The Civil Rights controversy of the week involves U.S. Marshals in Memphis shooting an armed man identified as Brandon Webber. This shooting has inspired common narratives about predator law enforcement against persons of color. In Memphis it caused riots that injured 35 police officers who had rocks thrown at them. As I look at the details of the case I’m stunned at how the Civil Rights movement seems to lower the bar by lionizing criminals.
Webber was sought by the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force, wanted for several felony charges involving an armed carjacking. Unlike other cases where this was a case of a random black man reaching for a cell phone in his pocket, this was a serious case pursued by the police and referred to the Marshals service which has more resources designated for tracking down wanted felons. Brandon Webber rammed his vehicle into the federal agent’s automobile and then got out of his car, with early reports saying he had a firearm. On top of that, Webber posted on social media in vulgar terms that the authorities would never take him. Even as a civilian sitting on my couch I would say that somebody who rams me and then exits their car with a gun intending to kill me will be responded to accordingly. Yet somehow this simple case of Marshals responding to a violent criminal and punk who thought he was above the law has become a civil rights issue where police are at fault.
Many writers have correctly covered the tense situations that police are placed in which requires knowing the entire context. But for activists and Blacks Lives Matter, the only thing that seems to matter is the color of the police and the victim, not that the supposed victim is engaging in suspicious behavior at best, and is often a violent criminal violently resisting or fleeing police. In contrast to the truly innocent victims like Emmet Till, or pillars of the community like Martin Luther King, Jr., the modern-day “victims” are hardly innocent but often resemble thugs and criminals who are then elevated by race baiters to promote their agenda. Even criminals have rights to be arrested and treated humanely, but these individuals are often lawless riff-raff that should be a target of law enforcement; they create the deadly situations in which they find themselves, and when they face the reasonable consequences of ramming law enforcement and appearing to draw a gun, they complain that it’s a cosmic conspiracy by racist cops that results in their deaths.
Perhaps someday I’ll read about a victim that was on the way back from feeding the homeless at the Salvation Army, didn’t do drugs, wasn’t reasonably suspected of criminal activity, and calmly talked to police who then shot him for no reason. That would be a true civil rights crisis. But the people who follow the law and listen to the lawful commands of police officers have so little reason to fear the police. Seems I will never read about that scenario.