Reaping a False Narrative Sown by Our Elites: George Floyd, Riots, and Civil Discourse

American cities burn, stores are looted, and property owners who try to defend what’s theirs are beaten senseless. What we see taking place throughout the country has very little to do with George Floyd and what appears to be excessive force used by Minneapolis police officers (all officers have been swiftly charged and must face a jury of their peers). Our elites have been gathering tinder, soaking it in gasoline, and carefully placing it so that one spark will result in a bonfire. It just so happened that Minneapolis was where flint met steel.

A prime example of the false narrative spun is the 1619 Project of the New York Times. The defining story of America, the Project teaches, is racism and white supremacy. Only by accepting that the United States is rotten to the core because of the existence of African slavery and the vestiges of slavery can one begin to step into the light and see the world as it truly is. Of course, in becoming “woke” on these matters, we also learn that capitalism is a ruthless system integrally related to the plantation system and servitude, that we do not have socialized medicine in the U.S. because of racism, and that our criminal justice is based on a fear of black people. Essays on all of these subjects can be found on the home page of the 1619 Project (unfortunately for most a subscription is required).

The most minor conflict between a black and white person is elevated to front-page news to fit the narrative about race. Just a few days ago, a conflict between a black birdwatcher and a white dog owner made national news as the two argued about the need for the dog to be on a leash and filmed each other with cellphones. The woman certainly went overboard and claimed in a 911 call that a black man was threatening her life and has since lost her dog and job. But is this a national news story? No.

Another example came in 2018 when two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks had an encounter with police based on suspicion of vagrancy. Or how about the California brouhaha in Oakland when a white woman and a group of black folks had a disagreement about whether a charcoal grill could be used in a particular section of the park. These incidents, which were all much of nothing in the grand scheme, made national news and led to multiple nights of cable talk show panels. But they fit the narrative and thus are elevated to the headlines.

It is not just the media. American colleges and universities have been leading the charge as well with simplistic thinking such as “diversity good” and “Western civilization bad.” Columnist Walter Williams gives some recent examples of the things emanating from our educational institutions:

At University of California, Davis, last month, a mathematics professor faced considerable backlash over her opposition to the requirement for faculty “diversity statements.” University of California, San Diego, requires job applicants to admit to the “barriers” preventing women and minorities from full participation in campus life. At American University, a history professor recently wrote a book in which he advocates repealing the Second Amendment.

One could give further examples, such as student demands at liberal Evergreen College in Washington for a “no white people day” on campus. Rather than telling the students how nutty and offensive this idea was, the college leadership caved and lavished more money on diversity training, a multicultural center, etc.

The ideology behind much of this is, of course, Jacobinism. Black Lives Matter, an organization at the heart of many of the recent protests, extols positions that would make Marat appear to be a moderate. Refusing to accept that out-of-wedlock births have been a disaster for both the black (rate of 69 percent) and white (rate of 28 percent) communities as legions of children are raised without father, BLM promises to further “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” BLM also states it will “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege,” i.e., the historical and commonsense understanding that sex is designated by birth. As for police forces, BLM “call[s] for the national defunding of police.”

Right, getting rid of law enforcement will make all our communities safer—brilliant! But for law enforcement how many more business and homes would have been burned by the thugs allegedly protesting Floyd’s death?

Is there a place in society for an intelligent discussion about police tactics, race, and government power? Of course. Peaceful demonstrations and exchanges of ideas and perspectives are welcomed in a Republic. The problem we face is that our elites have worked overtime to spin a false narrative that does not allow for a reasoned exchange. This is because emotivism has taken over our discourse.

Emotivism, in essence, holds that moral judgments are no more than expressions of a person’s feelings or preferences. Because moral judgments are really just personal preferences, emotivism views all ethical disagreements as a struggle for power. Because emotivism functions on how we feel or what we like, one cannot reason with an emotivist much less appeal to higher norms and values because the emotovist will simply say he does not like that norm or value—end of conversation. Then, as part of what he sees as a power struggle, he’ll pick up a brick, smash a window, and take what he wants because he likes how it feels to get something for nothing.

The United States certainly has its problems, but the constant stoking of the flames to persuade people that “institutional racism” is the biggest one we face has led to unnecessary violence and property damage. In reality, the biggest risk facing a young black man is homicide from within his own community. Few protest about these homicides because they do not fit into the story concocted by the elites. The false narrative combined with emotivism is cancerous. It is high time that we challenge our elites on their version of history and reality. We must demand reasoned arguments, appeals to timeless moral standards, and put emotivism in the trash heap.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
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