This Is What #BlackLivesMatter Looks Like

by Alexander Zubatov

Surveillance video of “unarmed” black man Saheed Vassell threatening people on the day he was shot by cops

I have elsewhere explained in some detail how the entire statistical premise behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement — viz., that there is an epidemic of cops killing black men in disproportionate numbers — is completely and utterly rebutted by empirical evidence:

If, upon reading that article, you still have any lingering doubts and feel like you really want to get into the nitty-gritty and see all the numbers crunched and analyzed in a manner that will leave no room for doubt, then I recommend this in-depth analysis of the issue by David Shuey:

But my goal today is not to get back into that argument and those numbers. That case has been made and closed, and the only holdouts left are people who haven’t heard the news or those who insist on not hearing it because their ideological commitment to the notion that we live in some sort of anti-black police state overrides their ability to deal with facts, rather than their own alternative facts.

My goal today is far simpler and more modest. Go back and look at the image at the top of this article, the image of the latest poster child of the #BlackLivesMatter crusade, Saheed Vassell, shot and killed by police in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y. on Wednesday, April 4th. Or, better yet, watch the full 54-second surveillance video below:

Now ask yourself:

  • What would you think if the man in that video came at you like that?
  • Would you think he’s holding a gun, threatening your life?
  • Do you think you’d be able to avoid your heart skipping a beat and your fight-or-flight instinct taking hold, and would you, instead, start analyzing, dispassionately, whether or not that thing he was holding was really a gun or something else (it’s really just a pipe, you see), and whether he was seriously aiming to shoot you or just playing around, as he was wont to do due to his long history of mental illness?
  • Might you, then, in that situation, once you fled as quickly as possible from the scene, call 911, as multiple people he threatened that day did, and tell them, in effect, “There is a guy in a brown jacket walking around pointing — I don’t know (to someone else) what is he pointing in people’s faces? They’re saying it’s a gun, it’s silver,” or “There’s a crazy guy walking down the street, he looks like he’s crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he’s like popping it as if he’s pulling the trigger”?
  • And if you were a cop responding to that situation, might you then, when that same man raised his “gun” to fire at you, not discharge your own firearm to get him before he gets you or anyone else?
  • Or would you, instead, calmly stand by and wait to see if he shoots you, wait to see if/until you can get close enough to examine the object in his hand to discern if that’s really a gun or not, take the chance that this crazy man, with his longtime history of mental illness, might just be clowning around?

Now ask yourself just one more question: given all these circumstances, is the following, captured in an image, an appropriate response to the situation I just described?

#BlackLivesMatter activists take to the streets of Brooklyn to seek “justice” for Saheed Vassell

#BlackLivesMatter and the larger movement they have inspired are undermining cops’ ability to do their job. In what has been dubbed the “Ferguson Effect,” about three-quarters of cops have “become less willing to stop and question people who seem suspicious,” “more reluctant to use force when appropriate,” and found their interactions with blacks “have become more tense.” The same Pew Survey reports that 86% of cops believe the high-profile, sensationalized media coverage of a few unrepresentative instances of unjustified police force against blacks has made their job harder to do, while 93% are now concerned about their own safety. Again, I recommend David Shuey’s analysis of the manner in which the Ferguson Effect is having real-world effects, leading to a spike in crime (the victims being disproportionately black themselves, of course) in several major cities:

More, #BlackLivesMatter and the related ideological race war being waged by prominent blowhards like Ta-Nehisi Coates are needlessly worsening racial divisions, polarizing people by race and leading to a dangerous uptick in identitarian politics on all sides, including by white supremacists, as I’ve discussed and documented here:

I don’t know any other way to say it: this stuff needs to stop. Responsible people at every point on the political spectrum — I am not conservative myself, FYI, but have a hodgepodge of positions spanning the gamut — need to stand up and call for these angry activists to stop making ALL our lives, including, most obviously, BLACK lives, more unpleasant and more dangerous. If universities are going to “deplatform” anyone (and I’m against all heavy-handed deplatforming, but I’m all for not handing evil people a free amplifier), these mainstreamed marauders, and not the already isolated wackos of the neo-Nazi right, are the people they should be going after … because the reality is that these are the people who, due to their numbers and their impressive public caché, ultimately pose a far greater danger to our collective safety and security. When decent people don’t rise up in protest, the worst and shrillest among us will be the ones we hear. Today, we are allowing those people to unravel the fabric of our society.

Go back again and look at that image of Saheed Vassell threatening a man with what certainly looks like a gun. Now let that be a metaphor for what is going on in America today: that innocent man represents all of us, the society in which we live. The crazed, angry Saheed Vassell with a long history of mental illness and making trouble is #BlackLivesMatter, threatening us all. We do not yet know whether the thing they are holding to our collective heads is a mere pipe or a gun that might go off. But we already know this: the threat to us is very real. We do not have the luxury anymore of waiting for a full analysis of the issue, lest the analysis end up being an autopsy. We need to act in self-defense before it is too late.

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Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”

Some of his articles have appeared in The Federalist, Times Higher Education, The Imaginative Conservative, Chronicles, The Independent Journal Review, Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, Mercatornet, The Montreal Review, Republic Standard, The Fortnightly Review, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.

He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (



I am an attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. I am a writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays & polemics.

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