Prominent historians Gordon Stewart Wood, recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History, and James M. McPherson, former president of the American Historical Association, noted that the 1619 Project is based on "misleading and historically inaccurate claims". On June 17, Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, laughably said that the United States had "created slavery".
"Reparations," author and attorney Larry Elder commented on the subject, "is the extraction of money from those who were never slave owners to be given to those who were never slaves."
"Every life matters," said former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. If only.
The idea that in the United States there is "structural racism" (defined by the Aspen Institute as "a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity") has led, it seems, to a form of obsessive expiation. Films have been removed from streaming services. Gone with the Wind will now be shown with five-minute disclaimer. (One minute would not have been enough?)
The film is probably just first on a lengthening list. A reporter from Variety recently listed "10 Problematic Films That Could Use Warning Labels". They include Forrest Gump: for a brief moment, the title character is described, in an ironic fashion, as having been named after a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Consumer product brands, such as Uncle Ben's Rice and Aunt Jemima syrup are abruptly having their names and logos changed. Princeton voted to expunge the name of Woodrow Wilson from its public policy school. Demands have been made that universities and corporations show that they are not racist by declaring their support for Black Lives Matter. Many have bowed to the demand.
On June 12, less than a month after the killing of George Floyd, another white police officer, Garrett Rolfe, in Atlanta, Georgia, shot and killed a black man, Rayshard Brooks. The police officers were arresting Brooks for drunk driving, and after a cordial exchange with the officers, he unexpectedly resisted arrest, and seized a Taser from one of the officers. He began to run, but when he turned and fired the Taser at Rolfe, Rolfe shot and killed him. Rolfe was dismissed from the police force without due process, and charged with felony murder, which potentially carries the death penalty. Although video recordings of the event were widely broadcast, District Attorney Paul Howard tried to claim that Brooks was calm and "cheerful". He added that a Taser is not a deadly weapon – after having said a few weeks earlier that it was.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, between June 12 and June 15 a black man was fatally shot by another black man and 32 others were wounded by gunfire. Sadly, when it comes to black-on-black violence, no one seems to care.
What basically appears to be at work has nothing to do with either black lives or the police. It is a will to overthrow the United States. This desire includes American institutions, everything on which the United States is founded and the United States itself.
The statement "Black Lives Matter" assumes from the start that, for the police, the judicial system and everyone else, black lives do not matter. What is so conspicuous and tragic is that black lives only seem to matter if they were taken by a white person.... Sadly, when it comes to black-on-black violence, no one seems to care.
Normal democratic functioning means that the voters of a city pay taxes and elect a mayor to take care of the city, to ensure the safety of its people and property -- not to let the city sink into anarchy and destruction. When, in the face of violence, a mayor asks a police force not to act, thereby allowing violence to take place, he or she is not only complicit in the devastation, but also delinquent in doing the job for which he or she was elected.
Although most police officers are usually decent and eager to protect the community, and daily put their lives at risk, if they use unnecessary violence, the problem needs be addressed. Unfortunately, at times it is not. Police unions may do a lot of good, but in disputes, they require "arbitration" -- often despite misconduct. In some police departments, it is almost impossible to fire anyone who should be fired; he can, instead, be dispatched to a different precinct. (A similar problem exists with teachers' unions for unacceptable teachers.)
Last week, federal legislation recommending police reforms was proposed by Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina. The House Democrats, refusing even to discuss any of them, blocked the measure. Later the House Democrats came up with a reform bill of their own, however it seemed aimed more at eradicating police forces than reforming them.
"The bill would restrict chokeholds and ban federal agents from conducting no-knock drug raids. It would curtail transfers of military equipment to police, create an officer misconduct registry, end qualified immunity from lawsuits and lower the threshold to federally prosecute officers if they show 'reckless disregard' for someone's life."
What if every officer-involved shooting were followed by a prosecution? Why would anyone ever sign up for a job that put him at such risk in the first place? "Revolving door" policies must already feel so defeating: a police officer puts his life in jeopardy to make an arrest, only to find the person arrested back out on the street soon after. The House Democrats appeared only to want to block the Republicans from having a victory and an issue about which to rail instead of a solution. (The same political thinking also appears to underpin why so many American children are not able to receive a quality public school education.)
The question then arises: are the politicians who claim to want help distressed communities the very ones keeping the distressed communities distressed -- and in a perpetual state of reaching out to those same politicians for dangled promises of help?
Unfortunately, always and everywhere, the absence of police -- for instance replacing them with social workers -- will lead to an explosion of crime and disorder, as most recently seen in Seattle. Furthermore, using a crime committed by a single police officer to claim that all police officers are racist is to lie in order to paralyze the police, to prevent them from doing their work: helping the community and providing safety. To ask to defund the police is to ask for an explosion of violence and pandemonium.
The recent damage inflicted on thousands of people who lost their possessions and businesses -- as well as the many murders and assaults -- shows what happens to a society with fewer police or no police.
Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, had suggested early on, to avoid a confrontation, dismantling Seattle's seized zone. This could be done, he suggested, by disconnecting the water, the electricity, and especially the cellular communication -- and then seeing how long the hostage-takers enjoyed the experience.
Graffiti painted during the riots on the walls of synagogues in Los Angeles revealed, as well, the presence of anti-Semitism: Melina Abdullah, "the lead organizer of Black Lives Matter in LA and a professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State", is it turns out, a supporter of Louis Farrakhan the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. Abdullah calls him "The Honorable Minister Farrakhan." Black Lives Matter, it appears, "is structurally anti-Semitic."
That the name Black Lives Matter is present everywhere, and that everyone seems to ignore or forget what the organization Black Lives Matter really is, shows that a violent, anti-democratic organization, which calls for the murder of police officers and accepts anti-Semitism and anti-White racism, can use threats, intimidation and destruction -- and find public acceptance.
Of course there is still some racism among individuals, but the idea that the United States today is a society where "structural racism" exists is contradicted by decades of political decisions to repair the damage and, as in, for example, affirmative action programs, to favor equality for all Americans. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an American author who fled her homeland of Somalia, wrote:
"The problem is that there are people among us who don't want to figure it out and who have an interest in avoiding workable solutions. They have an obvious political incentive not to solve social problems, because social problems are the basis of their power. That is why, whenever a scholar like Roland Fryer brings new data to the table—showing it's simply not true that the police disproportionately shoot black people dead—the response is not to read the paper but to try to discredit its author."
For many years, American films dealing with racial questions have been explicitly hostile to any racial discrimination, and it would be impossible to find a book put out by a U.S. publishing house supporting racial discrimination, unless it dates from an era long gone. Rewriting history by falsifying it is simply an attempt to replace history with propaganda. Removing films and other information that do not correspond to a predetermined vision of history has long been the practice of totalitarian despotisms. Dictating that universities and corporations face severe consequences if they refuse to bowdlerize the past is simply a fascistic, tyrannical means of coercion. Worse, the submissive attitude of so many universities and corporations is what enables the bullying to continue.
What is taking place has roots.
"The success of America's recent cultural revolution can be measured not in toppled governments but in shattered values," the American commentator, Roger Kimball wrote in his book, The Long March (2000), about upheavals in the 1960s in the United States. Radical people, he observed, had taken power in the universities, and their ideas spread throughout the educational system -- in culture, politics, justice, and the economy. Radicals still dominate most American universities -- now even more than then, and their ideas are now more widespread.
Former President Barack Obama, on October 30, 2008, said, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." Five days later, he was elected President.
Twelve years later, one wonders: What was he hoping to transform it into?
It would have been hard to imagine in 2008 that a mayor could abandon his or her city to rioters, or that they would accept tearing down and destroying statues of Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln. When will they be coming to tear down statues of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
It would also have been hard to imagine that a violent organization such as Black Lives Matter would not even be questioned, or that riots similar to those that touched Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, or Baltimore in 2015 would break out and spread across the country.
It would hard to imagine just two months ago that any city council would actually vote to abolish the police force.
The United States seems at a pivotal moment. Bruce Thornton, a Professor of Classics and Humanities at California State University and a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, noted that:
"Indeed, apart from opportunistic thugs and felons, the bulk of the 'troops' who would comprise one side of some civil war are pretty much denizens of the young comfortable classes. Their disruptive and violent behavior is happening because governors, mayors, and police chiefs have over the last decade sent the message that they will not respond with mind-concentrating force in order to restore order and hold rioters accountable..."
The rioters in the U.S. appear to have inspired protester in Western Europe. Angry slogans used in the United States are being used in London and Paris; the same charges against democracies are being made, and statues that were signposts of history are being pulled down.
In a speech on July 6, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said:
"The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? ... Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.