The F.B.I. recently invented a new category of racial extremists in America called "Black Identity Extremists" or "B.I.E.". The idea seems to be that black people are organizing and radicalizing and that just won't do:
The 12-page report, prepared by the F.B.I. Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit in August, and later made public by foreignpolicy.org, both announces the existence of the “Black Identity Extremist” movement and deems it a violent threat, asserting that black activists’ grievances about racialized police violence and inequities in the criminal justice system have spurred retaliatory violence against law enforcement officers. It links incidents of violence by a handful of individual citizens like Michael Johnson, who shot 11 Dallas police officers in July 2016, to “B.I.E. ideology” and predicts that “perceptions of unjust treatment of African-Americans and the perceived unchallenged illegitimate actions of law enforcement will inspire premeditated attacks against law enforcement.”
"Predicts" is another way of saying "invented from whole cloth."
Khaled A. Beydoun and Justin Hansford have an op-ed in the New York Times explaining the F.B.I.'s history of aggressively criminalizing black civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter and how the nonsensical B.I.E. label endangers the black community. It's absolutely worth reading and covers all of the reasons the B.I.E. designation is both foolish and likely to be deadly but I feel that Beydoun and Hansford, perhaps deliberately, left out the most obvious reason for the invention of the "Black Identity Extremist" label: White Nationalism.
The United States has a serious problem right now. White conservatives have lost their fucking minds. They elected a barely coherent moron to be their president. They openly support white nationalists marching in the streets. They've started chanting Nazi slogans while carrying, of all things, Tiki torches. They've even tried to justify molesting underage girls in the name of Jesus.
Normally, when the right does something particular stupid or loathsome, the "liberal" media swings into action by finding something the left did and fabricating a false equivalence. That way, balance is maintained and conservatives never really pay the full price for their misdeeds. But now, America's white conservative community has gone so far off the deep end, there's simply nothing on the left for the media to latch on to.
They've been trying to turn Antifa into the "alt-left" but since they literally have no political platform other than "Don't be a fucking Nazi", it hasn't been working. It's impossible to demonize the politics of a group that doesn't have any. They'll keep trying to link Antifa to the Democrats but good luck with that since Antifa could care less about the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party could care less about Antifa.
Right wing media has been trying to label BLM as a terrorist group for the past couple of years and that hasn't caught on, either. Pointing to a group of peaceful protesters saying "Please stop killings us." and screaming "You're terrorists!" doesn't appear to be a winning strategy. That leaves the right wing very far out on a limb by itself. The left is protesting all over the country and there's been some violence but none of it compares to the resurgence of white nationalism and explosion of hate crimes stemming from it.
All of this puts America in the very uncomfortable place of having to either confront our right wing extremist problem or take the easy way out and find a way to blame black people for it. Under Obama, we were taking the difficult, adult path to facing our inner demons. We were starting to hold our police departments accountable. A national dialogue had begun about the stark disparities between black and white justice in this country. It was loud and angry but we were talking.
That's all over now and in its place we have "Black Identity Extremists" which is another way of saying "both sides do it". Now, Fox News, AM Hate Radio and right wing hate sites can point to the made up B.I.E. "movement" to bury any and all white nationalism stories under a mountain of "whataboutism". All it will take is one or two black on white or black on blue crimes improperly shoved under the B.I.E. label and the next 50 hate crimes will be properly "balanced". Order will be restored and American white supremacy will be maintained.
And if a few hundred thousand black people's lives are ruined in the process by overzealous policing? That's a price white conservatives will happily pay to keep the country from looking too closely at how out of control they've become.
There are 354 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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