The riots following in the wake of legitimate angry protests about the police brutality that took the life of George Floyd have done incalculable damage and cost the very “black lives” they purportedly aim to avenge. Just as America was beginning to reopen from coronavirus lockdowns, looting, vandalism, and arson have exacerbated the economic destruction and uncertainty Americans already faced. President Donald Trump has blamed leftist radicals with antifa for the violence, which many have condemned as partisan. Yet Trump’s decision to blame antifa is also an olive branch — a political olive branch the left seems anxious to spit upon.
Blaming antifa may be a political move for Trump, but it’s also an offer of a unifying national memory on the destructive riots.
If Trump really were the horrific racist so much of the left makes him out to be, he might blame the black community for the devastation of these riots. Instead, he focuses on antifa — and antifa does indeed shoulder a great deal of the blame.
Antifa has been gearing up for violent riots like this for a long time. Its basic narrative condemns police, ICE, and essentially all forms of law enforcement as instruments of “fascism,” even while the movement engages in the kind of aggressive black bloc tactics that were the key feature of fascist movements in Europe between the two World Wars.
The looting, rioting, and arson make sense according to antifa’s narrative, a narrative helped along by leftist voices in American culture, from academia to The New York Times‘s 1619 Project. According to the narrative, America was built on various forms of oppression, and those forms of oppression sustain America even now. White people oppressed black people. Straight people oppressed gay people. Men oppressed women. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.
The problem with this narrative isn’t just that it grossly twists history and sets people against one another. The real problem is that it directly interferes with the rule of law and the free market system, two things which allow people of all races to advance.
There is perhaps no better symbol of the destructive nature of this narrative than the riots. Rioters, ostensibly angry over the death of George Floyd, have wreaked havoc on American cities, destroying businesses owned by black people and killing black police officers. Rioters, ostensibly angry over the death of George Floyd, torched the club where George Floyd used to work security.
This kind of senseless destruction deserves vigorous condemnation from both sides of the aisle. Yet it seems Democrats are intent on pushing police reform and ignoring the violence of the riots.
Donald Trump has offered Democrats, liberals, and Black Lives Matter a way out, a way forward, a way to heal after this devastation. America can look back at its history and acknowledge the horrific destruction — and pin it on the antifa radicals who are likely behind it.
It may seem divisive at first — much of Trump’s rhetoric does. But the move to blame antifa isn’t a mere political ploy, it’s an opportunity to come together against a malignant destructive force that should be condemned by both sides.
Let’s hope Democrats wise up and accept Trump’s olive branch. Many black lives and livelihoods may depend on it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.