With Black Lives Matter misinformation, Rep. Pingree’s opponent stirs up racial animus

With Black Lives Matter misinformation, Rep. Pingree’s opponent stirs up racial animus

Republican Congressional candidate for Maine’s 1st District, Mark Holbrook, outlines on his website his priorities for race relations in the US including a blog entitled the “War on Police.” Throughout his blog and website, he shares a range of statistics and anecdotes which supposedly highlight the criminal and homicidal tendencies of blacks. For example, he said “…the reason they [blacks] are dying of homicide at a rate six times higher than whites and Hispanics combined is because they commit homicide at a rate eight times higher than whites and Hispanics combined.”

If you were to take Holbrook’s rhetoric at face value, you could determine—as many misguided people have—that blacks are somehow inherently homicidal. But if one uses a critical eye, it is easy to see that he is employing the age-old tactic of Republican dog-whistle racism. Here I will present just three of many fallacies I’ve found in Holbrook’s examination of race whose implications could potentially pose a threat to black people in our communities:

“We now have Black Lives Matter, entertained at the White House, whose basic foundation is a lie: “Hands up, don’t shoot” never happened!”

The merits and validity of the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” can be argued three ways from Tuesday. But by effectively reducing BLM into four words, Holbrook is signaling that he is either completely misinformed about this movement (in which case he should stop postulating) or he is intentionally promoting a falsehood.

When you look at the facts, the picture of extrajudicial police killings becomes much clearer. The unjustified killing of unarmed black people by police is a major problem in this country. Of the 93 unarmed people killed by police in 2015, 43 were black. Moreover, when you look at all police killings in the same year, you will find that black
Americans were 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police. This is all despite blacks making up just 13% of the general population.

While the chant “hands up, don’t shoot!” has been heard during Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country for the last few years, the basic foundation of the movement is much more complex and rooted in the systematic oppression of black people by all institutions.

For someone as educated and seemingly thoughtful as Holbrook, this is one of the most egregious mischaracterizations he’s made with regard to race relations. It does not take long to do some shallow research into the messages and mission of Black Lives Matter. For example, on BlackLivesMatter.com, the following is listed as a guiding principle; some might call it a basic foundation:

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

For people who are interested in a comprehensive outline of the priorities of the Movement for Black Lives, please feel free to explore this six-point plan of action.

“We now witness the extraordinary and mounting level of black on black murders without a peep from our President, Black Lives Matter or Ms. Pingree”

Homicides are usually the result of interpersonal conflict. In a country such as the United States where segregation between blacks and whites is alive-and-well, it is easy to presume that most interpersonal conflicts are going to be confined to one race. Statistics show that 84 percent of homicides committed by white people are against other white people—but we never hear politicians refer to the scourge of white-on-white crime. The only people referring to black-on-black crime are those who are looking to paint a bad picture of blacks to score more political points. If anything, injecting race into homicide statistics only highlights our social divisions.

“As a result of BLM, we have the “Ferguson Effect”: local police are backing off of proactive policing, and crime is going up astronomically, as much as 90 percent in cities with large black populations.”

The so-called “Ferguson Effect” has no basis in fact or statistics. It is merely an anecdotal theory whose originator even acknowledges that there is no evidence to support the idea. Explaining that arrest rates have not declined in most cities, Richard Rosenfeld (who theorized the “Ferguson Effect”) says it appears as if police are still doing their jobs just as well as before; he said, “…we have no evidence” supporting the “Ferguson Effect.” Not only has it been debunked, the inflammatory statistic that crime has gone up 90 percent is not only markedly absurd but also without a reliable source.

If Holbrook has proven anything, it is that if he is elected he will contribute to the hysteria and misinformation that has ground Congress to a halt in recent years. His disingenuous, if not downright dangerous, presentation of so-called “facts” ignores not only the economics involved with crime, but more importantly the power dynamics central to the history of black crime and poverty.

Holbrook offers nothing new to the conversation except more misinformation intended to win votes by stirring up the racial hang-ups of scared, angry Mainers.

About author

Teddy Burrage
Teddy Burrage 8 posts

Teddy Burrage is a Portland native and local activist. He was formerly a congressional intern and organizer with the Portland Racial Justice Congress. Teddy hopes contribute to positive change in Maine by promoting social justice and civic engagement.


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