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Hartmann: What If We Swapped County Sports Protests with Black Lives Matter?



We've all grown weary of "whataboutism" in our politics.

To go full Merriam-Webster on you, whataboutism is a tactic regarded by rhetoricians as "a form of tu quoque. It means 'you too' in Latin and involves charging your accuser with whatever it is you've just been accused of rather than refuting the truth of the accusation made against you."

The intellectuals regard this as a logical fallacy. "Whether or not the original accuser is likewise guilty of an offense has no bearing on the truth value of the original accusation," say the dictionary people.

Well, I say there's a time and a place for whataboutism. And this is it.

As angry protesters in St. Louis' comfortable suburbs — mostly white people — have boisterously vented their frustration with the county's shutdown of many youth sports activities, the scene has provided a delicious opportunity to turn some tables.

What if these protests had taken place in the Central West End, where Black Lives Matter supporters famously marched at gunpoint? And what if BLM had come to a wealthy suburb?

Just flip the script. Let's soak in a little whataboutism.

Let's imagine that on June 28 it was a group of angry, mostly white protesters who were marching loudly to Mayor Lyda Krewson's home in the Central West End to protest a shutdown of youth sports in the city.

And let's imagine that on September 13 it was a group of angry, mostly Black protesters who were marching loudly to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page's home in his suburban neighborhood.

Now before proceeding, a couple of stipulations. I'm not quite ready to equate hundreds of years of racial oppression with a few months of youth sports games getting canceled. That's not what I'm doing here. And I'm not wild about folks protesting at public officials' private residences in any event.

But these two protests have enough in common that they're just crying out for a little whataboutism. Both were filled with sincere Americans seeking to exercise their 1st Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly. Both were extremely emotional. Both were nonviolent. Both got media coverage.

It's hardly unrealistic to imagine the scenes inverted. To this day, Krewson's city has stricter regulations on youth sports than Page's county. As to BLM protests, Blacks in the county have plenty to dislike about the Page administration's record on racial justice and diversity.

So, let's say the mostly white sports protesters did what the mostly Black BLM protesters did on that fateful day in June. Let's say they walked through an unlocked gate to walk along what appeared to be public city streets en route to the mayor's home.

And let's say Mark and Patricia McCloskey were sitting in their nice mansion and heard some commotion and saw these white folks carrying signs. And that they came out on their well-manicured lawn and yelled, "Hey, these are private streets!"

I'm going to take a wild guess and say these fired-up sports parents and young athletes — already worked up to a fever pitch about the government trampling their rights — would not have come to a screeching halt, gotten real quiet and politely said, "Oh, excuse us for intruding. Can you tell us how we might find a different route to the mayor's home? We don't mind a long detour."

They probably would have looked around and seen what appeared to be city streets, sidewalks and road signs and come to the conclusion that these were public streets. They probably wouldn't have requested the Portland Place covenants to verify the legal status.

I think one of two things would have happened. One, some ripped protester with no neck, maybe a wrestler, would have gotten right up into Mark McCloskey's preppily clad paunchiness and offered, "Yo, you wanna go?" In that case, McCloskey would have waddled back to the safety of his mansion and let the parade pass him by.

Alternatively, they might have said, "Don't you realize our rights are being trampled by big government and they are robbing our children of their constitutional rights to seek sports scholarships and to validate us? And can't you see we're mostly well-off white people who might be really litigious?"

In the latter case, I'm thinking the McCloskeys are handing out their personal-injury-lawyer business cards — in case anyone slipped and fell on the way to Chez Krewson — and then they're breaking out refreshments on the lawn. Maybe even a mansion tour for potential clients.

Here's what we can be certain the McCloskeys would not have done: They would not have set up shop with wild-eyed expressions shakily pointing deadly firearms at this group of angry, mostly white sports protesters. No way.

One of the talking points today on the political right — without evidence — is that many in the BLM group of protesters were armed and thus a great danger to the McCloskeys. The sports protesters likely wouldn't have faced such a charge — they'd have been "law-abiding gun owners exercising their 2nd Amendment rights" —but it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

In Missouri, tragically, you can walk down the street with a cache of weapons — concealed or hanging openly on your shoulders — and there's not a thing wrong with it under our current non-laws. And it doesn't give someone else a right to point a gun at that person.

So, the McCloskeys wouldn't have even made the news had it been mostly white sports protesters passing through that day. No guns, no glory.

Alas, we would never have heard of the couple, much less have seen them become rock stars at the Republican National Convention, which in previous years was the site of much railing about unscrupulous "trial lawyers" and the need for "tort reform" because of, well, attorneys like the McCloskeys. (I'm on their side of that issue, by the way.)

Meanwhile, back in the county, I'm thinking those BLM protesters would have gotten themselves right onto Donald J. Trump's Twitter feed without a single deadly firearm being aimed at their faces. You see, unlike the angry, mostly white sports protesters, the mostly Black BLM group would have been regarded as a serious public safety threat.

"ARMED THUGS ARE INVADING OUR SUBURBS IN ANOTHER DEMOCRAT RUN COUNTY. SAVE THE SUBURBAN HOUSEWIVES!!" Trump would have warned the world. Just the optics of Black people protesting in the suburbs would have been enough to bring in all the 24/7 news trucks, especially in St. Louis.

And you can be sure there would have been many more police and a lot more tension than there was with the mostly white sports protesters. And no one would be saying it was all good since BLM folks were standing on public streets and thus posed no problem at all. Tucker Carlson's head would have exploded. Fox News would have made a state-TV miniseries out of the whole ordeal.

Such are the times in which we live. But if, as I suspect, many of my fellow Caucasians do not appreciate the juxtaposition of these two protests, and you're ready to spew invective and call me all kinds of names, go right ahead. I've only got one thing to say: Tu quoque.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).


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