The Michael Bennett incident – in which the Seattle Seahawks’ Defense End was arrested after the Mayweather/McGregor fight – reveals something far more troubling than whether Bennett was targeted for being black. Don’t get me wrong, being targeted by police for being black would be a major problem in and of itself, but so often these cases of potential abuse of blacks by police end up producing conversations and debates that fail to go to the root of an issue that affects not just blacks, but everyone and anyone that might come up against a police officer who has decided he or she is the absolute authority and you are the absolute slave who MUST obey, without question, or else you will face potentially lethal force in response.
Now, before I dive deep into this whole case, let me throw out a few caveats here. First, when it comes to incidents that may reveal police abuse, the information coming out is often not reliable, be it the story the cops tell or the story the alleged victims tell. While I will cover what is known about this case, I won’t be taking a definitive stance on what actually happened. Rather, I will be using this incident to highlight the ROOT ISSUE that is constantly being missed EVERY TIME one of these incidents comes to the fore.
Let’s go over what we know so far, as well as what the parties involved in this incident are saying or not saying. First of all, let’s go back in time, just a little, to a recent move made by Bennett in connection to the Colin Kaepernick protest.
On August 13, 2017, just two weeks before the incident that occurred the night (early morning) of the Mayweather/McGregor fight on August 26, Michael Bennett made headlines when he decided to sit during the national anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Bennett stated, in part, “I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message and keep finding out how unselfish we can be in society, how we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different.”
In his statement, he even went out of his way to validate the state – the military. He said, “I want to make sure people understand I love the military — my father was in the military. I love hot dogs like any other American.”
Bennett’s protest gesture reveals a man who is not fundamentally addressing the root – the core problem that would lead to the confrontation with the police he would have on August 27. This is a man who sees in the state a solution-creator, even though the state itself is the one behind the very problems he is addressing, some of which cannot be addressed by force of gun (which is the only real power the state has).
He was sending a message, but the message was NOT that the state was doing too much, but that it wasn’t doing enough to “help” people just get along better, a role the state can never fulfill.
Now this takes us to the incident that happened on August 27. According to Bennett, he was walking in a crowd after the fight when he heard what sounded like gun shots. Bennett then claimed the police swarmed him, for no known reason other than he was black. They pointed guns at him, even threatening at one point to blow his head off.
Bennett claimed that one officer hammered his knee violently into his back before he was forced into a police car. He was not under arrest, but he was still detained until police checked his identity and confirmed he wasn’t a suspect.
Bennett stated, “They apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.”
Here is the video, which was posted by TMZ sports on September 5. The video shows Bennett getting handcuffed, saying, “I wasn’t doing nothing man! I was here with my friends. They told us to get out, everybody ran. Can you answer my question, sir?”
Bennett has stated that he will be suing the police department over this incident. The Las Vegas Police Department has yet to release a statement as of the time of the writing of this article.
Bennett released a statement about the incident, which has since gone viral. In it he said, “I have always held a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply, the right thing to do. This fact is unequivocally, without question why before every game, I sit during the national anthem–because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a ‘N—–,’ you will be treated that way.”
You can read the full statement at the end of this article.
To be sure, being treated “equally” by authority is certainly better than not being treated “equally,” but what Bennett has failed to see – what Kaepernick fails to see, what so many of the social justice, equal rights crowd fails to see – is that the problem is not being treated “equally” by authority, but being on a fundamentally unlevel playing field with this mystical, mythical entity called “authority.”
As I stated above, the actual facts of this story remain to be seen. There could be a story that emerges that is radically different than the one Bennett tells. But, let’s just assume that everything Bennett said was true. I have no problem whatsoever believing that what Bennett said is true, even the part that claims he was targeted because he was black. I have little doubt that people who look a certain way face a greater chance of being targeted by more aggressive police than others. Having black skin in America, I believe, increases your chance of falling prey to one of these authoritarian lords of the badge.
The Black Lives Matter group didn’t just emerge out of a myth. Being black in America DOES mean facing greater potential threats to your safety at the hands of people with this “authority,” an authority, sadly, Bennett has already demonstrated he is willing to acknowledge. And therein lies the rub, the rub I have with Bennett, with Kaepernick, and even with most of the folks that identify as being part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Most of these folks are not addressing the root of the problems they are identifying: the reality of power that exists between a non-authority and an authority in these situations. If Bennett’s story is true, there is no reason that this man shouldn’t have the fundamental “right” to protect himself from a threat to his well-being. He was threatened, he was essentially kidnapped, he was assaulted. But he had little power to choose to defend himself.
Even if he were armed, even if he only faced one guy and, in that immediate physical reality, had a potential force of action greater than the one he was facing, because of the nature of the “authority” before him, Bennett still faced a significant disadvantage in the reality of power.
Had Bennett decided to defend himself from this assault, he would bring a whole army against him. And once that army confronted him, the choice for Bennett would be to die in a hail of bullets or be kidnapped for years, possibly for the rest of his life.
These folks, including Bennett, are not addressing the root because they WANT TO BE the root. They dream of a day when the mechanism of the coercive enterprise, the state, can be used to protect THEIR INTERESTS from people that don’t belong to THEIR tribe. Bennett himself has no problem supporting a military that has gone out into the world to spread “freedom” using bombs, murdering hundreds of thousands of people.
At the end of the day Bennett is not a hero standing up against the man. He’s a power player looking to one day BE the man. So long as we humans continue to use the coercive enterprise model of governance, there will always be unequal distribution of the wrath of authority. Today, Bennett belongs to a tribe that faces that unequal wrath. Tomorrow, that unequal wrath may be faced by different tribes.
I do not remember who said this, and I can’t find the attribution, but this quote bears repeating right now, “if the state didn’t exist, racism would simply be a bad idea.”
It is the power of the state, the coercive enterprise, that makes bias a threat to the person or persons that might be the unfavorable target of that bias, or gives other people an advantage, wrought by force of the state gun, over others. The greater the power of the state, the coercive enterprise, the higher the cost of being in an unfavorable group and the greater the reward for being in a favored group.
The greater the power of the individual, the greater the power of free associations, the less the bias of the state, the coercive enterprise, affects us, for better or for ill. I am all for not being favored. I am also all for not being in the unfavorable camp. Michael Bennett, Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter, Alt Right, many Trump supporters, many Democrats, many Republicans all have one thing in common, they favor using the tools of the state, the coercive enterprise, to protect their tribes and punish other tribes.
You need not favor the dismantling of the state completely to agree with me that this state, the coercive enterprise of America, has far too much power concentrated in the hands of far too few people, raising the potential damage that bias in the hands of “authority” can do to whatever tribe, whatever group, whatever individual finds themselves in that unenviable position.
The root of the problem – the root of Bennett’s problem – is not racism and is not inequality: it is the ever-growing power of the state, the coercive enterprise. Sadly, he’s not addressing that, even as his encounter with “authority” may very well illustrate just what an existential threat this growing “authority” is becoming in ALL of our lives.
Here is Bennett’s full statement:
Here is his statement on the national anthem:
“First of all I want to make sure people understand I love the military — my father was in the military. I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American. But I don’t love segregation, I don’t love riots, I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message and keep finding out how unselfish we can be in society, how we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different. And just because people are different doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like them. Just because they don’t eat what you eat, just because they don’t pray to the same God you pray to doesn’t mean you should hate them. Whether it is Muslim, whether it is Buddhist, whether it is Christianity, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we need to stay together. It’s more about being a human being at this point.”
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Contributed by Paul Gordon of iState TV.