Waukesha is Scheduled to be Memory Holed

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Police expect to refer five counts of first-degree intentional homicide and additional charges to prosecutors.” More charges will be forthcoming. The defendant, Darrell Brooks Jr., drove his  2010 maroon Ford Escape through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Witnesses report Brooks swerving side to side targeting people. They describe his actions as intentional. At least fifty people were injured, many of them children, some in critical condition. A majority of the dead are elderly: Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; Tamara Durand, 52; Jane Kulich, 52; and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.

Darrell Brooks, Jr., aka MathBoi Fly, drove his SUV into a Christmas Parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin

As they always do, police officers, politicians, and pundits condemned the “senseless violence.” But you can’t say violence is senseless until you rule out meaning and purpose. I loath that cliché. Most of the time violence is meaningful and purposeful.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said there was no sign the event was an act of domestic terrorism. In fact, they have already ruled this out. Black nationalist rhetoric, antipolice vitriol, pro BLM, pro Black Panther Party, and much, much more graced the social media pages of Darrell Brooks, Jr., aka MathBoi Fly. I’d share links but the pages have been scrubbed. The police presumably have access to all this information.

Chief indicators of terrorist action are the identity of the victims and the action taken against them. The victims were white. Brooks was trying to hit them. Imagine if Darrell Brooks Jr. had been a white man who espoused white nationalist rhetoric, had shot at people, had run over a woman at a gas station, and all the rest of it (his record is extensive going back decades). We can pretty sure all that would go to motive. You’d be called a racist for doubting his white supremacist bonafides.

How exactly is there a double standard that works this way in a society governed by white supremacy? I’m having a lot of trouble understanding this because it makes no sense. (I say this knowing why this double standard exists. It makes no sense from the standpoint of critical race theory.)

If a white nationalist drove a truck into a crowd of black people following a highly politicized verdict that ran contrary to his politics, there’d be hysteria. They’d tie it January 6 and President Trump. We’d be inundated with memes about white supremacists. They’re everywhere, we’d be told. The killer’s social media pages would be the stuff of news stories and talk shows for days. Experts would be brought in to explain the ideology and the organization behind it all. Full-blown moral panic.

Look at what they made January 6 out to be. They tell us that January 6 was the worst domestic attack since the Civil War, forgetting Pearl Harbor and al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, where thousands were killed. The only person killed was an unarmed protestors who was nowhere near the officer who shot her in the chest. Property damage was minor. Some police officers were roughed up.

If a white nationalist in a truck ran over fifty black people at a parade there’d be a social media clamp down on conservative and right wing speech like you’ve never seen. They’re still lying about what Trump said in response to Charlottesville. (He condemned white supremacy, for the record.) They continue to lie about what Trump said about white supremacy during his presidency (he condemned it more than all other presidents combined). They deplatformed the President of the United States of America, for Christ’s sake. They’re still investigating him and those who support him. The FBI and DHS are harassing parents who are speaking out at school board meetings, characterizing their grievances as domestic terrorism.

Take a look at how the media and the Democrats portrayed the political violence of summer and fall 2020. Billions of dollars in property damage. Arson. Looting. Vandalism. Hundreds of people assaulted. Dozens killed. All at the hands of violent mobs they encouraged. How did they characterize the mob? Where are the memorials for its victims? Did the media ever tell Americans that the Black Lives matter movement rests on claims debunked by justice and social science? Where were the fact checkers on that? Where are they now?

Can you imagine the media characterizing months-long white nationalist mob violence as “mostly peaceful” protest? I can’t. But I can imagine the government declaring martial law.

If you can’t see the massive double standard, then you’ve poked out your eyes. Exactly how does such a double standard exist in such a thoroughgoing white supremacist country? You’d expect what’s downplayed to be played up and what’s up-played to be played down. The claim of ubiquitous white supremacy falls apart here. It’s a lie.

Even without such an event, even without much white supremacy at all, the media won’t stop talking about white supremacy. But the media will stop talking about Waukesha.

* * *

I have have been writing about the problem of terrorism for quite awhile. I teach a section on terrorism in my criminology class. In this essay, from June 2016, I write, “As a criminologist, I would probably classify it [the Dylann Roof case] as a case of lone wolf terrorism. In the Anders Breivik case in Norway, with similarities to the Roof case that are missing in the [Omar] Mateen case, the prosecution settled on terrorism charges (after considering crimes against humanity and treason). Breivik is considered exemplary of lone wolf terrorism.” To be clear, I classify the Mateen case as terrorism.

If you were one of those who believed the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting that occurred on June 17, 2015 was terrorism, then you cannot rule out classifying Darrell Brooks Jr.’s actions in Waukesha as terrorism. Ruling out terrorism in this case is a blatant political-ideological move that we should all find very troubling. We are living in a time when the establishment is not merely reluctant to classify black nationalist violence as terrorism but inclined to shine a favorable light on black nationalism. The notion that black nationalism and white nationalism are not comparable rests on a bad theory of power. It’s the same bad theory that claims black people can’t be racist. They can. As the citizens of Waukesha know too well.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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