Bristol Democrats respond to question about their Facebook posts

Posted

An anonymous caller in last week’s Bristol Phoenix Speakout section questioned posts that both state Rep. Susan Donovan and Bristol Democratic Town Committee Chairman Erich Haslehurst shared on their private Facebook accounts earlier this summer. Separately, on June 26 and June 27, they each shared a message that was going viral on social media at the time, regarding how white people were responding to national outrage over a police officer’s killing of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minn., a month earlier.

As protests, riots and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement were spreading throughout the country, both Rep. Donovan and Mr. Haslehurst re-posted the message and attributed it to “#blacklivesmatter.”

The original author of the essay has been mostly lost as it’s been shared throughout the social media world. It also did not stay true to its original form.

According to the Milwaukee Independent, self-described as an “advertising-free daily news magazine that advocates for inclusive social understanding in Milwaukee” they posted the essay in mid-June and attributed it to the wrong person. Their first publication of the essay “was mistakenly attributed to the wrong author, who actually plagiarized the original work.”

The publisher then contacted the original author, Patrick Benjamin, a writer from Edmonton, who allowed them to publish it under his name, which it did on June 21. Mr. Benjamin’s first version contained 10 arguments disputing how whites were responding to police brutality against blacks, the national protests and the calls for social justice.

However, as the post spread on social media, it was altered and added onto. The version shared by both Rep. Donovan and Mr. Haslehurst differs significantly from the original version by Mr. Benjamin on item #4, titled “There are good cops …” Mr. Benjamin’s version states: “This isn’t about the actions of individuals. It’s about systemic, state-sanctioned violence against black people and other people of color. In fact, racism – historically and currently – is so embedded in policing that even if there weren’t any bad cops, racism and racist police practices would still exist. Police forces are there to protect and advance the status quo. Period. The same so-called ‘good cops’ who are sharing BLM hashtags and are kneeling with you now, won’t think twice about kneeling on your neck at a later time. And if you think you’re a good cop, but are silent when confronted with human rights abuses, then how good are you?”

The version shared by Rep. Donovan and Mr. Haslehurst contains a different item #4 (see below) with the controversial acronym ACAB. The version they shared also includes eight additional arguments, for 18 total, and is more than 2,000 words. It is shared in its full original form below.

Both Rep. Donovan and Mr. Haslehurst were critical of the Phoenix decision to publish the anonymous question last week and responded with letters this week. They both declined to comment further. They also both removed “ACAB,” which stands for “all cops are bastards,” from their Facebook pages.

See Mr. Haslehurst's letter here.

See Rep. Donovan's letter here.

Following is the post originally shared by Mr. Haslehurst on June 26 and Rep. Donovan on June 27.

The original Facebook post …

Copied and pasted from #blacklivesmatter  Feel free to do the same.

Ok white friends, I’m about to lay some hardcore truth on you right now, and many of you are not going to like it. Some of you are going to get immediately defensive. But before you comment from an emotional place, I encourage you to stop, re-read this post, do a little bit of research about casual racism and white privilege and then come back and re-read the post again. After that, if you still want to comment, please feel free.

Ok, here we go....

Many of you are the problem. Yes, you read that right. Many of you are the reason why these riots are happening. Many of you are the reason why it’s come to this. This is especially true if you’ve ever (but especially in the last week) said any of the following;

1. “It’s awful but...” - No. No buts. In the English language, the word “But” is often used to deflect or to justify behavior. Police murdering black people in the street is awful. Period. End of discussion.

2. “I support the movement but not these disruptive protests...” - No, you don’t. Right now, the movement is taking the form of disruptive protests. They’re the same thing. You either want police to stop murdering black people in the street, or you don’t. If you do, then support the protests — even if you find them disruptive and frustrating — because that’s black people fighting for their lives.

3. “All lives/White lives matter too..” - no one said they didn’t. The conversation is specifically about black lives right now because police are murdering them in the street. Until police stop doing that, and White people stop dismissing it, it’s not “All lives matter,” it’s “MOST lives matter.” It’s not “ALL Lives” until Black Lives Matter too. Stay focused.

4. “There are good cops...” - There are two categories of cops; bad cops and complacent cops. There are many levels of Bad cops. The most obvious one is those officers that are murdering black people in the street. Bad cops are also sharing the hashtags “blue lives matter.” Bad cops are trying to shift the focus. Bad cops don’t stop their colleagues when they murder black people in the streets. Complacent cops just show up, follow orders and try not to take sides. Complacent cops are bad cops. Until they turn in their badge and gun, they are supporting state sanctioned white supremacy and terrorism against minorities. ACAB.

5. “I don’t support the looting and destruction...” - no one says you have to, but please stop acting like looting nullifies the entire protest. And definitely stop acting like looting is “just as bad.” That’s like comparing someone stealing your car to someone murdering your child. They’re not equally bad. Stop pretending they are. Police murdering black people in the street is definitely worse than robbing a Target.

6. “Just because I’m white doesn’t mean my life has been easy...” Of course not. Everyone struggles. But being white has never been one of those struggles. Being poor has been a struggle. Being a woman has been a struggle. Being gay has been a struggle. But being white has never been a struggle. The same can’t be said for people of colour. I could go on and on about white privilege, but it would be so much easier if you educated yourself instead. This isn’t about how you, a white, cisgender, straight man has suffered in your life. This is about police murdering black people in the street. Stop trying to make it about you.

7. “I really wish they would protest peacefully...” - of course you do. They’re easier to ignore that way. People of colour have been peacefully protesting for hundreds of years. It hasn’t been all that successful. The reason riots and violent demonstrations work is because it makes people — especially white people — uncomfortable. We can’t ignore them when they’re waving torches in our faces. It scares us. It puts us on edge, which is precisely where we need to be. People only pay attention to the extreme. If you have trouble recalling a single one of the hundreds of peaceful protests that BLM held across North America last year, but you can still recall, with crystal clarity, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, then you’ve just proved my point.

8. “I don’t see color...” — Congratulations, you’re lying to yourself. Of course, you see color. And that’s good! Black people want you to see their color. Their colors are beautiful and the very foundation of who they are. If you don’t see their color, then you also don’t see their culture. If you don’t see color, then you erase their very identity. If you don’t see their color, then you also can’t see the pattern of violence they’re confronted with every day. If you don’t see color, then you’re blind to more than just racial injustice. You’re blind to the world.

9. “They shouldn’t have committed a crime...” - This one is a big one for me. Consider me triggered. A boy who steals a can of pop from a 711 does not deserve to be shot in the back three times. A man illegally selling CD’s on a street corner doesn’t deserve to be shot to death in front of a record store. A man who runs a red light does not deserve to be shot while reaching for his registration. This isn’t about their crimes; this is about bad policing. Stay on topic.

10. “Black people kill white people too...” yes, murderers exist in every race and walk of life. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking police brutality, and the reality is, black officers are not murdering unarmed white men in the street. That seems to be almost exclusively white officer behavior. Stop gaslighting.

11. “Black people kill other black people...” - Yes, they do, just like white people kill other white people and Latinos kill other latinos etc. Crime related violence does not adhere to any imaginary racial boundaries or allegiances. But, we’re not talking about criminal violence right now. We’re not discussing drug violence or gang violence or sexual violence or domestic violence or bar brawls or whatever random type of violence you’d like to bring up. The conversation is specifically about POLICE BRUTALITY. Say it with me. Police. Brutality. Any other form of violence you bring up is entirely irrelevant. Please stay on topic.

12. “I support black people, but I can’t support the violence...” — In other words, you would prefer people of color continue to be murdered by police, rather than have them rise up violently against their oppressors. Got it. That’s not support.

13. “It’s not about race. We are all human beings...” yes, except people of color often aren’t treated like human beings. For instance, they’re being murdered in the streets like animals. On video. While people watch. While people do nothing.

14. “The looting and arson distract from their message. It’s their fault for not controlling it...” If you’d like to lay blame, how about we start by blaming the police who frequently murder unarmed people of color. If they didn’t frequently murder unarmed people of color, the protest wouldn’t be necessary. The protest wouldn’t have turned into a riot, the riot wouldn’t have turned violent, and looting wouldn’t have happened. Blaming the oppressed for not better “controlling” their social unrest is asinine.

15. “More white people are killed by cops than black people. Here are the statistics...” - I love when people do research! Thank you for that! But those stats that you’re proudly flashing around aren’t an accurate reflection of the issue. According to data, there are approx. 234,370,202 white people In the United States. Comparatively, that same data states that there are 40,610,815 “Black” Americans. So, when your stats show 1,398 white people have been killed by officers since 2017 and only 543 Black people, what those statistics really show is .0005% of white people were killed by police in those 3.5 years, while .0011% of black people were killed by police. That means black people were killed at a higher rate. 220% higher, to be exact. Math has no racial bias. Those aren’t great stats. Stop using them to defend your position.

16. “Black people commit more crime...” - Do they really, though? According to data released in 2017, there were 475,900 black prisoners in state and federal prisons and 436,500 white prisoners. That’s a difference of about 9%. So for argument's sake, let’s say those numbers are an accurate reflection of the amount of crime committed. If people of colour commit only 9% more crime, why are they killed by police at a rate of 220% higher?

17. “Well, the same stats you mentioned shows that even though they’re only 12% of the population, they commit 54% of the crime.” - Good Catch! You’re right. But those numbers don’t actually reflect the amount of crime committed. That’s why I said to assume they’re correct. Those numbers only reveal how many people are incarcerated. The reality is, while those numbers are all we have to go on, they don’t tell the complete story either. In the United States specifically, socioeconomic racism, which was designed to keep POC in poverty through district red-lining, lower quality of education and other systemic obstacles, is a huge component. Thanks to redlining (look it up) and other zoning and banking practices, the quality of education in “black” neighborhoods are significantly lower, which means the average income for POC in those neighbours is lower and the unemployment much higher. Also, thanks to redlining, the unemployment rate, and lower-income rates, crime in those neighborhoods tends to be higher. That means those neighborhoods are patrolled by police more often. Thanks to racial bias, POC are followed, stopped, harassed and arrested more frequently than the white people who live in those same neighborhoods. What all of this means is that, when POC are arrested more frequently, they often can’t afford fancy lawyers to help them. They usually end up with Public Defenders, who are often overworked, and they often encourage POC to plead guilty in exchange for less time. Then there’s the fact that, because white people make up 73% of the population, they also tend to make up a bigger percentage of Jurors. There’s lots of factors to consider. So don’t assume that just because they make up 54% of the people in jail, that they make up 54% of the crime. The entire system is broken. That’s part of the problem.

18. “You’re promoting violence and destruction, shame on you...”. - I don’t remember encouraging anyone to riot. I also don’t remember encouraging anyone to loot or commit arson. The truth is, looting and arson is certainly not my preferred form of protest. But it’s important to remember that protesters haven’t committed most of the violent behavior. Civil unrest tends to cause chaos and confusion. That chaos provides the perfect opportunity for poor-intentioned people to do poor-intentioned things. That doesn’t mean the civil unrest should stop. I don’t condone the violence. I just don’t think it should dominate the conversation. If you want to focus on the violence, try focusing on those officers who’ve killed POC in the street. You’re focusing on the wrong violence.

If any of you are guilty of saying any of the above, then I have unsettling news for you. YOU are the reason it’s come to this.

YOU are the reason peaceful protests haven’t worked.

They haven’t worked because YOU haven’t been listening.

YOU haven’t been learning.

These violent riots are happening because YOU have left people of colour, no other choice.

These riots are happening because no matter how people of colour have said it, taking a knee, marching the streets, bumper stickers, Banners, signs, or chants, YOU still don’t get it.

That doesn’t mean you’re bad people.

That doesn’t mean you’re racist. It only means you’re white. And that’s not a crime, any more than being black is.

The difference is, police aren’t going to shoot you in the street for it.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.