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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

Waukesha Killings Make the Media Colorblind Again

Culture Race

The contrast with the Kyle Rittenhouse case illustrates the double standard.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death last year, employers offered black workers time off to deal with the news, and UCLA suspended a professor who refused to grade his supposedly traumatized black students more leniently than their nonblack peers.

Such gestures may have been well-meaning, but they were also nonsensical and reeked of condescension. Are black psyches really this fragile, and are blacks so starved for exemplars that miscreants must be treated like martyrs? Should Floyd’s death matter more to them than the huge number of black homicides that don’t involve police? And why would people who aren’t black be any less disturbed by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of a defenseless suspect for nine minutes?

The protests that followed Floyd’s death rested on two assumptions. The first is that Floyd, a career criminal and drug addict, was somehow representative of black America, which is not only false but deeply insulting. The second is that police acted out of racial animus, which has never been proven. This is what happens when racial identity becomes the centerpiece of politics and public life in a multiracial society.

The political left often pretends to pine for a postracial America, but that’s the last thing it really wants. I recall a guy who ran for president a little while back after talking about how there’s no black America or white America or Asian America, just a United States of America. And then he became president and stopped talking like that. Instead, he started talking about racist policing and black voter suppression, and he embraced divisive racial provocateurs like Al Sharpton. All the colorblind talk went out the window.

People who are interested in a postracial America don’t name their organization Black Lives Matter or welcome racial propaganda like the “1619 Project” into elementary schools. They don’t advocate racial preferences in college admissions or racial quotas in hiring. And they don’t call for white people who were never slaveholders to pay reparations to black people who were never slaves.

The Biden administration has picked up where the Obama administration left off. The unwarranted racialization of the Kyle Rittenhouse saga, which concerned one white man shooting three other whites, was a clumsy attempt by President Biden and his allies to further a narrative about bias in the criminal justice system. To their credit, jurors stuck to the facts of the case and Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted, but liberals and their friends in the media are playing a dangerous game when they selectively invoke race to advance a political agenda.

The same press outlets that portrayed Mr. Rittenhouse as a white supremacist have had remarkably little to say about the racial identity of Darrell Brooks, the black suspect in Wisconsin who is accused of plowing his car through an annual Christmas parade last month and killing six people, including an 8-year-old boy, all of whom were white. Given the suspect’s history of posting messages on social media that called for violence against white people and praised Hitler for killing Jews, you’d think that his race and the race of his victims would be relevant to reporters. Race is all anyone would be talking about if a white man had slammed his vehicle into a parade full of black people. Yet suddenly the left has gone colorblind.

Liberals want us to believe that racial disparities in police shootings and incarceration rates stem from a biased system and have little to do with racial disparities in criminality. They want to talk about so-called hate crimes that involve white assailants and black victims, but not those involving black assailants and white or Asian victims. They want headlines to read “White Cop Shoots Black Suspect,” even when there’s no evidence that the encounter was racially motivated. This is playing with fire.

“Once we go down this road and get into the habit of racializing such events, we may not be able to contain that racialization,” said Brown University economist Glenn Loury in a recent speech for the Manhattan Institute. “Soon enough, we may find ourselves in a world of instances where black thugs killing white citizens come to be seen though a racial lens as well. This is a world no thoughtful person should welcome since there are a great many such instances.”

The political left’s hyperconsciousness about race might help Democrats turn out their base, but at a steep cost. National cohesion in a country as large and ethnically diverse as this one has always depended on our ability to focus not on our superficial differences but instead on what unites us as Americans. The sooner we start choosing political leaders who understand this—and punishing the ones who don’t—the better off we’ll be.


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal