In its coverage of the Philadelphia voter intimidation case, conservative media has unfortunately chosen sensationalism over clarity. There are layers to this case to be explored that might highlight the idealism of the right and expose the pessimism of the left. Unfortunately, those layers of exploration are not as sexy as the continuous video loop depicting New Black Panther Party member King Samir Shabazz screaming about killing crackers.
The vast majority of black people respond to such rants this way: “That brother is crazy!” Indeed, to see the video of Samir suggesting that black liberation can be had only through the murder of white babies is to witness a man in the throes of mental illness.
Mental instability may not be a requirement for membership in the New Black Panther Party, but believing in time travel certainly is. The small membership of the Panthers routinely attempts to transport themselves back to 1968. They have appropriated the look of Huey P. Newton and borrowed their rhetoric from Elijah Muhammad and early Malcolm X. In addition, other than standing on the street corner yelling at people, or appearing on Fox News, they appear to do very little actual work.
They also share the opinion of most New Leftists that because of slavery, the American founding was illegitimate; that because of racism, American values are bankrupt, and that so long as any measure of racism continues to exist in American society, that will be proof that blacks remain the victims of an inherently white, racist system.
(Pause here for the obligatory admission that racism continues to exist in America and has not been entirely flushed from the system of our national body.)
Each national election season, the Democratic Party floods the black community with warnings that evil Republicans are preparing to prevent black voters from casting ballots in order to steal the election. Following the electoral losses in 2000 and 2004, the New Left accused Republicans of intimidating black voters.
A few quick facts: According to the United States Census, black voter participation in 2000 rose four percentage points over 1996, increased by another three percent in the election of 2004, and rose again in 2008. In short, as racial conspiracies go, the plan to suppress the black vote, if true, must be seen as an unmitigated failure.
But for those adept at time travel, facts are unimportant—it’s still 1968. For them the continued existence of racism--real or perceived--is proof of American illegitimacy! According to their world view, an illegitimate and immoral power-structure intent on black oppression will stop at nothing to prevent the election of a black man.
So, the Panthers, caught in a time-warp and awash in an unwarranted sense of their own power and importance, showed up at the Fairmount Avenue polling place in Philadelphia not to prevent citizens from voting, but to protect black voters from white racist police officers bent on preventing black people from voting. What remains unclear is exactly how these two men, armed only with one club, were going to fight off car loads of racist police officers determined to turn black voters away at the door.
Oddly enough, this view of police officers as violent racist is similar to that of the Obama justice department. It was this same justice department that announced the Arizona immigration law racist before reading it and expressed a fear that, unlike every other law on the books, SB1070 might lead to racial profiling. But, I digress.
Clarity will not come through the repeated playing of video featuring Panther members screaming about killing white people. Nor is clarity achieved by treating Panther chairman Malik Shabaz as if he is Martin Luther King Jr. or even Al Sharpton.
With clarity comes the realization that what motivates the New Black Panthers is the same thing that animates the New Left. They believe the United States of America is bad and that they must “fundamentally transform” this nation in order to make it good. You can be sure that they intend to rebuild it in their own twisted image. Conversely, the Right believes that America is good. That is not to say that America is perfect, but that America is inherently good, that the ideals upon which the nation was founded are good, that those ideals are worthy of our respect and ought to be the object of our national aspiration.