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Last week, the homicide count for this year in the city of Oakland, where I live, reached seventy-one. In 2019, by comparison, the total number of murders for the entire year was seventy-four. We’ll likely surpass that number within the month, and it’s only July.
On Saturday, along with community groups and families of victims of gun violence, the Oakland Police Department organized a rally at Lake Merritt, calling for a stop to the violence. There, the mothers of black kids gunned down on American city streets mourned the devastation brought upon their families and families like theirs. People prayed together for peace. A symbolic casket was carried.
Behind the crowd stood a bunch of black-clad anarchists, there to jeer and heckle the event. The main message of the self-proclaimed “antifascists,” as far as there was one, was that the chief perpetrators of gun violence in Oakland are in fact the police, which isn’t even close to factual. Their other message was that the families who were there to stop the killing of their children were in fact unwitting puppets in a propaganda campaign. A write-up of the event on an Antifa website described the black families present as, essentially, tokens. It compared their “tactics” to those of “right-wing extremists” and “Nazis.”
Oakland is one of the most liberal cities in the country, comparable to Portland, Oregon in the theatricality of its left-wing politics. Unlike Portland, though, it’s also a historically black city. This combination makes for some fairly comedic political grandstanding. Oakland is the kind of town where, in a heavily mixed neighborhood, a Black Lives Matter sign on a front lawn is a pretty good indication that the people living inside are white. It’s the kind of town where the city council votes to divert millions of dollars in funding from the police in the name of racial justice, and the opposing votes come from the council members representing the poorest, most crime-ridden, most densely African-American parts of the city. It’s the kind of town where white radicals tend to think they know better than their black neighbors what’s good for them.
In other words, Oakland is a microcosm of the current national Democratic Party: a pyramid with predominantly non-white, working class people at the bottom, and, at the top, a tier of prosperous, educated, highly ideological white people who purport to speak on their behalf.
I wasn’t at the event at Lake Merritt, because I was out of town for the weekend, but my friend and colleague Lee Fang was. Lee and I are working on a reporting project on policing and violent crime in Oakland, and he was there to capture some audio. He witnessed the stand-off, which was captured on video by another party present, who posted it to Twitter.
Watch the videos. The reactions of the attendees of the “Stand Up for a Safe Oakland” event to the presence of the Antifa disruptors are heartbreaking. Their emotions are raw. They begin perplexed, asking why in the world these white radical kids would go out of their way to derail an event whose aim is to prevent young black people from being killed. As their frustration builds, the anguish in their voices crescendos. “We are trying to save black children’s lives!” an elderly woman pleads. “Goddammit, don’t you understand it?” A grey-bearded black man shouts at a white kid holding a cardboard sign with Quit Your Job, KKKop scrawled on it. “We’re trying to save our people! You are not our people! Get the fuck out!”
“This is a memorial. Y’all is disrespecting,” says another man. “You take that shit somewhere else, this is a motherfucking memorial. Do you understand that?” To which a woman on the Antifa side chastises, “They’re using your pain as a shield!”
“They’re using your pain as a shield!” The remark perfectly encapsulates the white radical mindset. Alongside the OPD, the organizers and participants of the event at Lake Merritt were people who have lived in poor, violence-soaked neighborhoods longer than most of the Antifa protesters have been alive. They’re people who, after losing loved ones to homicide, devoted their lives to understanding the escalating cycle of violence and retribution and building a movement to stop it. In some cases, they routinely risk their own physical safety to do so.
But to the Antifa revolutionaries, they’re just dupes, manipulated by forces they’re too blind to see — but that these young radicals, with their ideological training, perceive with perfect clarity.
There have been 71 murders in Oakland this year and not a single one has been at the hands of a police officer. These are black lives that don’t matter to Antifa, because they were lost to the wrong villains. They mattered so little to the young white radicals at the lake that they deliberately disrupted an event in their honor — one in which the family members of the slain were present — by picking up bullhorns and chanting the names of the only victims that register for the so-called antifascists: the ones killed by police, which is to say the ones that advance Antifa’s political narrative.
As I watched the footage, my mind went straight to the lunatic members of the Westboro Baptist Church who picketed the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq with signs saying they deserved to die. The politics may be different, but the hubris, the moral elitism, the pathetic ideological indoctrination, the monstrous indifference to the pain of others, the nerve, is all the same. If progressive politics has become a religion, Antifa is its puritanical sect, roaming the land preaching fire and brimstone, declaring who’s lost and who’s saved, anointing themselves the spokesmen of the Lord, damning the heathens to hell.
Thankfully, they’re politically irrelevant, but the liberal pathology that they embody is far from it. That pathology is called racism, but it’s not the overt, openly malicious variety. It’s that insidious kind that passes itself off as “allyship,” and under that banner, appropriates the suffering of others to advance its own agenda. It’s the parasitical kind that makes its practitioners the protagonists of other people’s histories, the heroes of their struggles. The kind that reduces “oppressed people” to an amorphous, inert, faceless mass of humanity, or to a cartoonish archetype of an infantile, subhuman noble savage — or, if they fail to play their assigned roles, to pawns of more sophisticated actors. It’s white saviorism, the ideology of the woke.