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Reflections


Violence and Civil Rights

by Ralph R. Reiland,
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University
 

"Law-enforcement sources said protestors displayed photos of slain cops Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu while chanting slogans comparing the NYPD to the KKK," reported the New York Post.

Those chants reveal an ignorance of even the most basic facts of America's racial history. It's unlikely that Liu and Ramos would have been supplied by the KKK with wood, lighter fluid, white robes and pointy hats.
The aforementioned demonstration occurred "despite a plea by Mayor de Blasio that the anti-cop protests be suspended until after the funerals of Ramos and Liu," reported the Post. In other words, start the incitement for more violence against the cops once the murdered officers are safely planted in the ground.

Talk about a politician "defining deviancy down," the phrase coined by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) in his 1993 article, "Defining Deviancy Down: How We've Become Accustomed To Alarming Levels Of Crime And Destructive Behavior," regarding society's increasing tolerance of intolerable behavior.

Likening the "normalizing" of the abnormal to psychological denial, Moynihan issued a warning, quoting words spoken from the bench by Judge Edwin Torres of the New York State Supreme Court, describing how "the slaughter of the innocent marches unabated."

Stated Torres, additionally, in a personal communication: "This numbness, this near narcoleptic state can diminish the human condition to the level of combat infantrymen, who, in protracted campaigns, can eat their battlefield rations seated on the bodies of the fallen, friend and foe alike. A society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction."

The headline on an article in the New York Post on Christmas Eve showed how far the collapse of normalcy has progressed: "FDNY abandons firehouse next to gang-threatened police station."

As the Post reported: "New York's Bravest deserted the city's Finest on Wednesday – abandoning a Brooklyn firehouse next-door to a police station that's the target of a threat involving the notorious 'Black Guerilla Family' gang."

Police officers armed with assault rifles and wearing helmets and body armor stood guard outside the police station while gang members on social media were calling for New Year's Eve to be "Kill a Pig Night," a "New Year's Eve Massacre 2014."

Threats additionally came via tweets with anti-cop hash tags, including #deadcopseveryday, #onlydeadcops, #wingsonpigs and #laughatyourdeaths.
In his 2006 book, "White Guilt: How blacks and whites together destroyed the promise of the civil rights era," Shelby Steele, who is black, focused on the civil rights victories of the 1960s and why a significant portion of America's black population has been unable to take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities that opened up.

Award-winning scholar and writer Steele, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, specializes in the study of race relations, civil rights, and social policy.

"I had grown up watching them struggle against an unapologetically racist America," writes Steele in "White Guilt," regarding his parents. "In their generation, protest had to be persuasion, since they were vastly outnumbered in a society that took white supremacy as a self-evident truth."

The rejection of violence as a tool for social change in his parents' era was both pragmatic and successful, explains Steele. "Their rejection of violence" gave them the "extraordinary power of moral witness -- the great power of the early civil rights movement."

The nonviolence and moral witness "transformed America," writes Steele, "and its very success meant it had, in fact, persuaded America."

Increasingly, that "moral witness" is being shattered.
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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
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