Earlier this week, Jefferson University Hospital, a top medical center in Philadelphia, announced that it had fired one of its employees over an inflammatory social media post that reacted to the recent, massive #Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the city. As reported by local website Philly Voice the employee, a registered nurse, was dismissed following a petition drive.
The language of the post is probably familiar to anyone who’s spent time on Facebook in the last few weeks. All the tropes are there- insulting the appearance and behavior of black people, references to black-on-black #Crime, where are the parents, etc. The author does take things a bit further than usual, substituting “white lives matter” for the usual “all lives matter,” but then concludes with “I am sick and tired of all this bullsh-- with the black people.”
It’s hard to dispute Jefferson’s decision to fire this person. Not only does this racist venom reflect poorly on her employer, but if one denies the basic humanity of a large percentage of the patients they’re going to see day to day, I can’t imagine that person effectively doing her job as a medical professional in a city hospital.
“They should have bulldozed the BLM protest”
But there’s another part of her post that I found perhaps even more troubling -- the first line, which goes “they should have bulldozed the BLM protest at the 24th/25 district last night.” In other words, the solution is for the presence of all these black people the poster doesn't like to literally be run over.
This is another common social media argument these days, especially when there are massive Black Lives Matter protests that block traffic or otherwise inconvenience commuters: that the cops need to stop pussyfooting around and instead go out there and knock some heads, if not worse. And in Philadelphia, these calls are often coupled with references to Frank Rizzo, the city’s police commissioner and mayor in the ‘60s and ‘70s who was known for doing just that, and in some corners remains a hero to this day.
This is distasteful, for numerous reasons. Courts have determined that protesters blocking traffic in most cases isn’t even worthy of arrest, much less violence. There is no legal or constitutional justification for police to do violence to peaceful protesters. Police aren’t the military; their job more often than not is to de-escalate potentially violent situations. This also isn’t Tiananmen Square, where the ideal response to protest is violent repression.
The days of Frank Rizzo, to the chagrin of today’s Archie Bunkers, are long in the past.
Whether or not there’s a racist tinge to it, it’s gross for civilians, from the sidelines, to demand that police go out there and hurt people they don’t like, or to believe that that’s what police are there for. For racist civilians to expect police to serve as their own personal goon squad is obscene. It’s also much more insulting to police than anything the supposedly anti-cop president has ever said.
On to Cleveland, and Philadelphia
You’re going to hear a lot more of this in the next two weeks, if there is any sort of major unrest at the political conventions, whether or not it involves Black Lives Matter. Whether it happens at the RNC in Cleveland or the DNC in Philadelphia, the echoes of the Democratic convention in 1968 are going to be plentiful. But whatever happens, please: Don't root, from the safety of your own living room, for the police to beat people up. #Policy