If a past lamentable event of violence echoes prominently in a recent similar event, Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal provides the framework to understand why.
Last week, Donnell Linwood Hassell allegedly shot New Orleans Police Officer Trevor Abney, while injuring Office Brooks Duncan IV. Abney and Duncan were patrolling in their cruiser when with no apparent provocation Hassell fired at the car from a pedicab, evidence shows. Hassell appeared to be so under the influence of substances that upon arrest he took a detour to hospital before booking.
A black suspect trying to pick off white law enforcement officers uncomfortably reminds of events in Baton Rouge in the summer of 2016. Then, Gavin Eugene Long staked out and attempted to assassinate a half dozen officers, killing half and wounding the others. Long, who was black, proved less picky on the race of his victims by killing black Baton Rouge Officer Montrell Jackson, and intended to die that day in the course of taking out officers, in which he was obliged. He was drugged up at the time.
Most disturbingly, Long, a black nationalist diagnosed with mental trauma, left a paper trail of animus about the police. He apparently chose Baton Rouge because not long before a white officer shot and killed a black man, Alton Sterling, with a long rap sheet while resisting arrest. At the time Long appeared, Baton Rouge was wracked with demonstrations, with some high-profile politicians involved, over the shooting with one of participants’ central claims being that police prejudice against blacks endangered such lives. Investigating agencies didn’t find the shooting violated the law, but that officer faces from Sterling’s family a civil wrongful death suit that describes Baton Rouge police as systemically racist.
Like it or not, it’s not hard to draw a line between voluminous protests breathtakingly displayed over the past few years by the media articulating repeatedly that racist police have declared a war on blacks and extremists taking that message to heart and depravedly acting upon it. New Orleans saw some this summer, with disparate groups calling for defunding police as a policy response to incidents elsewhere but also specifically to the NOPD’s dispersing a protest that blocked major thoroughfares. In response, Democrat Mayor LaToya Cantrell couldn’t prostrate herself fast enough to the mob, claiming the city already had reformed its department and city spending priorities to match that desire.
The presumed “war on blacks” narrative – as verified by some less circumspect New Orleans supporters of the movement – is borne of supposed institutionalized racism that policy-makers can change only by ripping out the roots through radical restructuring and redeployment of funding. And the alleged racism evidence is more than just the very rare killing of a suspect – even more rarely black ones by white officers – but also includes the disproportionate rate at which blacks are arrested and convicted.
In a recently published piece, Jindal noted how the political left has broadened the playing field by expanding the definition of racism with disparate impact without causal demonstration as a key component of that strategy. Liberals maintain that because existing public policy produces unequal outcomes – such as in criminal justice but also in economic comparisons between whites’ and racial minorities’ relative financial status and prominence in high-status professions – these results cannot reflect the sum of individual actions and choices shaped by following particular values but instead must derive from biased economic and cultural systems based on race. In this redefinition of racism, differences in outcomes between races, not the content of discrete policies and actions, alone determine its presence and at a systemic level.
This culminates, Jindal argues, in a campaign not to correct racist policy out of line with American political culture that extends from the ideas behind the country’s founding, which are defined as corrupt, but to tear down systems based upon those ideals. That latter course of action directly inspires those who shoot law enforcement officers simply because they serve in that capacity, with them conceptualized as enforcers of that corrupt system.
Ineluctably, this happens when politicians like Cantrell start playing footsie with the ideas and rhetoric behind the redefinition of racism, by embracing issues like police “defunding” and parroting the movement’s presumptions. It only legitimizes the idea that law enforcement acts like a beast out of control that provokes more harm than good in the community. Even as she lamented the attack afterwards, she with her assertions of systemic racism joined by many other politicians nationwide have stoked a climate that encourages brazen violence.
Hopefully, the alleged attack by Hassell emanated merely from the stupidity of a drug-fueled binge and not from deep-seated animosity towards law enforcement specifically and a warped perception of America in general. Regardless, politicians like Cantrell must come to understand that hate is not the answer and must reject the misuse of racism as a concept as part of their political agenda.