What If? Nikolas Cruz. What If? Barack Obama. What If?

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(ThyBlackMan.com) We’ve seen a lot of “what aboutism” lately. You know, when someone says something critical about an action you or one of your friends took and you say, “Well, what about so and so who did this and that”. It deflects attention away from the point and avoids discussion of the issue. Today I want to talk about a corollary, “what ifism.” If you look at an action taken and remove and replace the actor with someone else, does your opinion of that action change?

For example, what if the school shooter in Florida was a Muslim? Nikolas Cruz returned to his old high school with an AR-15 style assault rifle and shot and killed 17 students and teachers. It later came out that there were several warnings about his intention to cause harm to his fellow students and others. There was even a “tip” given several weeks before the attack where the tipster gave the specific information that Cruz was planning to attack his former classmates and was armed.

What if, instead of being named Nikolas Cruz, he was named Abdul Malik? What if, instead of being pictured wearing a Make America Great Again hat, he was photographed holding an Islamic State flag? What if his Instagram chat (hate) group, instead of discussing “killing blacks, Jews and immigrants” talked about killing whites, Christians and police? Would the FBI have paid more attention to the tips, and not only arrested him but also rounded up his “terrorist cell”? The president was half right when he said the FBI was too busy to look into the warnings about Cruz.

But it wasn’t because they were pursuing the Russia investigation, that’s an entirely compartmentalized group, it’s because the agents looking into homegrown terror threats have been told to look for “Islamic radicals” and so-called “Black Identity extremists”. We know that white men with guns have killed more people since the 911 attacks than any other group, yet their militia and hate groups and activities are investigated and prosecuted less.

Another example: Historians have recently come out with their rankings of all of the American Presidents. Among the Republicans, Democrats and Independents who participated, Obama ranked in the top 10, several ranked him at number 8, while Trump ranked near the bottom or dead last. Now, Trump likes to compare himself (favorably) with Obama when, in reality, there is little comparison to be made at all.

What if before his election, Obama had been accused by over a dozen women of everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault and could be heard on tape bragging about wantonly fondling women he found attractive? And what if, after he assumed office, it became known that shortly after his marriage to his third wife and the birth of their child he was engaging in extramarital affairs with porn stars, strippers and Playboy Bunnies? And what if he could barely get through public or private comments without uttering some vulgarity or profanity like “shithole” countries or “laughing their asses off…”? Would the Christian evangelical community be lending him their strong endorsement and would white America, in general, have elected him in the first place?

If you can look at an action and replace the actor (What if so and so did that?), and that changes your opinion, are you reacting to the actor or the action itself? If right is right and wrong is wrong, should who is committing the act color your opinion of it? Unfortunately that is where we’ve come to. Behavior that we would find abhorrent in an adversary, we overlook or applaud in a friend or ally.

We need to be better than that. We need to stand behind our values and applaud “right” whenever we see it and condemn “wrong” regardless of who does it. If not, we fall into some type of “situational morality” that is not healthy for the body politic. We begin to call hate speech and vulgarity “telling it like it is” or not being “politically correct”. We overlook dishonesty by employing “what aboutism”, claiming that someone else’s actions are worse; and even though they may be, that doesn’t absolve the bad actor for his actions.

In a time when the very ideas of “truth” and “facts” are being questioned, we must reaffirm our commitment to both. When we are wrong, admit it. When we are right, stand up for it. Or else we’ll become victims of the old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Staff Writer; Harry D. Sewell