Andy Biggs, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of President Trump’s top supporters, dismissed accusations of racism levied at the United States in the unrest following George Floyd’s death, saying that the criticism is founded in “Marxist doctrine.”
“I do not believe that America is an institutionally racist nation. I believe that we have, we have individuals who are racist and bigoted, and we are an imperfect society,” said Biggs, a Republican congressman from Arizona.
Instead of blaming institutions as a whole, he said there are problematic actors within the system, including certain police officers.
“Sometimes, police overstep. Sometimes, it’s racially motivated, sometimes it is, because the police officer is a brute. Sometimes, it’s a moment of lack of control,” Biggs said in a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Examiner.
He said U.S. institutions are imperfect because “people are imperfect” and that trying to create systemic or institutional change in society is not the proper approach to the problem. Instead, he said, “It’s the people and the people’s hearts that have to be changed.”
Biggs said that he does not believe that black Americans face systemic injustices at the hands of police and institutional racism. Rather, he said, the nationwide protests and riots, many of them led by the Black Lives Matter movement, are rooted in the “Marxist doctrine of critical race theory.” Critical race theory is a critical analysis of race and racism from a legal point of view. It is essentially the idea that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of American society and focuses not on individual actions but rather on the notion that institutional racism is pervasive in legal systems and within the dominant culture.
Biggs, who is one of the most conservative congressmen on Capitol Hill, took issue with the premise that the country and its institutions are racist because, he said, there isn’t data to back up the claim.
He cited a Washington Post police shootings database showing that nine unarmed black people were shot and killed by the police in 2019, while 19 unarmed white people suffered the same fate. He suggested that it showed that African Americans are not disproportionately shot or killed by police officers.
The Washington Post rebutted this interpretation of its data in an article earlier this week, saying that, controlling for population, black people are disproportionately shot and killed by police and are much more likely to be arrested than white people. Data from Mapping Police Violence, a research group, also shows that black people are disproportionately among those killed by the police.
However, no comprehensive official database for tracking police violence exists, making it difficult for scientists to study whether racial bias is the actual cause for the disproportionate killing of black people. Although the databases for police activity are imperfect, they do show that police officers’ use of lethal force is more common than previously thought, and their behavior varies greatly from region to region. St. Louis, Missouri, for example, has one of the highest rates of police shooting civilians per capita in the U.S., while New York City repeatedly has one of the lowest.
Another complexity is a poll released this week, which shows that 72% of African Americans indicated they are somewhat satisfied with their local police, with the same number of white people saying the same.
Although Biggs said he supports people’s rights to make their grievances known through peaceful protest, his priority currently is more on the violence and physical destruction occurring in some cities, which he is firmly against and doesn’t see as a mechanism for change.
Biggs said that he thinks that law enforcement can do a better job of working within black communities, but he said that communities themselves can do better as well. “Both sides, everybody can do better,” said Biggs.
When asked what he would do to bring the country together and help address the alleged racial injustices of the black community, Biggs said, “We need to sit down and talk and find out exactly [what their grievances are]. We know, we’ve heard what the grievances are. We need to figure out ways to resolve those grievances.”
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