While the eyes of a nation have shifted to the Supreme Court squirrel, a small group of people elsewhere continue to go out at night to demand a show of allegiance to their cause. It’s not exactly news anymore, as it happens night after night, unless it comes to your neighborhood.
Terrance Moses was watching protesters against police brutality march down his quiet residential street one recent evening when some in the group of a few hundred suddenly stopped and started yelling.
Why, you might wonder, are they marching down a “quiet residential street”? What did the people who lived on that street do to them, to anyone? If the protest is against police brutality, whether in general or exclusively toward black people and, well, they’re good with police brutality otherwise, was this quiet residential street a hotbed of cops doing bad things? Or were these just ordinary people who had no particular association with police, no less brutal police?
Did anyone who decided that marching down this quiet residential street consider that these weren’t their “enemy,” but perhaps empathetic friends, even if not so much so that they were ready to leave the kids alone at night to join their march and, if the opportunity arose, burn a cop car?
Mr. Moses was initially not sure what the protesters were upset about, but as he got closer, he saw it: His neighbors had an American flag on display.
“It went from a peaceful march, calling out the names, to all of a sudden, bang, ‘How dare you fly the American flag?’” said Mr. Moses, who is Black and runs a nonprofit group in the Portland, Ore., area. “They said take it down. They wouldn’t leave. They said they’re going to come back and burn the house down.”
Moses and his neighbors blocked the marchers that night and told them to leave. His skin color may have given him sufficient cred to tell the angry white children to get lost, but he couldn’t stand there forever.
“We don’t go around terrorizing folks to try and force them to do something they don’t want to do,” said Mr. Moses, whose nonprofit group provides support for local homeless people. “I’m a veteran. I’m for these liberties.”
The problem is “we” do. At least, they do, meaning however many people within the group of marchers, maybe all of them, for whom a person flying an American flag was enough of a provocation to rationalize destruction. But they’re frustrated.
Nearly four months after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, some protesters against police brutality are taking a more confrontational — and personal — approach. The marches in Portland are increasingly moving to residential and largely white neighborhoods, where demonstrators with bullhorns shout for people to come “out of your house and into the street” and demonstrate their support.
Others, frustrated that little has changed since Mr. Floyd was killed, say that sitting idly and watching a protest without participating nowadays is to show tacit support for racism.
This reflects the Kendi version of reality, where every life is either dedicated to fighting racism by the means he and people with bullhorns or Molotov cocktails demand, or they’re racists and deserve to burn.
Actually what I’m saying is we should eliminate the term “not racist” from the human vocabulary. We are either being racist or antiracist. Is that clear for you? There’s no such thing as “not racist.”
The otherwise ordinary people, living in their houses on quiet residential streets, did nothing to harm anyone. They may have welcomed black people into their homes and workplaces as brothers and sisters. They may be black, like Moses, happy to enjoy a good neighborhood of kind and decent people. They may be any variation in between, people being whatever they are and, surprisingly, remarkably diverse just by their nature.
Yet that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for demagogues like Kendi, for whom anyone not being his version of antiracist is a racist. It’s not good enough for a few hundred marchers who are shocked that they haven’t caused the nation to bend to their will. Clearly, more forceful means are needed, and clearly they must be directed at the heinous racists who . . . fly an American flag.
The American flag that generated controversy is displayed in Kenton, a neighborhood of Portland with small bungalows, lush front gardens and ripe fruit trees. Weeks after the confrontation, the husband and wife who fly the flag said they were fearful of retaliation from the roving protesters, who had found their phone number.
Some will “understand” the marchers’ frustration. They adore symbolism, and the flag symbolizes being pro-police, pro-Trump, pro-conservative and, of course, racism. Why it’s being flown isn’t entirely clear. Perhaps the homeowner just loves America. Perhaps he’s a veteran. Perhaps he just likes flags. Perhaps he’s a cop lover.
But they say they will not be intimidated into removing the flag.
“I will not take my flag down,” said the husband, who declined to provide his name in a brief interview.
Some of the unduly passionate will persist in arguing that the cause of ending racism remains the good cause, the just and moral cause, even though they do not support the method of intimidation of random ordinary people. But this isn’t protest. They aren’t expressing their views to their elected officials to seek redress. They’re engaging in secondary action, annoying the normies to coerce them to put pressure on elected officials to do as the mob demands so their kids aren’t awakened in the middle of the night on what used to be a quiet residential street.
And if they don’t get their way, they will burn it down the night Moses isn’t there to tell them to get lost. Flag guy refuses to remove the flag because he won’t be intimidated. The woman in the D.C. restaurant who supported Black Lives Matter refused to raise her fist because they demanded she do so upon threat of attack. But they’re racists in the minds of frustrated marchers and Ibram Kendi, so they deserve whatever happens to them. And American flags are only good for burning anyway these days.