Whether it’s a mass shooting or a shooting by police, politicians sure know how to make things worse.
Comedian Seth Meyers began his “Closer Look” series with the cover of the New York Post, which is notorious for its inflammatory headlines. Meyers was grateful this time they went with “Civil War” instead of what they were probably going to use, “Yay, Civil War!”
Just moments before the shooting in Dallas, the police department posted photos of how peaceful the protests were and even featured a photo of a white officer and a black officer standing with a man holding a sign reading “no justice no peace.” Meyers assures, “there was never a photo that friendly during the real Civil War, unless there’s some Ulysses S. Grant-Robert E. Lee selfie I’m unaware of.”
“Vitriol and inflammatory rhetoric only make it more difficult to have the kind of constructive dialogue we need right now,” Meyers said. “And while many offered calm sobering responses, others used the occasion to unfairly blame peaceful protesters or political opponents.”
Take media troll Louie Gohmert, for example. Rather than calling for calm or peace, the Texas Republican immediately attacked President Barack Obama. Gohmert went all the way back to high school to mention his black coach who “used his race to bring us together.” Meyers found this a little troubling. “I’m not sure it’s a good sign you had to go all the way back to high school to think of a black person you liked. And he used his race to bring you together? Did you go to high school at ‘Remember the Titans?'”
The award for the worst response, however, goes to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had a hypothetical conversation with his hypothetical black child as a “black father” on national television.
“Okay, first of all, don’t ever start a sentence with the phrase, ‘If I were a black father.’ If you are a black father you don’t need to say it and if you’re not, you should probably just shut the f*ck up,” Meyers explained.
One would assume that if Giuliani could understand the anger and fear among the Black Lives Matter movement he wouldn’t be so quick to condemn them, but instead he doubled down, calling the protesters racists and claiming to be a white savior. Giuliani claimed that if he had an organization called “White Lives Matter,” people would call him a racist. Meyers argued that everything in our country and our culture already screams “White Lives Matter,” so we don’t really need an organization to remind people of the inequality.
“The fact is, black people are disproportionately affected by racial disparities in our criminal justice system — that’s just a fact,” Meyers said. “And saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a response to that. The problem with you, Rudy, is you’re imagining the word only in there. As in ‘only’ black lives matter, but no one is saying that. In fact, assuming the word ‘only’ in any context is kinda weird, just in general. Like when you see a sign outside a convenience store that says, ‘We sell lottery tickets,’ you don’t assume they mean, ‘We only sell lottery tickets.'” Yet, that’s exactly what Giuliani and others like him do to gin up more resentment and division.
“‘Black Lives Matter’ is not an exclusionary statement,” Meyers explained. “It just means black lives matter, too.”
On the positive side, there were several politicians who finally began to understand and empathize with the black community. Washington Post reporter Abby Philip commented on CNN that for the first time in years we’re finally beginning to see conservatives talk about the “need to listen to the other side.” Sure, it might be attributed to the fact that they have to get reelected in less than five months, but even House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged peaceful protesters and former Speaker Newt Gingrich recognized his white privilege.
“That’s Newt Gingrich saying that,” Meyers said. “He’s so white he’s basically a pair of boat shoes come to life. Now, Gingrich’s record on race is mixed … but there are people hearing that message from him who may not necessarily have heard it otherwise, and that’s a good start.”
Meyers continued that we need words like Gingrich’s to join forces with direct actions in the streets while acknowledging systematic and institutional racism along with reform, “but we also need people who have disagreements to try and see things from each other’s point of view. ” He also said that we must be empathetic that police officers are people too and, indeed, the vast majority work hard to carry out a dangerous job without killing a person of color.
Rapper Snoop Dogg came out after the events with a call for dialogues between police and BLM saying, “you can’t fix hate with hate.”
So, when you see “inflammatory garbage” like the New York Post cover, Meyers encourages viewers to look instead at the police photos before the Dallas shooting occurred, with police officers standing in solidarity with protesters. “This is the best of America. Police officers working with the community and supporting their right to protest and that’s what we should be fighting to protect.”