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The Horrific Facebook Live Assault Had Nothing to Do With #BlackLivesMatter, and Saying It Did Only Undermines the Tragedy

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This week, a horrific attack was streamed to Facebook Live. Four young adults kidnapped an 18-year-old acquaintance with special needs, tortured and abused him, while broadcasting the attack to Facebook. The video was a half hour long, but the man was held captive for upwards of 24 hours. As they torture him, the attackers are seen yelling things like “F*ck white people” and “F*ck Donald Trump.” It’s horrific.

The four have been arrested and charged with a number of crimes, including aggravated assault, kidnapping, as well as hate crime charges. However, the Chicago police department spokesperson said that they don’t believe this was racially motivated. Instead, they believe the young man was targeted because of his special needs, which is also, by the legal definition, a hate crime. Given the races of the attackers (who are black) and the victim (who is white), many people are skeptical of the lack of racial motivation, especially when taking into account the attackers’ choice of words in the video.

And that disbelief is reasonable. It certainly seems racially motivated. But then some people took that skepticism to a disturbing place, and immediately began equating this potentially bigoted, definitely despicable act with the Black Lives Matter movement. Some, including reigning national embarrassment Glenn Beck, began equating this specific instance of violence committed by black people with the movement, and soon after, the hashtag #BLMKidnapping began trending on Twitter.

I wouldn’t think this had to be said, but here we are. So, very simply, let’s please understand. The actions of every black person in America are not the same as Black Lives Matter.

Humans are humans. A movement is a collection of certain humans striving towards a specific goal. Black Lives Matter is a nonviolent movement advocating for “dignity, justice, and respect.” All black people are not resolutely perpetuating the movement’s ideals in all their actions any more than all white people are registered Democrats.

Equating the two dangerous. It’s—let there be no doubt—straight-up racist. It’s also a complete disservice, not just to the Black Lives Matter movement, but to the victim of this horrible tragedy. It strips him of any facts related to his horrendous experience and cast him instead in the role of Victimized Narrative Pusher. It robs him of his humanity and turns him into propaganda. It’s wholly unfair and untrue.

I highly recommend reading this article from writer/activist Shaun King, who dedicates his time and his tweets to injustice. Immediately following the breaking of this story, he was, from the sound of it, bombarded with questions of why he wasn’t up in arms over this particular injustice. He first points out that the attackers were swiftly arrested and that media coverage was prevalent, two things that are so often missing from stories of black victims. Furthermore, the way that so many white critics immediately accosted King and the BLM movement showed that denial of the victim’s humanity.

What’s most disturbing is that I hardly see many whites who are particularly angry about the crime speaking sympathetically about the victim. They are mainly using it to advance their racist agenda and demonize random black folk who had nothing to do with such a thing. Furthermore, I have routinely seen tens of thousands of African-Americans standing up and fighting and protesting for white victims of police brutality and toxic masculinity. The Alt-Right Movement does not care about violence in this country.

 

Shaun King ends his article with this important distinction:

Yes, Dr. King’s words are true — “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” but what we have right now is a system that clearly applies justice differently depending on three factors: the color of your skin, your zip code, and your bank account. I am glad the people who assaulted this young man were swiftly arrested. That’s how justice should work for all of us. But you and I both know that swift justice in this country primarily happens when black folk commit crimes.

This young man doesn’t need hashtags blaming me or a movement, he needs compassion and counseling. He also doesn’t need me advocating for justice. It will soon drop like Thor’s hammer without my help.

Linking this atrocious act to the human and rights struggles of an entire American community is factually wrong and infuriatingly dismissive. And King, along with so many others, are now seeing the fallout from refusing to be that simplistic. The responses to the article call him racist, and accuse him of turning a blind eye to violence he would otherwise condemn. Because apparently the only two options are to make gross generalizations that glaze over the facts of the tragedy, or be accused of ignoring it? How did this become this a choice between condemning all African Americans, or taking the side of violent criminals?

How many levels of fearful translation does a person have to go through to hear “Black lives matter” and translate it to “We’re going to destroy everyone else”? Or to go the other way and see a horrific act of racist violence and immediately tie it to a fight for basic human rights? That’s a horrible generalization that can only spring from a refusal to see African-Americans as anything but an impersonal, undeserving monolith.

Words are important and specific and it’s so easy to forget that and sink into a binary system of “for us or against everyone.” So here’s a quick refresher of a few terms that a lot of people were introduced to fairly recently, and how they’ve quickly become distorted:

Saying black lives matter isn’t an argument that others don’t. Wanting rights for African-Americans is not a threat of violence to white Americans.

Rights and respect are not a teeter-totter. One person doesn’t have to lose basic human rights for someone else to gain them. And the victim of a horrifically violent experience must not be held up as a point won for white nationalists in this battle of who is the more oppressed. Please do not believe them when they equate four disturbed black young adults with the desires of a human rights movement, any more than you would blame Taylor Swift and her Girl Squad if the attackers were white women. It’s a lie, plain and simple, and those perpetuating it have no desire to help the victimized man or, frankly, anyone but themselves.

(image via Shutterstock)

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