It isn’t hard to notice that some crimes are more important than others. Or at least more politically advantageous.
It is six years since Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency by somebody who appeared to be a sort of aspiring Nazi. Back then, various campaign groups and newspapers in this country had no problems with claiming that guilt for that attack could be liberally spread around. Some said that everybody on the political right bore responsibility. Others claimed that anyone who was leading Britain’s ‘Leave’ campaign in the EU referendum shared the blame.
It was different in October last year, when Sir David Amess MP was murdered – also in his constituency. Sir David’s killer was an Islamist called Ali Harbi Ali, and there was no attempt whatsoever in the media or among parliamentarians to spread the blame around that time. Nobody blamed any circle of people around Ali, let alone everybody who shared his religion. Instead, MPs focused on the importance of their precious Online Safety Bill, which is meant to make internet anonymity harder. Not that Ali – who proudly sat by his victim’s body until the police arrived – seems to have had any especial concern with anonymity.
It is the same in the US. Last Saturday, in Buffalo, New York, an 18-year-old shot at customers in a Tops Supermarket, claiming ten victims, all of them black. On his rifle the gunman had written the names of some of the victims of the massacre at Waukesha, Wisconsin, that took place in November. On that occasion the killer was also a racist, but Darrell Brooks Jr was a black anti-white racist, who ploughed his car into a Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring 62 others. That is a nasty little cycle of violence right there. But the incidents are not isolated.
Last month, a 62-year-old black man with a history of anti-white racism shot ten people on a subway train in New York. On Monday this week a 36-year-old black male was taken into custody after three Korean women were shot at an Asian salon. According to the girlfriend of the perpetrator, the shooter had bad experiences with Asians in the past.
But guess which of these shootings brought forth the biggest and most widespread forms of condemnation? When the Waukseha massacre took place, President Biden didn’t even bother to visit the families of those who had died. Admittedly he did send his wife a month later. But his press spokesperson said that presidential trips of this kind were just too expensive and difficult to arrange, especially at short notice.
Not so with the Buffalo massacre. It took just three days for President Biden to hotfoot it to the scene of that crime, and to post on Twitter that ‘White supremacy is a poison running through our body politic.’ He – or his team – went on to say: ‘In America, evil will not win. Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word.’ As though anyone thought the Buffalo supermarket shooter would.
Of course, it does not take much attention to note that no such messages were forthcoming from the President after Waukesha or the New York subway attacks. The New York subway shooter was busy on social media for years before his crime, sending out messages like ‘O black Jesus, please kill all the whiteys.’ You might have thought that it suggested something. But on none of these occasions does Joe Biden or anyone in a senior position come out and declare that ‘Black supremacy is a poison running through our body politic.’ He also has yet to say that ‘Black supremacy will not have the last word’, let alone to warn that anti-Asian crime committed by black Americans is a poison running through our society.
This makes people angry, the overt double standards. Because in the age of mass communication, it is not possible to conceal it. Everybody can see the double standard in action. And so a cycle of suspicion gets worse.
It does not help that the group most famously claiming to tackle what anti-black racism does exist in America has turned out to be the most cynical shakedown job in recent history. Everybody in America is aware of the sort of self-anointed huckster pastor who takes out television adverts imploring viewers to send in donations so he can get the helicopter Jesus wants him to have. But Americans, and others, were much slower to spot the same phenomenon in our more modern faith.
This week we got a new glimpse of how the co-founder of Black Lives Matter has spent the extraordinary wealth that came her way in recent years. We already knew that Patrisse Cullors had bought herself a property empire consisting of numerous mansions across America. But this week her organisation’s tax filings gave us a clearer glimpse of the directions into which all that indulgence money went. Her property purchases have included a $6 million mansion in LA. It is meant to be a BLM property, though I doubt Ms Cullors would be pleased if any black people turned up to stay there.
But the largesse also went round further, all in the name of what one BLM leader called ‘decolonising philanthropy’. This week we discovered that Cullors’s brother Paul was last year paid $840,000 for providing security services for the foundation. Cullors’s ‘baby-father’ received $970,000 to help produce live events, while a fellow BLM director, Shalomyah Bowers, was paid more than $2 million for providing ‘operational support’.
It seems that the great spigot of money that was turned on in the direction of BLM in recent years did indeed benefit some black Americans, but only those lucky enough to know Ms Cullors. Was it foreseeable? Yes. Never forget that people like Nick Buckley MBE lost their jobs for warning about this.
But there it is. The public debate in the US and UK is seeped through with dishonesty – a dishonesty that a certain type of character inevitably monetises. That won’t change. It’s human nature of a kind Chaucer knew. But the specific dishonesty of varying our response to tragedies depending on the race of victims and culprit? That is a special dishonesty of our age. One we should all hope to outlive.