It seems to be Nazi Week in the media—my own local broadcast news outlet led with Nazi stuff for about six hundred hours yesterday, for instance—and I, for one, am not crazy about it, partly because Neo-Nazis are alternately insufferable and boring, partly because it seems deeply stupid to amplify a small and likely shrinking white nationalist movement to the point where they’re above-the-fold CNN headlines fifty-five minutes out of every hour. I have, regrettably, had some personal interactions with paranoid white power-ish types in the past, and they really are more or less unbearable to be around, alternating between exhausting racial paranoia and century-old discredited eugenicist crackpottery. I get that people like to build up Internet tweet cred by talking endlessly about how cool it is to assault white supremacists, but if you actually ever meet any of them, you’ll probably find them to be far less enraging than you’d imagine and far more likely to put you to sleep with their dumbass philosophy.
Anyway. While being careful not to fall into the Neo-Nazi Media Trap that has stricken just about every other outlet on the face of the earth, I want to look at a particular meme that flew around in the wake of the white power marches in Charlottesville last week. A fair number of commentators, pundits and journalists, watching the mob of angry white guys walk around the city streets with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, remarked, in various ways: “If black people tried to do this, do you think they’d be treated civilly by police officers? I don’t think so!”
Which is a weird thing to say, because—well, we have the Internet. I mean, we’ve essentially left behind the age of speculation more or less entirely, and we’ve entered the age of instant confirmation. It is not hard to look up the answer to just about any question you’ve ever had. In some ways this can be kind of a bummer: it used to be sort of fun to, you know, wonder about stuff for a bit. In other ways—like, if you’re a hack journalist attempting to shoehorn some stupid identity politics talking point into a larger racial narrative you’re desperate to push by any means necessary—the Internet is wonderful. Because you can just look it up!
So what happens when a bunch of black people show up to a protest toting lots of heavy artillery? Well, let’s ask the folks of Dallas, where armed Black Panthers marched a few years ago; or the folks in Waller County, Texas; or Milwaukee; or surely a number of other places, if you bother to look for them.
I mean, there it is: black people have marched en masse while openly carrying firearms numerous times and…nothing happened. On its face the premise of this experiment was stupid to begin with: what, after all, do people think police officers would do if an armed group of black protestors showed up somewhere—start mowing them down with an M134? Police officers can be reckless and stupid, fatally so in many cases, but they do not, as a rule, open fire on small platoons of armed civilians, whether or not they happen to be black, nor will they likely arrest an entire group of people for carrying firearms—especially when it is legal to do so!
But we don’t even need to speculate that far. We have plenty of evidence that black protestors are perfectly free to open-carry while protesting. The repeated hypotheticals to the contrary are not based in reality; they’re based in fervent racial paranoia, and a misinformed notion of the way the world—and America—works. In any event, is it honestly too much to ask for people to just do a few seconds of Google searching before inundating us with this dummy posturing? It would save them the embarrassment, and it would save us the grating irritation of having to listen to it.