Texas deputy Darren Goforth was shot “execution-style” fifteen times while he was pumping gas on Friday night. A suspect, who is black, is in custody and has been charged with capital murder. No motive has yet been revealed for the shooting, but that hasn’t stopped police and right-wing news outlets from pinning the responsibility on the Black Lives Matter movement, which calls for police to respect black people’s civil rights.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman announced the charges against Shannon Miles in a press conference on Saturday afternoon, speculating that recent criticism of police misconduct had something to do with the murder. “The general climate of that kind of rhetoric can be influential on people to do things like this,” Hickman said. Earlier on Saturday, he remarked, “Cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we drop the qualifier and say lives matter.”
Soon after, Fox News called Black Lives Matter a “murder movement” perpetuated by “cop-haters.”
Black Lives Matter has remained a consistently peaceful protest force that has successfully brought police brutality and the racial inequity of the criminal justice system to the forefront of mainstream politics. Yet as the movement gains more traction, pundits and politicians have demanded that it take responsibility for and denounce all acts of violence against police officers.
Black Lives Matter activists now join Muslims all over the world as the scapegoats for random violent acts committed by small extremist sects or by individuals who are often mentally ill.
Here are five tragedies that black and brown people have been asked to answer for:
Virginia journalist shooting. The murder of two white journalists by a mentally ill black colleague last week was quickly placed at the feet of Black Lives Matter. Suspect Bryce Williams, aka Vester Lee Flanagan, penned a manifesto calling for a “race war” and citing the church massacre by white supremacist Dylann Roof as his motivation.
Chattanooga Marine massacre. Muslim leaders in Tennessee and elsewhere condemned the July shooting spree committed by a Kuwaiti U.S. citizen that left four U.S. Marines and one Navy sailor dead. Alleged perpetrator Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez had blogged about Islam and downloaded radical teachings. Family members said he suffered from depression and drug abuse.
NYPD shooting. Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two New York City police officers as massive protests surged through the city in response to the announcement that the officer who killed Eric Garner would not be indicted. The police union and conservative commentators immediately pointed to Black Lives Matter, and even blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) for supposedly embracing the movement’s “incendiary rhetoric.” Brinsley, meanwhile, had a history of mental illness and domestic violence.
ISIS. Fox News periodically demands that the general Muslim community condemn ISIS’s reign of terror throughout the Middle East. Even though Muslim organizations all over the world have repeatedly denounced ISIS and explained that the Islamic State’s actions have little to do with the actual teachings of Islam, Fox commentators continue to ask why Muslims are allowing radical Islam to take root.
Gangsta rap. A popular vein of thought in the 1990s blamed gangsta rap for cop killings. The media zeroed in on the case of two teenagers who said they were inspired by Tupac Shakur to shoot a police officer. One of the perpetrators lawyers argued that “The violent anti-police lyrics appear to have acted as command hallucinations which influenced his behavior.” Even more recently, an aspiring rapper killed a Las Vegas police officer, inspiring calls to ban gangsta rap entirely.
Goforth’s death is a senseless tragedy. Black Lives Matter’s efforts to call attention to systemic racial biases much more powerful than any one officer do not logically end in cop-killing. And officer deaths in the line of duty are exceedingly rare compared to the number of people killed by police every year. Being a police officer is actually less deadly than many other professions. And while police officers who kill people are almost never charged with a crime, cop-killing comes with heavy criminal penalties, including capital punishment in some states.