Charles Barkley (Associated Press)

The 10 most outrageous reactions to police killings this year

Geraldo Rivera, Bill O'Reilly and Charles Barkley all took respectability politics to odious new lows


Terrell Jermaine Starr
December 29, 2014 6:00PM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet Black people have been killed by cops at alarming rates in 2014, with the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases attracting most of the national media spotlight. With that media attention comes some remarkably ridiculous logic and excuse-making for why black people are getting themselves killed at the hands of cops. Without fail, conservatives top the "What the Hell?" list of dumb remarks made about police shootings in 2014. Here are 10 of the most notable.

1. Geraldo Rivera criticizes LeBron James for wearing an #iCantBreathe shirt during pre-game warmups.  During a segment on Hannity, Rivera, who notoriously criticized Trayvon Martin for wearing a hoodie, offered up some sparkling commentary on LeBron James' choice of shirt. "You know, I saw LeBron James on the night the Cleveland Caveliers pummeled the Brooklyn Nets and he had the shirt on, 'I Can't Breathe.' The shirt obviously referencing Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was choked to death in that horrifying video we all saw. I wondered to myself, what if LeBron James instead had a shirt, 'Be a better father to your son. Raise your children.' Those difficult issues aren't being dealt with in the black community because they are so complex, they're so deep-rooted. They are so profoundly troubling that they don't want to try and it is a victimization mentality that says we can only motivate when we are the victims. It goes in keeping with everything that happens to the black community in the generations preceding. It's easy to demonstrate and be outraged when we are the victims: look what they are doing to us rather than what we are doing to ourselves. There is a kind of urban suicide that is happening here that has to be dealt with."

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Perhaps the only thing that needs to be dealt with is Rivera's career.

2. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani says the issue is black people killing each other; not white police officers brutalizing black communities. Giuliani appeared on a "Meet the Press" segment with Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, who debunked everything the ex-mayor said, but not before Giuliani got, well, completely racist. “[Black-on-black crime] is the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community,” Giuliani claimed. “Why don’t you cut it down so that so many white police officers don’t have to be in black areas?….The white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other."

It's a good thing term limits killed Giuliani's career. New York City is so much better without him, although his legacy of strong-arm policing lives on.

3. Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley doesn't seem to think the cops in Ferguson, Mo., or elsewhere are an important issue poor black people have to deal with.Riley said in a column earlier this year that black-on-black crime is the main issue. "We now know that Michael Brown was much more of a menace than a martyr, but that won’t stop liberals from pushing an anti-police narrative that harms the black poor in the name of helping them. The black teen in Ferguson, Mo., robbed a store, attacked a white police officer and was shot dead while resisting arrest. That was the conclusion of a St. Louis County grand jury that brought no charges against the officer after considering all the physical evidence, along with eyewitness accounts from blacks in the vicinity of the confrontation. Not that any amount of evidence would have stopped the hooligans in Ferguson Monday night who were determined to use Brown’s death as a pretext for more bad behavior. Nor will evidence thwart liberals who are bent on making excuses for black criminality and pretending that police shootings are responsible for America’s high black body count."

I could get into all of the data that says white people kill white people and Latinos kill other Latinos—basically, that most crime is intra-racial—but we've been down that path before. And facts don't seem to make much of a dent in ideology. The right loves nothing better than a black conservative peddling false equivalencies on black pathology. While I do not believe black people can be racist in the same way white people are, they certainly can be right-wing racism mules. In that sense, Riley has been "pushing weight" for years.

4. No black right-wing racism denier has been more damaging to the fight against racism than Ward "Affirmative Action Killer" Connerly.When the University of California-Irvine offered students grief counseling after a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown, Connerly, who was a member of the University of California’s Board of Regents from 1993-2005, said the school was making a bad call.

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“If they really wanted to have a teachable moment of understanding the facts of the case as they were presented to the grand jury, that would be one thing,” Ward said. “But this isn’t about processing facts. It’s about processing the emotions of what you have been told about the case.” He added, “What’s surprising to me is how individuals 2,000 miles away can somehow get really emotionally attached to this verdict, which leads me to believe it is somewhat make-believe. The notion that they can get all riled up to the extent that they need psychological help is really pushing the envelope.”

Some might agree that if anyone needs psychological help, it is Mr. Connerly.

5. Charles Barkley called looters in Ferguson "scumbags" during an interview with a Philadelphia radio station.Besides saying that "We never discuss race in this country until something bad happens," which is not true, Barkley added this: "We as black people, we have a lot of crooks. We can't just wait until something like [the Brown shooting] happens."

"We have to look at ourselves in the mirror," he said of people in black communities. "There is a reason that they racially profile us in the way they do. Sometimes it is wrong, and sometimes it is right."

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Someone needs to steal Sir Charles' black skin and give it to a white ally at a Ferguson protest. They'd probably wear it with more dignity than he does.

6. Bill O'Reilly lectures Michael Brown's parents for speaking out about their son's shooting. During a CNN interview, Michael Brown Sr., who had asked for an end to looting and violence, referenced the slogan, “No justice, no peace." That was enough for O'Reilly to get paternalistic on an August 12 segment of "The O'Reilly Factor." "Do we as a society—what do we do? Do we weigh in as the boy’s father — and if it were my son, I probably would have said the same thing, but he’s obviously talking through an emotional prism. His son is dead. He believes, probably, I know he believes, that it was an injustice, that it was done for nothing, it was a murder. And many, many African Americans believe that without knowing the facts. Do we criticize them, or do we remain silent?" Typically, that is what many conservatives like to say when black people are grieving over police violence: that they don't know all of the facts. It's another way of saying black people are too emotional to look at tragic incidents with any degree of intellectual depth and draw reasonable conclusions. Given that the Ferguson Police Department had not yet released the name of the cop who shot him Brown, O'Reilly was engaging in pure victim-blaming and demanding that the parents have full faith in the authorities who were covering up for the man who killed their son. Nice, Mr. O'Reilly, very nice.

7. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asserts that Eric Garner wouldn't have died had he been healthier. "There was no damage to the windpipe, and no damage to the neck. If he had not been obese, if he had not had diabetes, if he had not asthma, this probably would not have have happened. Nobody intended this to have happened," King said on a December 4 segment of Fox News. "Eleven times he said, 'I can't breathe,'" King acknowledged, but then opined, "The fact is, if you can't breathe, you can't talk. If you've ever seen somebody arrested, they are always saying you're breaking my arm, you're killing me, I'm dying. If the police officer let him go at that time, the whole thing would have started all over again." The coroner called Eric Garner's death by choking a homicide, but Rep. King, who is not a doctor, has conducted his own pseudo-autopsy.

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8. Joe Scarborough said Michael Brown is unworthy of being the face of racial injustice during a segment of "Morning Joe" on Dec. 3.Here is a breakdown of what he said, fromYahoo News:

"Somebody needs to tell me why Michael Brown has been chosen as the face of black oppression," Scarborough said on Monday, a day after several St. Louis Rams players took the field with their hands up. "This Ram thing was the final straw for me. I have sat here quietly and listened to BS being spewed all over this network and all over other networks. I can't take it anymore."

What Scarborough could not take was the fact that anyone believed Brown had his hands up when he was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, although many witnesses have said so. Wilson told the more nonsensical story that Brown charged at him after punching him (and knowing that Wilson had a gun). More Scarborough rant from Yahoo:

"It's absolutely terrible that that black man lay in the street for four and a half hours," Scarborough said. "That's one area where you can say no white man would lay in the street for four and a half hours. There are places where there are great inequities. That said, at least get your signs right. If this movement is important enough to you, don't base your movement on a lie."

Scarborough added: "By the way, if I've offended anybody by saying what I've said, trust me: 95 percent of America thinks just like me. Just because there are cowards that won't say that on TV, that's your problem, it's not mine, because you're not getting the truth."

And neither are you, Scarborough. 9. Ben Carson: Fatherless black men and femimism are to blame for police shootings. During a phone interview on American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues” in late November, Carson had this to say about fatherless black boys:

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"Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority. So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you really have no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system."

Then he blamed feminism:

"I think a lot of it really got started in the '60s with the 'me' generation. 'What’s in it for me?' I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, 'I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?' You know, it really should be about us."

The only culprits for unjust police killings he left out were, of course, the cops.  10. John Hawkins, conservative commentator who runs Right-Wing News, wrote a column for Town Hall titled "How Not To Get Shot By Cops." It's pure genius! In his groundbreaking piece, Hawkins says that if you do everything an officer says, you should be just fine. He also has some dress code advice for folks who want to avoid being "racially profiled."

If you dress like a thug, people – including cops – will respond to that. Back in the day, when I decided to put my psychology degree to work in a group home, I remember one of the kids complaining that every time he walked through a store, he heard the clerk call for “security” to look at different aisles. As he said that, he was wearing saggy pants with a bandana on his head (Wasn’t my call on letting him dress like that); so was it a surprise that he was treated with suspicion? Incidentally, since he actually WAS A THIEF, the system seemed to be working.

This applies to cops, too. They’re going to look at you differently based on whether you’re wearing a suit or look like a member of the Crips. Is that unfair? Not at all, because if you want to send the world the message that you’re a thug by the way you dress, then maybe it makes sense to pay attention to that message. The police certainly will and if a cop is looking at the “thug life” tattoo on your arm, then you need to be that much more polite to keep him from getting edgy.

Well, Mr. Hawkins, unfortunately I have a tattoo all over my body that screams "thug life." It's called being black. There are so many more dumb things conservatives say about cop killings, but I wanted to save you a few brain cells and spare you the depression. But what is so frightening about these remarks is that I'm sure every person on this list believes every word they say and that many other Americans agree with them. I hope 2015 will be better, but I doubt it.


Terrell Jermaine Starr

MORE FROM Terrell Jermaine Starr

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alternet Eric Garner Geraldo Rivera Jason Riley Rudy Giuliani Tahir Rice

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