Thursday, September 28, 2017

What Makes You Think That?

There’s a question I’ve learned that can be helpful when someone is upset about something that you’re not ready to buy into—or maybe more likely, they’re upset about something you know is false. You have to be able to ask this without snark, without obvious skepticism. Ask to sincerely know where they are coming from:

“Really? What makes you think that?”

What I think is that most people want to be able to think of themselves as good. They’re trying to figure out what’s right and wrong, and they want to choose the better side, but maybe they have very little guidance about what that is. And that makes them vulnerable to manipulation. Sometimes what they think they know just isn’t true.

As Ronald Reagan used to say about his political opponents, “It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.”

There’s a clear example of this type of error going on in recent news cycles. NFL players have decided to protest our flag and country during the national anthem before football games. The purported reason? Racist cops killing unarmed black men and getting away with murder.

That’s the narrative. As Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.… There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Colin Kaepernick
Image from here
As David French wrote yesterday, 

Standing for the National Anthem is meaningless if it’s mandated, and such a mandate undermines the essential liberty of free speech.
In order to have a country with peaceful liberty, we need people who love the country and respect and revere it willingly. Those “taking a knee” are doing a lot that’s wrong, and it isn’t really about their First Amendment right to protest. They’re accusing their fans, who are innocent of the wrongs being protested, in a nation that can never meet their approval, because their accusations have no connection to reality.

For me, it’s no sacrifice to tune them out. Deciding not to watch NFL football is no loss. I can hardly get myself to pay enough attention to know who’s playing in the Super Bowl every year. But there have been plenty of instances when I’ve had to decide whether some entertainment was worth suffering through the hateful accusations from some entertainer using his/her celebrity to spread “so many things that aren’t so.”

We may have come to a point where it isn’t enough just to have NFL owners tell them what they have to do under contract of employment. We want them to choose not to protest the country that gives them greater freedom and opportunity than any society in their race’s history.

The symptom that our culture is seriously ill comes from a youth football league (ages 8 and under) that decided to do the “cool” trend and “take a knee.” Their coach, botching a teaching moment, made sure they knew why they were doing it. One third-grade boy answered, “Because black people are getting killed, and nobody’s going to jail.” So the coach joined them in disrespecting our flag and country.

screen shot from here

Did it not even occur to that coach to ask a kid that age, “What makes you think that?” Or, “Who told you that? Because, you know, that’s just not true.”

Because, in fact, black men being murdered by non-black police officers is not a trend. It is not something on the rise. It is a rarity, and it's inconceivable that such a murderer would be protected from prosecution.

Larry Elder (a black commentator, so he gets to say things without the knee-jerk racist label) listed some of the facts on his radio show a couple of days ago—all from reliable research. I found the facts repeated today in an article he wrote. I’ll summarize:  

·        Unarmed black men killed by police are extremely rare. An estimated 21 black males get hit by lightning in a given year. In 2015 (latest statistics) 17 unarmed (not necessarily nonthreatening) black men were killed by police, including those killed by black police officers.
·        Blacks are not more likely to be pulled over by police than whites. Whites have nearly as many encounters with police in a typical year as blacks do: whites 1.2 encounters, blacks 1.5. Any racial disparity in traffic stops is due to “differences in offending” in addition to “differences in exposure to the police” and “differences in driving patterns.”
·        Blacks who encounter police are not treated more harshly than whites. Bureau of Labor studies show, “Only 0.6 percent of black men experience physical force by the police in any given year, while approximately 0.2 percent of white men do. … Moreover, keep in mind that these tallies of police violence include violence that is legally justified.” And an earlier study of the 75 largest counties in the nation concluded there is “no evidence that, in the places where blacks in the United States have most of their contacts with the justice system, that system treats them more harshly than whites.”
As Larry Elder says,

Any death that results from police misconduct is one death too many, but the point is that police killing of a suspect is rare, no matter the race of the suspect or the cop. And a police shooting of an unarmed black male is still more rare.
Where the rare uncalled-for police shooting happens, we’re all in favor of prosecuting the offending officer, and improved training—and maybe even more cameras—to keep such incidents from happening ever again. The few high-profile cases meant to show the problem end up exonerating the police, but those cases get referred to anyway, and when someone is brought to the truth on such a case, the response tends to be, “Well, it’s still happening all over the place where we don’t hear about it.”

But what if they could learn that that’s a lie?

Every time the media repeats the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” lie, they are doing yeoman’s work as racial dividers. Any time an authority figure such as a football coach or manager doesn’t say, “That protest is for your own time; it’s bad for business if you disrespect the flag and country that the fans who pay our salary love and revere,” they’re countenancing the lies.

I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, the Emmett Till story, The Help, and others. I know those bad situations existed. But they’re decades in the past. Mostly before my lifetime, and certainly before my adulthood. The stories seem foreign to most Americans. There are 320 million of us; of course you can find a few outliers. But institutional racism is simply not an issue in this nation.

When blacks—particularly those who make millions of dollars playing a ball game—complain that this country is so bad, they need to be pinned down: “What makes you think that?”

If I were to guess, I think it might be some kind of leftover from their early life in a worse place—which they escaped from but not everyone else did. Something like survivor's guilt. I don’t know how we get a word in, when we’re not being listened to and the truth is substituted with some fabrication, but it would be good if the “oppressed” learned the secret formula for avoiding poverty in America:

1.       Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.       Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.       Stay married.
4.       Obtain at least a high school diploma.
Only 3 out of 100 who follow this formula remain in poverty. Everyone else gets work with enough income for the family to eventually move up into the more comfortable middle class. This is true regardless of race.

That’s a pretty good guarantee. For those exceptional 3%, if that’s all we had to deal with, we could easily identify what more needed to be done to help them along. Unfortunately, we also have to deal with mounting numbers of people who don’t live the formula but then want to blame someone else for their unwise choices.

What we could use, as a people, is a way to identify what leads to the sense of oppression. Chances are it’s the untruths promulgated by people who gain power when they stir people up to anger. That’s a millennia-old tactic, tied to all those historic cultures living in tyranny.

If we want freedom, prosperity, and civilization, we could use a better combination of understanding and truth.

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