by Ben Sixsmith
Tuesday, 1
June 2021
Idea
11:31

Why ‘Blackout Tuesday’ changed nothing

Empty social media theatrics have replaced politics for progressives
by Ben Sixsmith
Credit: Getty

One year ago today, Blackout Tuesday was an attempt to raise awareness about the plight of African Americans suffering from the effects of structural discrimination and police brutality. Spearheaded by the music executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, it encouraged businesses and social media accounts to cease their operations for a day in order to “reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity.” The black squares that blotted out profile pictures and corporate logos became ubiquitous on social media.

It is easy to be cynical about such costless gestures, but, in fairness, we could all use distance from social media from time to time. Stepping back from the furious whirling of the news cycle, and its constant barrage of dubious ideas and images, can give us time, space, and, one hopes, perspective.

Did it in this case? Sadly not. A day of incurious silence was followed by long months of incurious ideological grandstanding. The fallout from the events of May and June 2020 have led to a blinkered attitude towards matters of crime, violence and policing. When Sasha Johnson, prominent British Black Lives Matter activist, was shot in Peckham recently, the former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said, “Nobody should have to potentially pay with their life because they stood up for racial justice.” A young black man has gone to court for shooting Ms Johnson in what was apparently an apolitical crime. Abbott has not deleted her post.

This is but one case. Still, it is illustrative of the fact that the conditions of the lives of African Americans, and ethnic minorities in other countries, have only been of interest inasmuch as they can be moralised through the lens of progressive politics. We have heard too little about the awful spike in violent crime in the US in 2020, inspiring the progressive commentator Freddie deBoer to say, “Many seem to think that their duty, as defined in the past year of post-George Floyd America, is to simply pretend that crime does not exist as a political issue.”

The American commentator Razib Khan writes:

2020’s final tally of homicide victims will likely top 20,000. In 2019, 55% of the American victims of homicide were black. Likely more than 11,000 black Americans will have died of homicide in 2020. A 25% increase from 2019 would mean over 2,000 more deaths of black Americans by homicide in 2020.
- Razib Khan

Of course, it is only natural that unjustified killings by the police, such as the shooting of Andre Hill last December, provoke more interest than unjustified killings by other people. We hold police officers to higher standards than criminals, for obvious reasons, or there would be no point in having them.

Still, when journalists were forced to duck for cover as shooting erupted – not for the first time – on George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on the anniversary of Floyd’s death, one had to ask oneself how advocacy for black lives, on such a large scale, had zeroed in on such a small subset of them. (“George Floyd Square very quiet again now,” reported Philip Crowther of Associated Press, “But a fellow reporter just had her phone smashed because she took photos of a storefront hit by a bullet.” Sounds positively peaceful.)

Of course, it would be ridiculous to think that issues of crime and policing exist in splendid isolation from one another. They, like other factors, are closely connected. But social media theatrics, and the dull-minded ideas that can result from disconnection from real life, help no one. Perhaps people should step back from their screens again, but more soberly, and more curiously.

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Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

We have heard too little about the awful spike in violent crime in the US in 2020,
The activists have gotten precisely the result that a child of six could have predicted from their “defund” efforts and their insistence that all cops are racists who purposely target blacks. Just as predictable is how the crime spree has mostly harmed the same black communities the activist community pretends to care about.
The malicious truth is that black lives only matter when they are politically useful. These people simply do not care when an eight year old child is killed by a stray bullet. They care mightily when a career criminal resists law enforcement and things go badly. Why one expects more from this group that performance theater is a mystery since that’s all that this bunch has ever done.

vince porter
vince porter
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Making another responsible for your poverty, your neighborhood, your life, is a recipe for continuing the downward spiral. It simply absolves the victims of all responsibility for their personal situations.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  vince porter

The problem is that there are numerous industries, quite a few political parties, and many layers of the state that depend on these people absolving themselves of all personal responsibility.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You don’t think that modern society – and the lack of social mobility – keeps money in the hands of the rich and away from the poor? You’re right, we all need to take responsibility for our own lives, but the sustained, enforced poverty of the poor and black is not a complete fabrication by the left.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

Actually created and sustained by the left in the process of inadequately educating the poor. Substandard schools coupled with low expectations in poorer neighborhoods perpetuate poverty.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

I was going to reply to Mr Couthard by making the same point, but you have expressed it perfectly.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Tolerating crime helps no one, but it is institutionalized in the whole ‘Justice’ industry.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

“but the sustained, enforced poverty of the poor and black is not a complete fabrication by the left.”

Good point, just like the sustained wealth growth of the Chinese and Indian immigrants is forced on them by the majority for some mysterious reason.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

In America the obsession with race does help to obscure the fact that there is a very real class system over there and it is more likely to be that than systemic racism that is keeping many black people/communities poor. You know how I figure that? Because poor white people and communities aren’t headed upwards either. .

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

It isn’t a class system that keeps people of any race poor in the US. There are a very clear few things that anyone can do, at least in the US, to not live in poverty. They are
1) finish your education. If you drop out of high school, you will live in poverty. No question about it.
2) stay out of the justice system. If you have an arrest record as a young person, it’s very tough to not live in poverty
3) do not have children while still a child yourself. If you want a family, finish school, get married, both of you get jobs and then have a family.
far too many people fail to follow these fairly simple things. And race has nothing to do with it.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
1 year ago

You don’t think that modern society – and the lack of social mobility – keeps money in the hands of the rich and away from the poor?
White Americans are being out-earned on average by Chinese, Korean, Indian, Lebanese, Syrian Americans and even recent-immigrant Africans, if I recall correctly.
If your post was supposed to mean that white Americans are trying to keep a firm grip on the money in the USA, it doesn’t look like they’re doing it very well.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

They’re also failing miserably at keeping elite uni places to themselves. Harvard’s 2023 class is 25% Asian, 12% Latinx and 14% African American. The pending law suit vs. Harvard argues the ‘low’ Asian quotient is discriminatory at the expense of affirmative action to promote black student entry. But even this activist John Yang calls out as an attempt by white supremacists to fight true “diversity.”

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  vince porter

At the same time, grievance is a huge industry. Those in it have far more incentive to perpetuate problems than to fix them. Race relations in the US were going so well that a black man was twice elected president, but his most vocal supporters are the people who insist that America today remains a Jim Crow/Klan dystopia.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You didn’t mention Fascist. “Antifa”‘s rallying cry is – or was – “No Trump, no KKK/ No Fascist USA”.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It has given some people a start on the housing ladder. Four million may sound a lot to us but as the BLM lady explained , she’s got family. Rather interesting that Diane Abbott doesn’t want to discuss her own son’s contribution to the crime figures-despite him having all the best opportunities to rise above the apparent disadvantages he was born with.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Diane Abbott doesn’t have to explain her son’s poor decisions – those are his responsibility

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

She said that she had to send her son to a private school-going against party policy-as he might get drawn into crime etc in a state school. It has been suggested that affirmative action to those considered disadvantaged might ‘break’ the hold of the gang culture. As she comments on most things-in the case of Ms Johnson wrongly-it might be interesting to hear where she thinks she went ‘wrong’ herself.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Yeah fair enough

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Does Ms. Abbott advocate a school voucher program? If not, there would seem to be a good deal of hypocrisy in her choice regarding her son’s education. Such moral inconsistency rears its ugly head with US Democratic politicians on a regular basis. Even the Obamas sent Sasha and Malia to a very expensive private school rather than the mainly black DC public schools. But they don’t want to rile the teachers’ unions by advocating for school choice, so they just have to hope not too many voters can see their hypocrisy for what it is.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

The teachers unions are against some public schools called charter schools which are popular with poor black parents as emphasis on good behaviour and learning. Its almost as though some people want to maintain failure?

peter lucey
peter lucey
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Stats from Chicago for 2020.
Homicides: 792
Black victims: 627
Killed by police: 7
Source: https://heyjackass.com/category/2020/
Chicago has ~2.7million inhabitants

Last edited 1 year ago by peter lucey
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  peter lucey

Chicago managed 12 homicides in one night recently, or perhaps it was one weekend. Anyway, the figures are going to be higher this year from what I’m hearing. The mayor’s response is to refuse to be interviewed by white reporters.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
1 year ago

Just like I could not care if a skinhead from the nf is shot in the head I donf care if a black supremacist promoting a foreign racist organisation is shot in the head.
At least you can’t blame white people oh wait, diane Abbott says you can

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Well, yes, but we have known all this for many year. Still, it’s nice to see a young person i.e. the writer, slowly wake up to some form of reality.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

‘We have heard too little about the awful spike in violent crime in the US in 2020,’
I have heard about it endlessly because I follow many reliable and informative podcasts etc from, for instance, black conservatives in the US. But yes, if you are dumb enough to follow the MSM you will have heard ‘too little’ about it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Fraser Bailey
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

and if one has heard too little, asking why is a good idea.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Can we please extend blackout Tuesday 27/7/365

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
1 year ago

I believe you meant 24 rather than 27, but otherwise, yeah, and right on!

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

I think the structural oppression most relevant to disadvantaged people comes from the self-engineered sub-cultures which trap people from an early age – informing their outlook on life, their prejudices, their ambitions, their sense of self-worth.
Change that, and change everything.

Phil Desaulniers
Phil Desaulniers
1 year ago

Razib Khan’s reasoning in that quote assumes that the total proportion of blacks in the murder stats will be the same in 2020 as in 2019. Given that the surge in murder took place primarily in poor black neighborhoods that defunded their police forces, I’m not sure his assumptions are sound. There were likely far more than 11,000 black homicide victims in 2020.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

And for much longer!

David Stanley
David Stanley
1 year ago

The fundamental problem is that the social media companies know that everyone will be back once the blackout is over. People are so narcissistically addicted to their phones and social media that they can’t bare to be without them. Defeating racism is clearly less important to these people than getting more likes, followers and validation from people they’ve never met.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

“We have heard too little about the awful spike in violent crime in the US in 2020”
Wow, could this be more wrong? The news is absolutely loaded with reporting of widespread violent crime in specific areas of the US. And Americans watch this with the same horror as do non-Americans.
We feel sorry for those stuck in cities like Portland, Seattle, Chicago, NYC. I am very grateful not to have to live in one of these places. They will have to figure out for themselves why their cities are so violent, what is it that they are doing differently to cities not plagued by violent crime. No one outside can do that for them.
“Many seem to think that their duty, as defined in the past year of post-George Floyd America, is to simply pretend that crime does not exist as a political issue.”
No way anyone could pretend that crime doesn’t exist and no one would take such a person seriously if they did.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

Did anyone actually expect “Blackout Tuesday” to change anything? If so, why?

David Jones
David Jones
1 year ago

Still, it is illustrative of the fact that the conditions of the lives of African Americans, and ethnic minorities in other countries, have only been of interest inasmuch as they can be moralised through the lens of progressive politics.

Maybe that would change if conservatives took more interest in improving those conditions?

Jason Lynch
Jason Lynch
1 year ago
Reply to  David Jones

Maybe that would change if conservatives took more interest in improving those conditions?

How, exactly? Enforce the law to free people from the fear of crime? No, the police have to be “defunded”, they’re the enemy, and law and order is a fascist imposition.
Promote education, to give people more opportunity? Only “oreos” and “coconuts” get educated.
Encourage family stability, discourage single parenthood? Bigoted patriarchal attitudes like that will get you nowhere.

So how would conservatives “improve those conditions” without being colonialist, racist, patriarchal oppressors? Be detailed and specific, please; and do be sure to show how your plans and programmes avoid being captured and exploited by the hustlers, as Tom Wolfe was describing all the way back in 1970 (in “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers”)
We could, of course, set up a charity, with the aim of “improving the lot of the disadvantaged”. I’d be happy to run it for a mere £250,000 a year (quality doesn’t come cheap, you understand) and we’d need really good facilities to show we’re serious. I know some excellent people we could recruit (again, for appropriate salaries reflecting their talents and brilliance) and we could really generate some movement in the field, get some social media traction, uplift the consciousness, and generally really shift the terms of the conversation. After all, if we’re burning through a few million pounds a year, we must be achieving amazing results! (Of course, it’s a long-term project, it’ll take time for the outputs to show, but trust me, when they do they’ll be amazing…)

David Jones
David Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Lynch

The facetiousness of these answers seem to indicate a lack of interest in improving these conditions. Yes, fund and improve education, and improve policing to win communities’ trust. Family stability is more likely to be improved by challenging patriarchal attitudes – which lead to family conflict – than insisting on them. Invest in these communities and improve people’s incomes.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  David Jones

Family stability is critical. Young men, the primary perpetrators of violent crime as well as its primary victims, don’t do well without fathers in the home. We need a bit more patriarchy overseeing the behavior of young men. There is no investment in a young man that pays better dividends than a caring father. Conservatives are already on board with this, it is progressives and liberals who need to take more interest in it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
David Jones
David Jones
1 year ago

Young men, the primary perpetrators of violent crime as well as its primary victims, don’t do well without fathers in the home. We need a bit more patriarchy overseeing the behavior of young men.

I can agree with the first part, but the second sentence is a non-sequitur.
A present father does not require patriarchal values, in fact insisting on patriarchal hierarchy can result in conflict and couples splitting.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  David Jones

The last sentence makes no sense. A father and son are not a couple. A father is an authority figure to his son, not a peer. And boys do not do well without fathers. Plenty of research to back this up.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
David Jones
David Jones
1 year ago

The last sentence makes no sense. A father and son are not a couple.

The “couple” refers to the parents, obviously.