Charlie Beck And The Game Launch Offensively Tone-Deaf #StopTheViolence Campaign
On Wednesday, Police Chief Charlie Beck and rapper The Game joined forces for a video in which they made a plea for the public to stop all violence. The 45-second video was circulated on Twitter and Facebook, and promoted by a litany of vaguely feel-good hashtags like #BeTheChange, #LAUnites, and #StopTheViolence.
"You can be the difference. You can be the change," said Beck.
"Let's unite. Stop the violence. Be the change," the Game echoed.
According to a press release, the video is the first in a series of public service announcements that will reiterate the call for peace. And it looks like The Game may be joined by other celebrities in the future. "Throughout the #StopTheViolence Campaign, public figures will share a message that continued dialogue is crucial and that there needs to be mutual accountability to make our communities stronger and our neighborhoods thrive," said the release.
This is not the first time that The Game has hobnobbed with Beck. Earlier this month, Snoop Dogg and The Game led a peaceful protest outside of LAPD headquarters the day after a shooting in Dallas had claimed the lives of five police officers. The two rappers then went into a private meeting with Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti to have a "dialogue for peace."
Emerging from the meeting, Snoop Dogg said during a press conference, "Today was a first step of many steps. We are here to show love and support to the police force in Los Angeles and get some understanding and communication, and we feel like this is a great start."
If #StopTheViolence is what resulted from those talks, then everyone needs to go back to the drawing board. For one thing, the message is too vague and pithy. Neither Beck nor The Game provide any sort of actionable advice. It's also hard to overstate how tone-deaf this first video is.
Beck mentions that of nearly 1,000 people who were shot in L.A. last year, "eighty percent of the victims, and eighty percent of the shooters, were young men of color." The Game follows up with, "We have to be more positive," says The Game, "We have to stop killing one another." While violence in communities of people of color is no doubt a problem, that's not what the current national conversation is about.
Instead, this video and its message uses the myth of "black-on-black" violence to derail the urgent conversation we need to have about police killing black men and women.
Black Lives Matter protests did not happen across the country in the past month because of black-on-black crime—they were sparked by the caught-on-camera killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
This #StopTheViolence campaign has not gone over well with members of Black Lives Matter LA, who have been camping outside of L.A. City Hall for nine days (and counting) to protest a ruling in which the Los Angeles Police Commission had determined a LAPD officer had acted within policy when he shot 30-year-old Redel Jones in August 2015.
"Of course it was a wonderful boon for the mayor and police chief's P.R. campaign to be able to pull in people who have some legitimacy in the black community and pretend as if there is a relationship," Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Melina Abdullah KPCC.
On the first day of the protest, the group made their expectations clear with a chant of "Fire Charlie Beck." They also spoke out against "chosen black leaders" with an unmistakable air of contempt.
Spinning the discussion from police shootings where cops look like villains to "black on black" crime where they look like heroes is a savvy PR move right out of the Don Draper playbook: "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." Instead of going on the defensive, this campaign lets local law enforcement to pat themselves on the back.
And that is exactly what Beck and The Game are doing in this video. Violent crime that largely afflicts men of color in Los Angeles and across the country absolutely deserves its own conversation, but this campaign's contributions to that conversation are empty and devoid of any real meaning. What on earth does The Game mean when he's saying to "be more positive"? This #StopTheViolence campaign doesn't invite us to ponder and attack the complicated roots of violence that do involve race, economic opportunity as well as another uncomfortable truth for law enforcement: a disturbingly low solve-rate for black homicides.
This campaign invites us to take an easy stance—we're against violence!—and to talk about how race shouldn't be a thing, and to tweet out those hashtags. Then we go home feeling as if something had been accomplished.