If you're a white conservative, you've probably already heard the gripping tale of openly-black motorist and author of the ebook thriller The SovereignsSteven Hildreth Jr., the internet superstar who has single-handedly defeated the #BlackLivesMatter movement by not getting killed by police during a routine traffic stop. If you're not, then here's a quick refresher.
Last week, Hildreth was driving to his office when two Tucson Police officers pulled him over because he had a headlight out. At the time, he was also legally carrying a handgun (with a really cool flashlight attachment), for which he had a concealed-carry permit. What happened next was amazing: the cops didn't even murder him!
Hildreth was so grateful, he posted the story on Facebook, and quickly racked up over half-a-million likes. So amazed was Mr. Hildreth that he went to the police station a few days later to thank them again, in person, for not murdering him:
Officers return with my Glock in an evidence back, locked and cleared. "Because you were cool with us and didn't give us grief, I'm just going to leave it at a verbal warning. Get that headlight fixed as soon as possible."
I smile. "Thank you, sir."
I'm a black man wearing a hoodie and strapped. According to certain social movements, I shouldn't be alive right now because the police are allegedly out to kill minorities.
Maybe...just maybe...that notion is bunk.
Maybe if you treat police officers with respect, they will do the same to you.
Can you hear that slow clap?
Hildreth took a victory lap on Fox & Friends Monday morning, and elaborated on his criticism of the #BlackLivesMatter movement:
Most law enforcement officers agree that anybody who abuses the power of the badge should be punished and prosecuted. That badge is representing of the public's trust. So if anybody betrays that trust, they should no longer become a law enforcement officer. I think what happened with the black lives matter movement is that the fringe took their hard-core position of all law enforcement are bad. this is all widespread. this is happening every single day, and every single police officer is complicit in it. They have the loudest voice. and they are defining that narrative.
I don't want to waste a lot of time refuting the false premise for Steven Hildreth's criticism of the #BlackLivesMatter (although I love the passive-aggressive way he stage-whispers "certain social movements") because it is so obviously false (it's also my hope that, since I'm helping him to sell some books - $3.99 on Amazon - that maybe Hildreth will be open to a discussion about it).
As a movement, #BLM has been very consistent in its demands for the kind of police accountability Hildreth says he supports, and its most vocal supporters have been consistent about the need for effective policing. No one thinks that police are "out to kill minorities," but rather, that actual facts and data show that black people are disproportionately policed, and that when the end result of that over-policing is death or serious injury, police are not held accountable.
Where he's right is that based on the evidence we have seen, when they are put to this specific test, when the worst-case result occurs, most, if not all, police officers are complicit. In the raft of high-profile incidents that have fueled #BLM, there has not been a single instance of a fellow cop interceding on behalf of the citizen, and multiple examples of fellow cops joining in, helping to cover up, and/or attempting to intimidate bystanders who tried to document the incidents. Not all cops are bad, but in this area, not one has been demonstrated to be good. Available data on investigations of police killings bears that out.
No, what I found particularly interesting, and what I would love to ask Hildreth about, is this portion of his post, echoed in that Fox News interview:
I'd like to thank those two officers and TPD in general for another professional contact.
Hildreth also told Steve Doocy that "whenever I get stopped, I comply with all directives. Every single time I have come into contact with law enforcement, I have gone away peacefully."
Steven Hildreth Jr. is, by all accounts and appearances, a model, law-abiding citizen, so why is he getting pulled over so much? The available data suggests racial profiling. Hildreth has been very efficient at cutting off gun-nut critics who insist the cops had no right to disarm him, because he knows the law. I wonder what he would do, though, if he were waiting for a tow truck like Corey Jones was, and an unmarked van rolled up on him, and a dude in jeans jumped out and put his gun on him? What would he do if a police officer told him to reach for his license, and then opened fire when he complied? Of course these circumstances don't occur on every stop, or even most stops, but every unnecessary contact is like a free lottery ticked to this kind of result.
I'm glad being respectful worked out for Steven Hildreth this time, and all the other times he's been pulled over, but having an attitude should not carry a death sentence, and neither should not having an attitude, like the poor guy who actually apologized to a cop after the cop shot him. If police are as reasonable and interested in accountability as Hildreth thinks they are, then they ought to explain to him why they are agitating so hard against it, and are even explicitly saying that they can't do their jobs if people are watching. They should also explain which cop was the good apple: the one who shot Walter Scott, or the one who watched him plant a weapon on Scott's dead body?
If Steven Hildreth is really in favor of police accountability, then he ought to be supporting the people who are trying to do something about it, not undermining them for Facebook likes.
Here's the full interview of Steven Hildreth Jr.: