On Counter Arguments

When engaging in a discussion about the racial injustices experienced by Black people in America, I find that five counter arguments are commonly introduced:

  • Abortions among Black women are proportionately higher than other races.

  • Injustice doesn’t justify rioting and looting; we must have law and order.

  • Claims of systemic racism are baseless attempts to employ Marxist ideologies.

  • The Democratic Party panders to Blacks, but has really done nothing for them.

  • True injustice among Blacks is exceedingly rare; people get what they deserve.

Below are a few words on each counter argument in order. I don’t write these in an attempt to convince anyone of what I think. Rather, I write them in order to clarify and share my own honest reflection on recent conversations I’ve had and how they’ve interacted with my own experiences, upbringing, and faith.

Abortions among Black women are proportionately higher than other races.

It seems that abortions are proportionately higher among Black women. I say “it seems” because statistics (and those who read them) can be easily manipulated. Nevertheless, conceding this to be the case, I find it tasteless when people use this response as a counter argument against the claim that Blacks experience racial injustice. Those using it are really saying, “until you address the issue of abortion in your own community, you can’t complain about injustices against your community.” The problem with this type of thinking, beyond being a diversion, is that every racial community experiences certain issues at a higher level than other racial communities and such experiences do not constitute a prohibition on complaining about injustices. Claiming that a community must address internal issues before it can bemoan external injustices is silly. When you consider that both the internal issue of abortion and external issue of racial injustice have the same root - America finding ways to limit the growth and progress of the Black community - the claim is even sillier.

Injustice doesn’t justify rioting and looting; we must have law and order.

Law and order are only important when they are equally enforced. However, this country’s centuries-long pattern of over-enforcement and racial discrimination in communities of color pokes a large hole in its moral authority to scream “law and order”. When you’ve bullied, harassed, disrupted, and killed people of color for centuries with little to no recourse, you don’t get to yell "law and order". No, one wrong doesn’t justify another, but it certainly makes the second wrong understandable. We must stop acting like the wrongs are equal, especially when few acknowledge the initial wrong in the first place beyond platitudes like “well that was then; things aren’t as bad now” and “you shouldn’t hold on to the past”. In reality, the past and present are intimately connected as one lays the foundation for the other. We all know this in our personal experiences. I’m not sure why some choose to lie about it in our collective experiences.

Claims of systemic racism are baseless attempts to employ Marxist ideologies.

There is a whole spectrum of perspectives when it comes to the issue of systemic racism, from outright rejection to wholehearted acceptance. Among those who tend to be suspicious of claims of systemic racism, I’ve found that there is an underlying discomfort, namely that - continued to its logical progression - actionable remedies for centuries of injustice would lead to forced wealth distribution, a hallmark of Marxism, leading many to accuse those who accept that systemic racism exists of being cultural, or even economic, Marxists. This, of course, is an affront to American ideals like high work ethic and pulling yourself up by your own slavery for 246 years. This country was LITERALLY built on forced, unpaid labor, which itself is a redistribution of wealth, because the ones sowing weren’t the ones reaping. It’s nearly laughable - but mostly maddening - to hear those who have benefited most from America’s historical disruption of Black economic progress turn around and accuse the Black community (and its advocates) of wanting free handouts. Indeed, it is those who supported and benefited from slavery and racial injustice who are America’s original Marxists, not Black people.

The Democratic Party panders to Blacks, but has really done nothing for them.

Yep, Democrats pander to Black people. You’re not telling us anything new - lol. But the reason that most Blacks vote Democrat is because they were abandoned by the Republican Party...again and again. Immediately after the Civil War, due to the huge sacrifice of life and limb by the North, the commitment to Black equality was abandoned, though “freedom” was won. Of course, it was sort of a "jumping from the pot to the frying pan" kind of experience for Blacks. Shortly after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Andrew Johnson, who sympathized with Southern sentiments (he was from Tennessee), rolled back federal protections and resources offered former slaves by Lincoln. In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes completed this betrayal by removing federal troops from the South, leaving local governments to do as they pleased regarding former slaves. This led to the wholesale failure of reconstruction as Jim Crow laws were passed and the economic progression of Black communities was disrupted through intimidation, violence, and lack of economic opportunity - all legal. In the 1960s, both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were passed, both advocated for and signed by a Democratic president. In the 1970s and 80s, under the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy”, Southern Democrats would find a happy home in realigning with the Republican Party, who enticed them with policies that appealed to their racist sentiments. THIS is when Black people began voting Democrat, and Republicans know it. All this “we’re the abolition party” and “we’re the party of Lincoln” is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to distract Black people from remembering the past 150 years: Republicans didn’t shoot their shot, but ignored Black people instead. Here is part of a 2005 speech to the NAACP from RNC Chairperson Ken Mehlman: “Democrats were the party of Jim Crow and Democratic filibusters blocked progress for decades. Despite this history, the Democratic Party by the 1960s had something real and tangible to overcome this legacy. Lyndon Johnson, a Democratic President, signed what in my opinion were the most important laws of the 20th century: the civil rights act, voting rights act, open housing law. By the 70s and into the 80s and 90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican Chairman to tell you we were wrong.” about pandering. Although I appreciate that the RNC realizes its 150 year mistake, it’s a lot like when the Southern Baptist Convention apologized to Blacks for its racist history in 1995: “We apologize to all African Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime, and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously.” We’ve forgiven - we just haven’t forgotten. And disingenuous enticements in place of real reform is plain insulting.

True injustice among Blacks is exceedingly rare; people get what they deserve.

I grew up largely disliking Black people outside my own family and a few friends. I hate admitting that, but it’s true. I grew up in a predominantly White suburb and most of my friends were White. Most of the Black kids I went to school with were bussed in from majority Black neighborhoods (the hood) and made fun of me for “talking like a White boy” and “acting White”, whatever that meant. So I definitely used to be a passenger on the “you probably got what you deserved” train. But I had an encounter with God through an event at Ouachita that changed my life. Since that point, my posture when approaching incidents involving Black people has been heavily contextualized by acknowledging an incredibly unfair history that has produced much of the poverty and crime that form the fertile ground for many of the ugly encounters with police we see in Black communities today. Whereas I used to have a pro-government and personal accountability mindset, that has been tempered by brutal honesty. By now, I’ve had enough of my own experiences with racism to know that I need to approach claims of injustice with a great deal more compassion and objectivity. Ultimately, objectively determining whether something is unjust is impossible. Such determinations are exclusively subjective, even when a large majority concurs (like with George Floyd). But by the time you’ve argued with people about whether Tamir Rice, Treyvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor “deserved it”, you hold out little hope that people will ever decommit from their precious paradigms. For some, a change in paradigm is far scarier than dismissively concluding “_______ probably deserved it”.

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