After I read Harper’s open letter on “Justice and Open Debate”, I discovered that it immediately got a lot of hate. Some said that it was vague. And that it shed little light on what specifically the letter meant by “intolerance of opposing views”.
Others, like culture critic Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times, specifically questioned the helpfulness of arguing “about tactics” during a global pandemic.
As some of you know, I have covered the recent political climate in our communities during the pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter movement. So I have seen the division firsthand. I have witnessed some of the “intolerance” and division that the Harper’s letter was referring to.
But McNamara does bring up a good question. Is it really helpful to fight about wokeness right now?
Let me answer that question by doing what the Harper’s letter couldn’t, by telling you my personal experience with the recent local BLM movement. By providing specific examples and connecting them to the concerning progressive rhetoric on a national scale. And I will tell you how all of this is securing Donald Trump’s re-election.
The First Stone
The day that the Visalia Unified School District announced they would be taking down the BLM signs outside of El Diamante, there was upheaval from the student activists and supporters of the movement in Visalia.
I was a lurker in one of the Facebook groups that took immediate action to protect the signs, it was known as the “Anti-Karen Brigade” (recently renamed the “Anti-Racist Brigade”). And it was composed of supporters of the BLM movement, including parents who were concerned about the safety of their children and their right to free speech. I became aware of their presence shortly after a “pack of Karens” were reported to have been taking down signs outside of El Diamante.
Because members of the groups were parents, they were some of the first to receive news about the District’s decision to take down the signs. So they quickly took action. It was only minutes before someone in the group chat said they were already on site taking down the signs in order to preserve them.
By this point, word had spread on Twitter and shortly after that a couple arrived on scene that began reportedly yelling at the supporters attempting to preserve the signs.
Someone from the chat sent video footage of the scene.
In the video, was a young couple calling the woman behind the camera a “Karen” and openly insulting her in front of her peers. I recognized the couple right away. It was one of the organizers for the local BLM movement and her husband, a former teacher. They both were shown shaming the woman for her “racist” actions.
The woman attempted to tell the couple that they were only trying to protect the signs, and that she was actually a supporter of the students that wanted to preserve their messages.
However, the organizer and her husband were so enraged, they refused to let her speak by drowning her voice out with even more insults and accusations.
It was a little painful to watch that video, because I knew both parties involved in that dispute were actually on the same side. And even though I was supposed to be an objective observer, I still believed in the movement and secretly cheered for the BLM movement to flourish in Visalia.
But unfortunately, this is where hope of that vision began to fade as a major flaw of the Left became apparent to me: Progressives and the BLM movement are too decentralized.
Neither group has a single leader to rally around. Joe Biden may be the official head of the Democratic party, but many progressives don’t see him as an ally, let alone a leader.
They don’t approve of his sexual assault allegations, question his state of mind, and the more radical progressives find his policies lukewarm even after he has evolved on LGBT+ rights issues and recently proposed a $2 trillion climate plan.
And let’s face some of us just don’t find Biden all that inspirational.
But if not Biden then who? Without a unifying leader, constant conflict within the Left wing is inevitable, which isn’t usually a problem if we can communicate effectively, listen and compromise.
It’s a good thing we’re all tolerant adults who can handle a difference of opinion, right?
It’s Our Way or the Highway
If you’re still wondering what the answer to that last question was even after reading the subheader, in the words of Randy Jackson, “It’s a no for me, dawg.”
The modern Democratic party and BLM seem to have little to no tolerance for anything that diverges from their narrative. In fact, it seems Liberals (or at least it’s loudest members) have become increasingly divisive, unreceptive and uncompromising, especially among their own ranks.
And that’s not just at a local level either, we see it at the national level as well.
Barack Obama himself spoke on this very issue last year and criticised “call-out culture”. Dozens more op-eds have done the same recently because we are witnessing the restriction of voices every single day.
Last week, Terry Crews sent out a controversial tweet advising BLM activists to be wary that the movement did not morph into a form of “Black Supremacy.”
I personally considered his tweet to be a cautious and reasonable piece of advice considering some of the anti-white rhetoric floating around recently.
Defeating White supremacy without White people creates Black supremacy. Equality is the truth.
Like it or not, we are all in this together.
— terry crews (@terrycrews) June 7, 2020
But of course, Twitter wasn’t so understanding and had a field day with Crews. It was only a matter of minutes before the celebrity was dragged through the Twitterverse as progressives tweeted #CancelTerryCrews and ridiculed his #blacksupremacy comments.
— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) June 8, 2020
In 1883, the Supreme Court claimed that a Civil Rights Act would make Black people "the special favorite of the laws."
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) June 30, 2020
CNN’s Don Lemon took up the microphone next and interviewed Crews after the tweet went viral. Unfortunately, the interview eventually degenerated and Lemon repeatedly cut off Crews and spoke over him when he strayed too far from the approved narrative, a tactic that would make Tucker Carlson proud.
Maybe if it had been someone else under attack I wouldn’t have cared as much.
But this was Terry effin’ Crews who was once revered as a powerful Black role model, the guy who was praised for coming out as a male survivor of sexual assault and a member of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast that donated $100,000 towards the National Bail Fund in support of the BLM movement!
But I guess none of that mattered once the mob turned.
And yes, Terry Crews will likely not get “canceled” in real life. But that’s not the issue here. The problem is canceling a voice before a real discussion can be had. All we had to do was let the man speak. But apparently for some of us, the narrative is more important than freedom of speech.
And we saw that clear as day back home on the eve of our nation’s birthday.
The Human Chain: A Microcosm of Intolerance
On July 3rd, students, educators, parents, and other community members formed a human chain using caution tape to protect the signs memorializing the death of Black bodies at the hands of police brutality and racism.
It was one of the most beautiful demonstrations of solidarity I had ever seen.
All political connotations aside, it was truly remarkable and it gave me hope. And I know I wasn’t the only one that felt that way because I kept getting notifications on that clip weeks after I recorded it.
So you can imagine how disappointed I was when later things ended in division after a minority of radical adults hijacked the student-run demonstrations. Some had never attended protests before and yet they intentionally disrupted negotiations between Brandon Gridiron, Administrator of Student Services, and the student activists.
I watched Gridiron spend the entirety of the protest speaking with students and ensuring their demands would be met.
I watched him emphasize that he was on their side and was doing everything in his power to make necessary changes to the school system.
I watched him intently listen to students for hours and respond with empathy even after some activists became frustrated and yelled at him.
And every single activist present that afternoon saw that he waited until all the students had shared their #DearVUSD story before finally taking up the megaphone to speak.
But like we have seen before, the radical Left doesn’t exactly care for any voice that threatens to undermine their narrative. And in this particular situation, the narrative was the system is the enemy, and anybody a part of that system is also an enemy by proxy.
Even if that somebody is a Black man raised in Visalia, who joined the education system to make a difference for his students.
And this seems to be the prevailing sentiment in many liberal circles. Association is more than enough to condemn a person.
I know because I’m a part of these circles on a daily basis. I hear/read statements all the time that quickly damn White people and Trump Supporters simply for existing.
We are quick to shout racist, white supremcist, Karen, Uncle Tom, etc. at even the slightest glimpse of pushback…Nevermind if the recipient truly deserves it.
But I’ll tell you this for sure, that woman from the Anti-Racist Brigade didn’t deserve it. Gridiron didn’t deserve it. And Terry effin’ Crews didn’t deserve it either.
Disillusionment and Donald Trump’s Re-Election
We are currently less than four months away from the 2020 presidential election. And I don’t believe for a second that Biden is leading in the polls.
Because what those polls fail to capture is the voice of those too afraid to speak up, those who wish to share their opinions, but don’t because speaking up would mean offering themselves as more fodder for the progressive mob.
These people grow disillusioned with the radical voices in the party who are increasingly the only voices we are hearing. Again, I know this because I witnessed it happen in real time during these protests. The moment Gridiron was under attack, some protesters began to stand up and leave. And some never came back.
How do you think that person will vote in the Fall? I’m willing to bet many won’t even show up the polls.
I’ll say this much, I know people personally who say they can not in good conscience see themselves voting either way in November. And yes, that’s after considering Trump’s fumbling of the pandemic currently devastating millions of American lives.
Some of us are so disillusioned with the Democratic party that we are switching sides entirely. It happened in 2016 after the DNC betrayed Bernie Sanders. And it’s happening again this Fall.
The irony is that the progressive rhetoric currently dominating the narrative was likely intended to push back against the radicalization of the Right and secure a Trump-free White House. However, it seems that our methods have backfired and we are now fanning the flames of our own division.
So if we really want a Trump-free White House, we need to stop viewing our Democratic allies as enemies. We need to give them a chance to speak. This was supposed to be the week of the Democratic National Convention afterall. So we need to listen, compromise and rally together now under one banner.
To answer McNamara’s question about “tactics” presented at the beginning of this op-ed:
No, a global pandemic is probably not the best time to be fighting about wokeness or “arguing about tactics”.
But I’m pretty sure trying to get along during a global pandemic wouldn’t hurt either.
So maybe we do need a little more tactfulness. I certainly wouldn’t mind some diplomacy and finesse to offset the complete clusterfuck that has been 2020.
Who knows? God forbid we actually save some lives.
If you’ve made it this far without unfriending me or heading to the comments section to tear me a new one, I want to thank you personally for sticking it out. You are the reason I write.
I obviously have no clue on how to heal a nation. But I think most of us can agree, it would probably start with being honest with ourselves and admitting we can do better. And it just so happens that listening to my readers is how I get better.
So if you strongly disagree with anything I said in this article, feel free to let it be known. I welcome it . I can’t promise that I’ll reply, but I will try to listen to everyone with an open mind. I can assure you that much.