Charlie Kraebel, managing editor of the Troy Record and the Saratogian had a little “showing his true colors” accident in an opinion column this weekend, in which he was mighty distressed at the launching of the Upstate NY Black Lives Matter chapter. Before you read it, I recommend having a cushion nearby for when you feel the desire to bang your head on something hard.
He has basically three main arguments: First, that black people can’t demand that cops stop killing them for no reason until crime committed by black people against other black people is eradicated. Second, that Black Lives Matter activists don’t really care about Dontay Ivy’s family, just their dastardly agenda. And third, that the Black Lives Matter movement nationally has been all about causing riots and defending “thugs.”
Let’s take these one at a time.
“But, but black-on-black crime!”
So, did you, Mr. Kraebel, say after 9/11 that before we complained about Saudi terrorism we had to deal with our own internal white on white crime problem? (Most white people are killed by other white people, you know.) Should the people of Hoosick Falls not hold the government and corporations accountable for poisoning their water until they’ve all managed to only buy organic food and use non-toxic cleaning supplies? I mean, they’ve got to take responsibility for their own contribution to chemical pollution, right? Shall I go on? I’ll be here all night.
It is patently, entirely different, for someone we the taxpayers have armed and trained, and are paying to carry out their job, to kill someone, and for a civilian to commit murder. It is appropriate to protest to our government about a law enforcement killing because it is the government’s doing.
Your amazingly insulting arrogance of assuming that the black community is (a) entirely at fault for the structural disparities in opportunity it faces and (b) not in fact doing anything to better the world and take care of each other shows that you are a complete failure as a journalist. Every single black community in this region, and around the country, has people working their tails off on anti-violence initiatives, at-risk youth initiatives, education and uplift programs, community service. In Albany there are vigils on the street corners where shootings happen within 24 hours. Anti-violence marches. Gun buy-back programs. I know this. Why don’t you? And how could you be so insanely presumptuous as to not find out before having the temerity to lecture people for not doing those things?
But that work will not be enough without actually organizing for structural change. If you want a good summary of the historical and structural reasons why the disparities in education and opportunity you referenced still exist and are not the collective fault of the people experiencing them, I suggest this article.
“They don’t care about you”
The second point is easily dispatched: How the hell do you know how the organizers feel about the Ivy family? Especially considering that some of the Ivy family is involved with the organizing themselves? Again with the patronizing ignorance.
I suppose you might have suggested to the people of the Jim Crow south that Dr. King didn’t really care about their lives either, that he was just using them to advance an “agenda” of equal voting rights and an end to segregation? That argument was made then, it’s true. And now we have a fancy new agenda: not getting killed by public servants while taking a walk. Horrors.
“Eeek, rabble rousers”
And finally, hey, look, you trotted out all most of the tired canards that have been thrown against Black Lives Matter for the past couple years.
Defending “thugs” like Michael Brown and Eric Garner? We have this thing called innocent until proven guilty in this country, and amazingly enough, it’s supposed to apply to black people too. Even more amazingly, the penalty for being found guilty of either shoplifting or selling loose cigarettes is not execution by firing squad.
I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t really be so excited by the extrajudicial death penalty if it were applied evenly across race and class. I’m willing to bet a whole lot that some teenager in your family or extended friends network has shoplifted, smoked pot, committed vandalism, or gotten into a fight at some point in their lives. Probably several. Statistics lay good odds that a lot of your white neighbors are using illegal drugs and cheating on their taxes. I’m awfully sure that every last driver you know has driven over the speed limit at some point, if not every single time they hit the highway. And if any of those people you know got killed by law enforcement for doing those things, even if you were 100 percent sure they were guilty, you would object. (I hope.)
As for the whole “riots” in Ferguson and Baltimore argument, first there is the inevitable question of why you find the same things white people do because of alcohol and pumpkins or because their sports team lost (or even won) so very much worse when it happens because black people are protesting a grievous injustice?
Martin Luther King Jr. said “riots are the language of the unheard.” The idea that those protests could not have happened or would have been completely calm and decorous if there hadn’t been a Black Lives Matter movement is laughably ahistorical. It also ignores the role of the law enforcement response in escalating what happened.
You would not want to live in a world where we did not have social gains that were only made possible through movements that were willing to be disruptive along the way—generally far more disruptive than interrupting a speech for 15 minutes.
The worst part of all of this is that this weekend, just as you published this, two black women from UAlbany were beaten up and called racial slurs by a crowd of drunk white students on a bus while no one helped them. I suppose you don’t think they need a Black Lives Matter movement either?
In fact, your absurd screed shows exactly why Black Lives Matter is needed here.