Heather MacDonald’s pseudo-academic pennings are written much in the style of the Trump campaign’s general rhetorical strategy. They center themselves by, among other strategies, rewording the argument being used against them to blame the accuser for the same act, overwhelming the communication channel with false information and asserting that this false information is absolute truth. And they are based on complete lies.
This has never been Black Lives Matter’s central thesis. Not in rhetoric, and not in practice. There is absolutely no evidence that backs this claim. Black Lives Matter’s “central thesis” can be located in their mission statement which reads,
“When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.”
It goes on to describe the BLM focus on state violence in all forms including black poverty, black incarceration, black violence against women, young girls, and people with disabilities.
“#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We affirm our contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. We have put our sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project–taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.”
Black Lives Matter programs back up their mission statement. They have educational projects such as The Movement, Guiding Principles and Recent Writings. Here you will find information on topics such as Youth Empowerment, Queer Affirmation, Empathy and Restorative Justice.
Nowhere is there a call for anyone to take up arms against the police. Nowhere does it say that the greatest threat to black people is police violence. Nowhere does it call for a War on Cops. Nowhere.
Rhetorically and practically, MacDonald’s claim is completely unfounded. Correction, Heather MacDonald’s primary claim is a bold faced lie. The idea that the ill formed arguments and racist accusations built off of this lie is actually a form of valid research is also a bold faced lie.
The first major deception engaged in by MacDonald in her construction of a War on Cops is that her work is academically valid. She may have a law degree. She may be funded by a conservative “research” institution. She may publish for the Washington Post. She may even produce a few citations and numerical calculations; however, performing calculations is a very different endeavor than engaging in formal statistical analysts.
While Heather MacDonald assumes an academic voice, “The War on Cops” is not a formally valid piece of research. The claims made inside are little more than uniformed opinion backed by a few citations and calculations. It is nothing more than Trumped up editorializing. In every sense.
One of the main differences between academic research and general reporting is that in academic work, researchers must root their work in that of a field and the dominant theorists in that field. Even if they are producing research to counter a specific claim, they must position their work in relation to these bodies of work. One of the main indicators that MacDonald’s work is not formally valid is its complete lack of theoretical rooting.
It is not enough to attach your arguments to one or two pieces of research from different fields. It is not enough to perform a few mathematical calculations. In corporate journalism, especially editorializing, there is space to engage in the exchange of ideas without giving credit to the experts that came and countered before you. In formal research, no such space is allowable. MacDonald’s work succeeds in providing a very decontextualized and historically detached opinion of the struggle against police brutality – but she does not succeed in meeting the standards for academic research.
This strategy serves her point well, though. Her audience is largely white people that have been denied access to college. These white people are comfortable enough with racism to entertain an alt-right political position, and lacking educational training enough to not know the difference between some numbers and a few research papers and an actually valid research process.
It also serves her claim that there is a war on cops.
In order to make this claim there is a lot that has to be ignored. For example, she has to ignore the historical relationship between the police and people of color. She has to ignore the relationship between the state and people of color in general. She would have to ignore the histories of indigenous, black, Hispanic, Asian, intersected, female, LGBTQIA, disabled and other nondominant groups.
Heather MacDonald has to ignore the work of community experts in the field that have fought and are currently fighting against state violence in their own communities – organizations such as the Parents Against Police Brutality, the Idriss Stelley Foundation and Krip Hop International just, to name a small few. And she would have to ignore the work of people like Juanita Young, Mesha Irizarry, Anita Wills and Leroy Moore, Jr.
She has to ignore the fields upon fields of research from historians, policy analysts, critical theorists, geographers, educators, social workers, economists, lawyers and others in fields such as Indigenous Studies, Black Studies, Latin American studies, Feminist Theory, Disability Studies, etc. to make her claims. She would have to completely ignore entire schools of thought and generations of research that affirm time and time again that the victims of state violence and police brutality are the people targeted by the police – not the other way around. And she does.
MacDonald writes, “Police critics have never answered the question of what they think non-biased policing data should look like, in light of the vast differences in rates of criminal offending.” She then follows with a series of calculations inferring that her data analysis is without bias. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If she had done her due diligence, she could have explored the works of researchers such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Yvonna S. Lincoln and Norman K. DenzinThey provide valuable instruction on appropriate methodologies that can be used in order to examine police brutality. As do many other nondominant methodologists. In almost clear disdain and disinterest of both researchers from nondominant communities and the formal research process – she not only ignores these bodies of work, but she goes so far as to say that they do not exist.
Completely removing history, context, and any standards of research, though, is the only way that MacDonald can possibly make the claim that there is a war on cops. It is the only way she can present the calculations she does as actual statistical analysis. It is the only way that she can claim expertise in a field she has no expertise in. It is the only way that she can claim that in the violent relationship between the police and black people, the police are the victims.
Ignoring the almost clinical language generally applied by formal researchers also allows her to invoke and replicate negative stereotypes of black people for media consumption. These stereotypes include describing black people as “criminals” and “gangbangers.”
These are not words commonly used as population descriptors by researchers discussing formal academic research. It is also not the language that politically and academically qualified experts would use to describe themselves or their communities. This language is, however, very carefully constructed to appeal to a nonacademic community being targeted through conservative national media programs such as the O’Reilly Factor, the Rush Limbaugh Show, and Fox and Friends.
This audience invites openly racist rhetoric. This audience openly contests civil rights and the struggle to attain them. This audience is comfortable with expanding the boundaries of political incorrectness and is currently being politically wrangled in support of Donald Trump, the GOP candidate for president. This audience will absorb whatever racist claim they hear as long as it is backed by unsubstantiated confidence and a snarky undertone. And it is for this audience that MacDonald’s work is designed. Not an academic audience.
The War on Cops is more racism than research. It is hate speech spoken with an academic accent. It is prejudice backed by false statistical analysis and outright lies. Heather MacDonald’s pseudo-academic research is nothing more than racism and defamation against the Black Lives Matter movement. There is no War on Cops. There never has been. The War on Cops is a racist lie. It always will be.
For a deeper look into the lies at the root of the war on cops, click here.