Van Jones appeared on CNN this morning to offer his thoughts on the event in Minneapolis last night. He was pretty direct about his feelings and tried to direct some of his comments toward his “white friends” and white people in general.
“We’re seeing a curtain pulled back,” Jones said. He continued, “I think that’s the hardest thing for my white friends to understand, well intentioned, well intentioned, is that this is every day. Black people being choked off from dignity, from opportunity, from humanity, from understanding from empathy.”
He described the death of George Floyd as a “lynching.” “That’s what a lynching is. We saw a white man deprive a black man of his life in public with the entire community staring horror-struck,” he said.
“There’s another reality here that you’re starting to see. You thought maybe the world worked one way because police are nice to you, because these things don’t happen to people that you know, but the whole time there was a whole other America.”
Jones offered an excuse for the arson we’ve seen in Minneapolis saying, “Now we have no idea who set those fires. It could have been provocateurs. It could be anybody.” Sure, I guess so, but in some cases we can see it was the rioters throwing wood on the fires. Why balk at just admitting what’s clearly true? I think it’s because even now Jones can’t quite defend the burning down of the city so he wants to just set that aside.
From there he goes on to say people are just fed up with waiting for justice. “It’s not the racist white person whose in the Ku Klux Klan that we have to worry about, it’s the white, liberal, Hillary Clinton supporter walking her dog in Central Park who would tell you right now—people like that, ‘oh I don’t see race, race is no big deal to me, I see us all as the same, I give to charities.’
“But the minute she sees a black man who she does not respect or who she has a slight thought against, she weaponized race like she had been trained by the Aryan nation. A Klans member could not have been better trained to pick up her phone and tell the police it’s a black man, African American man. Come get him. So even the most liberal, well-intentioned white person has a virus in his or her brain that can be activated at an instant.”
He’s talking of course about this video involving Amy Cooper. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Van Jones is 100% correct about what motivated her reaction (and really he might be). What he fails to mention is that Amy Cooper’s gambit didn’t work. In fact, it backfired spectacularly. After she calmed down she offered a public apology but it was too late. She lost her dog. She was fired. She received death threats. She’ll probably have trouble finding another job.
This is not a small point in the context of what Van Jones is saying because it really undercuts his point about who we need to worry about. Amy Cooper acted liked she’d been trained by the Aryan nation and that moment was enough to destroy her life, to the point that the guy who posted the video (Christian Cooper) felt sorry for her.
Obviously things don’t always work out that way and the death of George Floyd is a good example. But it’s simply not true that black men have no power and are always victims, not even when some creepy white woman tries to make them victims. Society was not on Amy Cooper’s side and it’s not on the side of the cop who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck either. That’s not to say that all is well and we should just move on. But some recognition of the fact that this is not being shrugged off by most white people seems appropriate if we’re going to have this conversation.