A Reasoned Response to Candace Owens Video on George Floyd
The other discussions of Candace Owen’s video, that I have seen, have either resorted to ad-hominem attacks or laundry lists of resources while calling those who disagree “ignorant”. Instead, here is a short discussion that is critical of the ideas she espouses coupled with necessary citations. All constructive criticism, agreement, and disagreement is welcome. Though please remain civil.
“Breonna Taylor was an EMT in Louisville, Kentucky. On March 13, 2020, she was murdered in her apartment during a no knock drug raid, resulting in no drugs found and a criminal charge for her boyfriend for defending himself. If Candace Owens or her listeners had ever attended a protest over the past few weeks, they would likely know that these protests are about much more than just George Floyd. George Floyd is not a “martyr”, he is an unfortunate consequence of system of institutional incentives that allow a man to take another man’s life with relative ease and generally little consequence.
To suggest that you want justice for George Floyd’s Family while simultaneously inferring that these protests are incommensurate with the crime committed by Derek Chauvin, is to to possess a misunderstanding of the criminal justice system in the United States. In 2015, the result of a police officer killing an unarmed black person yielded only a 12.5% chance of that officer being charged, only a 3.8% chance of actually being convicted, and the maximum associated sentences culminating to only 4 years . Since the protests, all four officers associated with the murder of George Floyd have received charges. Assuming independence, the probability of this occurring is 0.02%, meaning incredibly unlikely. If you want justice for George Floyd, then these protests have been working. Still, Breonna Taylor and thousands of other Americans murdered by the police have yet to receive similar justice.
This is not the only problematic position posited by Candace Owens. For example, she cites that a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black person than vice versa. This is false. In 2015, 41 police officers died during a felonious act, while that same year, 104 unarmed black people were killed by the police . Thus even if half the homicides of police were at the hands of people of color, that would still imply that an unarmed black person is more than 4 times likely to be killed by a police officer than vice versa. Candace Owens continues by stating that, if you don’t want to get killed by the police, then just “limit the number of encounters you need to have with them”. While this is trivially true, the issue is that people of color are being forced into having more interactions with law enforcement because of their color, not because of their individual actions .
Another problematic position is her statements in the context of her intellectual heroes. Two of which, Walter Williams & Thomas Sowell, both share an interesting idea. They both openly oppose the war on drugs, with Thomas Sowell writing that all drugs should be legalized. Now why mention this? For people convicted of a felony in the United States, in 2006 a drug related charge was the most serious offense in more than 33% of all felony charges. This makes drug charges the most common cause of felonies in the US. One may find it peculiar then, Candace Owens continual use of the pejorative “criminal” coupled with her assertion that black culture is appealing to the “bottom denominator” of society by defending the rights of criminals, while her own intellectual heroes believe that more than 1/3 of felons in the United States do not deserve the name. It would appear that Candace Owens own intellectual heroes are also appealing to the bottom denomination of society.
Candace Owens uses the term “criminal” as a justification that the George Floyd Protests are disproportionate to the crime (“crime” referring to his extra-judicial killing). Having committed crimes in the past, despite having served his time, George Floyd is now a human being of lower value, undeserving of the same outrage we would provide someone more pure. One can almost construct an argument that there is legal precedence that this is true. Consider that for black men born in 2001, 1 in 3 of them will likely face some form of imprisonment in the course of their lifetimes . Then we construct race, specifically blackness, as a proxy for criminality. Then it is rational for employers to engage in discriminatory practices towards black people . Then it is rational for the killing of a black person to be 11 times less likely to receive the death penalty than the killing a white person . Then it is rational that a criminal sentence for black man is 19.1% longer than a similarly situated white man. Then it is rational that an unarmed black person is 5 times likelier to be killed by a police officer than unarmed white person . Then it is rational that, of those police who have killed an unarmed black person, for only 12.5% of them to be charged and only 3.8% to be convicted, with the longest sentence culminating to 4 years .
Of course, blackness is not criminality. The belief that skin pigmentation is related to innate behavioral characteristics is a racist idea. And in these two points lies the crux of why Candace Owens argument is highly problematic It functions as a dog whistle for people who actually believe in the genetic/behavioral inferiority of black people. Intentionally masked in a degree of ambiguity to provide plausible deniability upon confrontation. It propagates the narrative relationship between blackness and crime, reinforcing damaging stereotypes and promoting racist logic. It employs the word “culture” so as to avoid a dialogue all together, suggesting the skewed statistics along the dimensions of wealth, income, education, health, and crime are completely determined by individual agency. The purpose for doing this is clear. For people who do not want to actually enact or repeal any laws that can improve the condition for black americans, it is best to believe that the problem rests completely on individual agency and to deny by omission the existence of any structural disadvantages.
It is interesting to observe how many people who deny systemic racism is a problem in the United States, to so quickly discuss black culture as if that is something that should so clearly exist. Does it, or why does it, really make sense for skin pigmentation to be a determinant of culture? How much of what you are thinking when you discuss race associated with culture is actually explained by various factors such as poverty, geography, networks, educational opportunities, employment opportunities, ethnicity, language, ancestry, etc. Note that, I am not saying that I believe there is no such thing as black culture in the United States. I believe that there is. I believe so because I believe there is something unique about the black experience in America that can only be explained along the dimension of race. That predominately being the experience of growing up in a highly racialized, white dominated society defined by historical oppression of non-white people, specifically people of color.
For those who are curious about the ideas espoused by those opposed to the Anti-Racism movement, a subject for which our opinions should be malleable, you are better to spend your time listening to her own intellectual heroes such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, or one she hasn’t mentioned, John McWhorter. Though if you do, you will also have to face that none speak with this type of venomous rhetoric and all support the end of the War on Drugs in recognizing the broad harm it has done and is continuing to do to the black community.
I would like to make a final point regarding Candace Owens rhetoric. Near the end of the video she cites people such as herself or Ben Carson, as examples of black Americans who have achieved success. However, she continues by portraying those who disagree with her as, not only people who are opposed to black success broadly, but also those who would resort to using racist expletives on her or Ben or anyone who disagrees. Not only is this a simplistic and offensive portrayal of those who disagree with her, it does nothing to promote the capacity for critical thinking in both herself or her viewership. The only thing this achieves is to teach hate and the inability to listen to those who disagree with you. It is incredibly counterproductive and damaging. If this is typical of her content, or the content produced by the people who provide her a platform, it is within your best interest to discover a new way of being “informed”.
All the views expressed here are my own, and as always, susceptible to change. “
:https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20171114_Demographics.pdf : https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed
:https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fssc06st.pdf pg 3
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