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Theory about Why White Protesters Discovered Police Brutality in 2020

June 10, 2020 18 comments

One of the most interesting feature of current nationwide protests against police brutality in this country concerns their racial demography. Many of you might have noticed that the majority (in many cases over 90%) of people protesting against police brutality in cities all over this country are.. well.. white. To be clear, I am not claiming that all previous protests against police brutality in this country have been overwhelmingly black. We do know, for example, that similar protests in the 2012-2017 had a significant minority of white protesters. But the widespread protests we are seeing all over this country now is the first time that the overwhelming majority of protesters at most locations are white. So what has changed between the last time we saw such protests? How did so many young white people suddenly reach the conclusion that “legalized” lynching of black people in this country by police was wrong and unacceptable?

As it turns out, I am not the only person to have noticed this unusual trend- especially given the peculiar history of race and racism in this country. As late as mid-1990s, the parents of most white people who are now protesting against police brutality towards black people were highly enthusiastic supporters of laws and regulations that dehumanized black people and saw them as irredeemable “feral animals” and “super-predators”. Even as late as 2012-13, protests against instances of “legalized” lynching of black people in USA were an almost exclusively black affair. Even multiple instances of similar videotaped instances of police brutality such as the murder of Eric Garner by NYPD, Philando Castile by MPD, Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by GCPD and many more did not elicit such a large, strong and nationwide response. Isn’t it odd that it took until late-May 2020 for a similar incident to finally cause the appropriate reaction.

So.. what is going on? How did a significant minority or maybe even majority of younger white people suddenly develop the firm conviction that systemic racism and “legalized” lunching of black people by cops was unacceptable? Many presstitutes on Twitter have put forth a range of theories to explain the sudden interest in racial equality among younger white people. One of the most popular suggests that this has something to do with the COVID-19 lockdown which cooped up too many people in their homes for almost two months.. aka ‘cabin fever’. Perhaps.. by why did it manifest itself as an newfound interest in racial equality rather than say people flouting the stupid lockdown orders on a large scale? As many of you know, people were already flouting lockdown orders all over the country and more than a few of the previous cycle of protests to open the economy had a pretty decent numbers in attendance.

Another popular theory suggests that this newfound interest in racial equality has something to do with ‘virtue display’ under late-capitalism. While it is true that the willingness of corporations to go along with these protests has everything to do with empty virtue signalling- it is equally clear that majority of people who are protesting are not there because some corporation paid them. Even if we accept that some protesters are there to show off their liberal and progressive credentials, it is equally clear that the majority aren’t in it for virtue display. Some others have compared these protests to a new religious movement often humorously referred to as the “great aWOKEning”. While many mass movements do have quasi-religious overtones, these arise after the movement has become big rather than cause its growth and popularity.

Here is my theory. Regular readers might remember that I repeatedly alluded to the possibility of the widespread civil unrest due to gross mishandling of COVID-19 crisis by the governments of many countries- but especially in USA. If you have read those posts, you might also remember that I said something about the governments bailing out large corporations while throwing just a few crumbs to average people and small business will very likely be what precipitates such a reaction. Well.. as we know now the unemployment and underemployment numbers in this country are through the roof- even if Trump tried to massage them. It is also noteworthy that rates of unemployment and underemployment are especially high among those under 40-45, which is the same group that also suffered the maximum long-term damage from the 2008 GFC.

To put it another way, the majority of people under 40-45 (regardless of race) have seen a continual decline in the material quality of their lives and experienced little advantage of being white- unlike boomers of older- Gen-Xers. AS I said in a previous post, there was a lot of dry tinder on the ground before the perfect spark of George Floyds’ lynching by the MPD. The point I was trying to make is the fuel for this fire was created over a long time by continually declining living standards for people under a certain age. But there is more.. the COVID-19 pandemic was the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back by exposing the sheer incompetence of many supposedly respectable institutions both national (CDC, FDA etc) and international (WHO). It also exposed the inability and unwillingness of political leadership in this country, at all levels, to help the very people who they were supposed to represent and voted them into power.

What we are seeing now is the manifestation of people expressing widespread, and potentially irreversible, loss of faith in the institutions and systems of governance under which they currently live. But how does this get transformed into protests against racism and police brutality? Well.. because the police along with those involved in taxation are the two most visible enforcers of the coercive state authority. In other words, police are the most visible public face of a failed system in which a lot of people have now lost all trust and hope. Given these connections between the police and authority of a system that is rapidly losing popular legitimacy, it is no wonder that so many white people under 40-45 have suddenly discovered racism and police brutality against black people. It also does not help the overpaid, militarized and arrogant losers who populate police departments thought USA do not cut a sympathetic figures among those who have either lost their job or have seen substantial reduction in their income stream.

What do you think? Comments?