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Malcolm Jenkins

One thing that has been noticeably missing from the protests of the NFL’s special snowflakes is any coherent cause compelling their concerns. “The man is keeping me down,” “all whites are racists/white supremacists,” “the cops are killing us all”—even when the police officers that shoot a black criminal are themselves black—are all generalized complaints, as are desires for social justice and “equality” in general, but until now, no one has, in any coherent, reasonably intelligent manner, explained what the protests are all about.

Comes now one Malcolm Jenkins, billed by The Washington Post thus:

Malcolm Jenkins, a safety and defensive team captain with the Philadelphia Eagles, is playing his ninth season in the NFL.

I’ll have to take the WoPo’s word for it. Unlike the dwindling number of football fans, I’m entirely unaware of the names of football players, their positions, statistics or teams. In any case, the WaPo has published Mr. Jenkin’s explanation of his motivation:

A year ago, I was one of several NFL players who began demonstrating in the hope of sparking conversation about injustice in our country. That effort has now grown to include players and teams across the league, as we proclaim together that we believe in equality and justice for everyone. We understand that these conversations are often uncomfortable, but they are important for progress. Our demonstrations have never been about the symbols and traditions we use to honor America. They have been about us as citizens making sure we hold America to the ideals and promises that make this country great.

If Mr. Jenkins and some of his colleagues believe in equality and justice for all, they need do no more than support the Constitution, and through it, the rule of law. However, Mr. Jenkins is actually speaking about social justice, which is inherently unequal, and rife with totalitarian, racist motivations. To put the lie to his suggestion his protests are not about American “symbols and traditions,” one need only observe his colleagues and he are making those protests almost exclusively in football stadiums, on game days, when the flag is being displayed and the National Anthem performed. That’s quite the coincidence, considering the same pattern holds true across the nation and for every team.

In the past year, more than 40 NFL players have joined Anquan Boldin, who retired this summer after 14 seasons, and me to form a Players Coalition dedicated to improving our criminal-justice system. [skip]

We as citizens must make this work a priority. Consider our money-bail system. In 2016, police punched 58-year-old Gilbert Cruz in the face and arrested him for refusing to leave his own home during an investigation. Unable to make the $3,500 bail, Cruz spent more than two months in a Houston jail. By the time prosecutors finally dropped the case after concluding he had committed no crime, Cruz had lost his job, his car and almost his home.

The Cruz case, which apparently occurred during the summer of 2015, appears to be a case of unwarranted excessive force and poor judgment on the part of the officers involved. There are also apparently a number of failings on the part of the Houston criminal justice system, failings for which Mr. Cruz will almost certainly be well compensated. But this case does not prove Jenkin’s contentions of nation-wide abuses, nor do a number of similar cases, and the criminal and civil remedies for such mistreatment of citizens are not in the least impaired.

The system punishes even after you’ve served your time. As many as 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record. Criminal records keep people from getting jobs. Philadelphia native Ronald Lewis runs his own HVAC business, where he hires people from his neighborhood. But two misdemeanor convictions from 13 years ago continue to keep him from getting contracts that could help his business grow.

This sounds suspect. I’ve had at least two misdemeanor convictions in my life (traffic related), but they did not keep me from obtaining two police jobs and teaching at a state law enforcement academy, or from teaching college and high school in two states. Misdemeanor convictions–unless for DUI, sexual offenses, or domestic violence–are normally not a bar to employment. I suspect, assuming Jenkins’ account is accurate, there is much more to the story.

The system has unleashed an extraordinary burden on communities of color. Mass incarceration and the war on drugs have destroyed lives, families and whole communities for generations. Communities of color have also had to watch video after video of unarmed black men and women being handled without regard for their lives or well-being. As a black man, I see these images and I see myself; I wonder whether this will happen to me or one of my loved ones.

For Boldin, it did. His cousin was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer after his car broke down on the side of the road. We have borne witness to the deaths of Philando Castile, Jordan Edwards, Tamir Rice and countless others.

What will happen to Jenkins or his loved ones? If they are law abiding people, regardless of race, probably nothing at all. Whether someone is unarmed is not, by any means, prima facie evidence of police misconduct. The case of Boldin’s cousin, by the WaPo’s own account is not at all as cut and dried as Jenkin’s suggests, nor are Jenkin’s other examples. I wrote about the Tamir Rice case.

Officers were sent to a park on multiple reports of someone threating people with a gun. When they arrived, Rice, who though only 12, was 5/7”, weighed 195 pounds, and looked much older, drew a toy gun from his waistband as the officers approached and pointed it at them. Like many toys, it looked exactly like a real gun. The officers were exonerated, as they should have been.

It’s necessary to analyze such incidents individually, just as the justice system must do. Unfortunately, Jenkins and his allies tend to use a social justice lens. The person arrested or shot is black, therefore an innocent victim. All police are racists and therefore wrong, and a number of unrelated incidents throughout the country are evidence of a nationwide conspiracy. The facts, and the law, don’t matter, with one exception: whenever anyone a member of a designated progressive favored victim group is involved, they must have the benefit of the doubt and full due process rights. Not so for the police. The outcome is preordained, and nothing less then career-ending, humiliating punishment, preferably featuring decades in jail accompanied by a multi-million dollar taxpayer payout to the family of the so-called victim will suffice. Anything less is injustice and inequality.

We are fighting to pass clean-slate legislation in Pennsylvania to seal nonviolent misdemeanor records automatically after 10 years. We must provide opportunities for employment, housing, education, loans and voting. We should not disenfranchise a third of the population.

Again, Jenkins reveals his social justice leanings. What he apparently seeks is taxpayer support for the things he mentions. There is nothing stopping anyone from becoming employed, housed, educated, obtaining loans, or voting other than their own terrible life choices, and their ineligibility, by law, to vote. A third of the population is not disenfranchised—denied the vote—but illegal aliens, foreign citizens, felons, and the dead, are, and rightfully so.

I’ve heard people say that my colleagues and I are un-American and unpatriotic. Well, we want to make America great. We want to help make our country safe and prosperous. We want a land of justice and equality. True patriotism is loving your country and countrymen enough to want to make it better.

Why does “true patriotism” inevitably involve asserting America is hopelessly corrupt and evil and must be transformed in the image of the true patriots?  One might better express this true patriotism by not demonstrating contempt for our nation’s symbols in football stadiums, on game days, and only when those national symbols are being observed. It’s rather simple, really. Normal Americans will not think Jenkins unpatriotic for expressing his opinions in the pages of The Washington Post, but when he demonstrates contempt for the flag and national anthem by refusing to render them the bare minimum gestures of respect actual Americans expect and willingly give, they will.

This is where we need to point our attention now. Not to guys demonstrating but to the issues and work to be done in cities across the country.

And that’s the problem. Mr. Jenkins seems a sincere fellow, perhaps better intentioned and informed than many of his colleagues. However, his activism, and theirs, seems more or less confined to very specific times, places and occasions, to generalities and abstractions. Following individual cases takes time, attention and real effort, and there is always the chance—actually, the probability, thank goodness—the victim du jour will turn out to be a garden variety criminal loser whose self-destructive character finally caught up to him. Better to stick with abstractions that don’t challenge the progressive narrative and allow one to engage in faux-noble virtue signaling while sticking a thumb in the eye of normal Americans who have a keen eye for when, where, and why their self-imagined betters are spitting on America, and the Americans that pay their salaries.

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