Bury My Heart at the Fish and Wildlife Building
January 5, 2016
Posted in Race
My social media accounts are burning up with comparisons of how the armed white occupiers of the Oregon Fish and wildlife building are being differently treated than unarmed black folks who have been shot by authorities. People mention the media calling them “militia” instead of “terrorists” or “thugs”; the police waiting them out instead of going in guns blazing as people assume they would in a comparable situation with black protesters. No one has to convince me that police see young black men as potentially dangerous “thugs” because of the racial fears rampart in our society. It does not matter whether they are armed, unarmed or simple have a toy gun, black men as young as twelve have be met with deadly force regardless of their behavior. This is a problem which must be dealt with. ISIS inspired terrorism as was the apparently the case in San Bernadino is another case. Fear of terrorism (a terrorist’s goal) is way overblown and has resulted in racist behavior against innocent Muslims, Muslim refugees and even Sikhs. Again, this is a problem that must be confronted. However the situations (Oregon, police violence against blacks, terrorism) are so different that the comparison doesn’t really tell us anything.
The situation in Oregon is different not just because of the race of the perpetrators. Here a group of armed people have taken over a building in a remote area. There are no hostages, there is no threat to innocent people, there is only minor disruption, there is no threat to business, there is no imminent danger. Although the authorities cannot totally ignore it they can certainly live with it for days, weeks or months. The inability of the demonstrators to provoke the kind of violent response they want is in their poor choice of place to hold their demonstration. The other thing they have done poorly is articulate their demands. They do not have a specific list of demands, grievances or even shortcomings of the government for which they are protesting. They only have a generalized rage against the unspecified “unconstitutional” behavior of the government when they have no real understanding of the constitution. They rail against restrictions of what they called a “too big” government while accepting the largess of that same government when it is in their interests. It does not help that their spokesperson Mr. Bundy is not the sharpest tool in the tool-shed.
Living in a town where the police department is now under federal oversight because of numerous police shootings of people from all races, I applaud the restraint here. The FBI is modeling the restraint that the police should use instead of police overreaction to blackness. The fact that the protesters are armed is a sign that they intend to provoke violence from the government and fully expect it. They want to be seen as martyrs to their cause. When a masochist says “hit me” the smart sadist says “no.”