Somebody call Webster's, because Joe Scarborough has rendered its definition of "white privilege" obsolete. On Tuesday morning's Morning Joe, Scarborough and his diverse panel (Howard Dean was once voted for by black people) tackled LeBron James' "I can't breathe" protest t-shirt. The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar was one of several players who took to the court during warmups at last night's Cavs-Nets game wearing shirts invoking Eric Garner's last words. Naturally, LeBron and company were waiting for Scarborough's approval before proceeding, and they got it, but not without a reminder that Michael Brown's killing was not worthy of protest:
"There were some conservatives and a lot of liberals also concerned about accusing white police officers of shooting people with their hands up in the air. But in this case we got it on videotape. It is appropriate, is it not?
"I can imagine if I were a black man, or more importantly, if I were the mom of a young black man, I would be wearing t-shirts like this or buttons like that. It's only appropriate for him to do that, right?"
You can catch "If I Were A Black Man" on Joe Scarborough's Fractured Fiddler! soundtrack, from K-Tel Records.
Set aside the gross white privileged arrogance of Scarborough actually deciding which black person's death is or is not worthy of public protest, and the fact that even in his perfect victim scenario, he only envisions black people wearing protest garb, at least for a moment. Scarborough's evangelism for Eric Garner is actually the worst thing about it, worse even than the kind of balls-out racism that says that all black people are the enemy, and potentially deserving of death.
That's a premise that is easy to reject, from a legal, policy, and social perspective. What Scarborough is saying is that if you are shot by cops and you are unarmed, and sixteen witnesses say you had your hands up, and even the guy who shot you tells his sergeant that you had your hands up, and the prosecutors in your case hold a secret trial at which they essentially tell the grand jury to let your killer go, that's not good enough. Not good enough for you to even protest, let alone expect justice. By the way, good on Howard Dean for trying to correct Scarborough, but the likelihoood of young black men being killed by police is actually 21 times more than whites, not ten.
If you thought it couldn't get any worse from there, though, you'd be wrong, as Scarborough then pivots to the really important lesson to be gleaned from LeBron's protest, which is somehow that abortion is murder:
"Would you be okay if somebody went out and said abortion is murder if they felt strongly about that, on their t-shirt?
"I respect the right for him to do that, but tonight, if somebody wants to go in with a t-shirt that says abortion is murder, would that be okay?"
Dean, instead of calling Scarborough out for co-opting and appropriating Garner's death to make a trivial point about protests that are allowed and enjoy legal protections that actually enable them to materially interfere with the rights of others, elected to patiently explain the substantive difference between the two issues. Scarborough gleefully ignored him, because that's why. What I eally love is the passion with which Scarborough concern-trolls about police brutality in order to make his stupid fucking point:
"If you're a young black man in America you've been dealing with this for 350 years."
Yes, welcome to the party, jerkoff. You just got done saying that if there's no video, then it didn't happen, which is exactly how this problem has been enabled for as long as it has, and will continue to be, because in case you didn't notice, having video isn't enough, either. YouTube is littered with it, yes, but video isn't even enough for Joe Scarborough, if you're Tamir Rice.
I can already hear my conservative friends saying, "Yeah, but isn't it progress that a white Republican is on TV saying that protesting police brutality against black people is politically correct?"
It is surreal, I will give them that, but as for progress, I think Chris Rock said it best in his recent Vulture interview:
"When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
"...So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress."
In all fairness, though, Scarborough did end up concluding that his abortion analogy wasn't appropriate, because there's a much closer analogy to Lebron's protest:
"Actually, you know what, I talked about abortion, I should've just said what if somebody like Charles Barclay were still in the NBA and said, what did he say, "Looters are scumbags," or something like that, then what would the NBA do? I guess that's maybe more appropriate."
Of course, because what's more natural to associate a man being choked to death by police with than looters? I mean, besides abortion.