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I had a sneaking suspicion that something like this might happen when Utah Sen. Mitt Romney joined protesters in front of the White House earlier this month and told the press, “Black lives matter”: That the slogan would soon become an unavoidable catch-all phrase for people who want to say they’re not racist.
Of course, “Black lives matter” is still echoed by many who believe in it, but this month’s uprisings have shown that being against Black Lives Matter is akin to being on the wrong side of history. And so the phrase was surely going to be adopted by people who don’t believe in the movement’s mission but still want others to think that they do.
Or maybe they do. Maybe they believe that Black lives matter, but also believe the phrase is conditional, only applicable to some people. Or maybe they believe that Black lives matter, but don’t believe that systemic racism runs rampant in policing, politics, and schools, or that the police should be defunded or abolished, or that protests mustn’t make powerful people too uncomfortable. They believe things that are wholly unaligned with a future where Black people aren’t disproportionately subjected to state violence. “Black lives matter,” they can say aloud, patting themselves on the back.
This isn’t at all the fault of the movement itself, but an indication of the progress these nationwide revolts have had on public opinion. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that in two weeks, “support for Black Lives Matter increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years.” That’s astounding, the metric itself a rejection of the idea that progress is incremental. Black lives matter, full stop.
Perhaps with the sway of public opinion comes the coopting by disingenuous parties caught in a bind between acting racist and being called racist. What better way to diffuse that less-than-ambiguous ambiguity than to signal your support for Black Lives Matter?
That seems to be what’s happened with Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the white St. Louis couple who brandished guns at protesters marching past their house in a very rich, gated community called Portland Place. (The protesters were making their way down the block toward St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.)
If you haven’t seen the videos yet, here they are below, showing the McCloskeys standing on their driveway and lawn of their $1.15 million mansion. In the video, Patricia aims at protesters as they head to Krewson’s residence. (The crowd was demanding that Krewson resign after she read out identifying information of people who had asked the city to defund the police during a livestreamed briefing. Krewson has since pulled the video down and apologized on Twitter, but says she won’t resign.)
The McCloskeys weren’t the target of the protests, but they drew the couple’s ire when they tore down a metal gate entrance to the gated community, the McCloskeys have said publicly. This is, however, a lie, as video from the march shows that one side of the gate was being held open for protesters while the other was closed, while Mark was already on his porch (balcony? first-floor terrace?) yelling at them to leave.
Yesterday, Mark gave an illuminating interview to local station KSDK. You really should read the entire thing, but I’ll break down some of the more WTF parts here. He told the station that he retrieved his rifle after he told protesters that they were on private property, and needed to go back.
He also said some pretty bonkers stuff, among them comparing the protest to — lmfao — the Storming of the Bastille, which is more apt than he realizes. From that KSDK interview, emphasis mine:
McCloskey: At that point, everybody got enraged. There were people wearing body armor. One person pulled out some loaded pistol magazine and clicked them together and said that you were next. We were threatened with our lives, threatened with a house being burned down, my office building being burned down, even our dog’s life being threatened. It was, it was about as bad as it can get. I mean, those you know, I really thought it was Storming the Bastille, that we would be dead and the house would be burned and there was nothing we could do about it. It was a huge and frightening crowd. And they were they broken the gate were coming at us.
As I said, video shows that the gate was not broken, Protesters have denied that anyone was acting threatening or putting the McCloskeys in any danger whatsoever, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch further reported:
One protester who witnessed the showdown told the Post-Dispatch that marchers took notice of the McCloskeys only when the couple emerged from their home armed and threatening to kill them.
I’ll leave it to you to decide who to believe.
McCloskey also admitted to KDSK that the protesters were never on his actual property, but that the neighborhood feels like his living room, which I guess is something I’d expect to hear from someone who lives in a mansion. Meanwhile, I, too, would take pleasure in making rich people squirm just thinking even for a second that I’d be living in their waste of a house:
[Anchor Anne] Allred: Were the protesters on your private property at any point?
McCloskey: Everything inside the Portland Place gate is private property. There is nothing public in Portland Place. Being inside that gate is like being in my living room. There is no public anything in Portland Place. It is all private property.
And you’ve got to appreciate that if there are two or three hundred people, I don’t know how many there were. We were told that 500 people showed up at the Lyda Krewson house, which is not on our street, as you know. But how many of them came through Portland Place? I don’t know. But it was a big crowd and they were aggressive, wearing body armor and screaming at us and threatening to harm us. And how they were going to be living in our house after they kill us.
Mark went on to also admit that his wife didn’t know “anything about guns,” and that he wonders why don’t more people care about St. Louis gun violence: “There is there’s mayhem in the city every night. You never hear about it. There’ll be dozens of shootings, multiple deaths. No one seems to care about those black lives.” He also said he can’t be racist because he’s representing a Black man in a case against cops, and he has an “anti-slavery” “abolitionist broadsheet from 1832.”
“I mean, I’m not the enemy of people that really care about the Black lives, but I’m apparently the enemy of the terrorists and the Marxists that are running this organization,” Mark said near the end of the interview.
It is moderately funny that a lawyer as seasoned as this guy doesn’t know when to just shut the fuck up. But that just brings us to why we’re talking about the McCloskeys in the first place, because in this newfound era of support for Black Lives Matter, it is no longer a choice for racist, rich white people with Black clients to say derogatory things about protesters without facing consequences.
At least, this is the future that the McCloskeys are afraid of. The McCloskeys’ lawyer, Albert S. Watkins (what a name), has already started backpedaling, reassuring that Mark and Patricia love Black Lives Matter as (checks notes) “melanin-deficient human beings” who really hate watching white people destroy rich people things, like a century-plus old gate. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, emphasis mine:
“My clients, as melanin-deficient human beings, are completely respectful of the message Black Lives Matter needs to get out, especially to whites … (but) two individuals exhibited such force and violence destroying a century-plus old wrought iron gate, ripping and twisting the wrought iron that was connected to a rock foundation, and then proceeded to charge at and toward and speak threateningly to Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey.”
And it’s especially important to note that they love Black Lives Matter so much that they (checks more notes) were only going to shoot the white people. More of Watkins’ statement the couple, from KMOV4, emphasis mine:
“Both Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey acted lawfully on their property which sits on a private gated lane in the City of St. Louis. Their actions were borne solely of fear and apprehension, the genesis of which was not race related. In fact, the agitators responsible for the trepidation were white.
‘The Black Lives Matters movement is here to stay, it is the right message, and it is about time,’ said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey. ‘The McCloskeys want to make sure no one thinks less of BLM, its message and the means it is employing to get its message out because of the actions of a few white individuals who tarnished a peaceful protest.’”
Please, let’s leave it up to the “I have an abolitionist broadsheet” and “I represent a Black client against the cops” guy to dictate who really cares about Black lives here. We know these people don’t give a shit about civil rights and Black Lives Matter and the white people who are somehow besmirching Black Lives Matter. Just take a look at the McCloskeys’ FEC records, which show they donated to Republicans as early as 1988 and as recently as 2018. Mark has literally given thousands to Trump’s campaigns. (He’s also given to some Democrats.) But yeah, fuck these other white people who’re threatening to storm my literal castle.
No, the McCloskeys are just a couple of rich white people caught behaving murderously who are now using their alleged support of Black Lives Matter to better their chances of not being shamed and ostracized within high society.
I mean, if there are any doubts that these people care about the Black Lives Matter movement, or Black people, or even their Black clients, we need not look any further than Mark’s parting thoughts on the matter, again from his KSDK interview:
Allred: Anything else you’d like to add, Mark?
McCloskey: I don’t think so. I just I wish that this hadn’t happened last night, but I didn’t ask for it. I was having dinner.
Black lives matter, but not enough to separate me from my bleeding steak.
Regardless, the McCloskeys’ backtracking signifies just how important and accepted the Black Lives Matter movement has become — even when it comes at a cost of having racist people co-opt the phrase “Black lives matter” as a way to distract from their racist and complicit behavior, or to capitalize on the movement. This just means that we must be all the more critical of politicians and public figures and corporations using the movement to elevate themselves with empty gestures.
But this has always been a problem, and isn’t something specific to Black Lives Matter or something for the movement to solve. Racism has always been something for people to deny by proximity: Well, I know Black people, or my work benefits people of color, or I am a person of color, and so I can’t be racist. People who do racist things have always been afraid of being seen as racist, and, lest they genuinely take on the mission to be anti-racist and dismantle white supremacy with honesty of their own racism, they will continue to deny their racism regardless of what comes next. The movement and “Black lives matter” have just become the latest points of proximity for racists to clutch to in lieu of taking even a minute to investigate their own biases.