Douglas Andrews / June 18, 2020

Reform, Tokenism, and Kente Cloths

When real reform is needed, Democrats waste time with political charades.

“Y'all still wearing those kente cloths over there @Senator Durbin?”

So went the rebuttal from South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott to Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, after Durbin referred to the GOP’s newly unveiled police-reform legislation as a “token” approach.

It’s impossible to know whether Durbin’s word choice was a deliberate racial smear of a black conservative, a Freudian slip, or a simple mistake, but this much we do know: Tim Scott is uniquely qualified to lead this legislative effort, and he can clearly take the slings and arrows. (As our Nate Jackson pointed out earlier this week, the Democrats’ kente cloth pander blew up in their faces when it was revealed that they were wearing the garments of African slave traders.) As for Durbin, the Left long ago turned our language into a linguistic minefield, and it’s great to see him gagging on a dose of politically correct castor oil.

The more serious story here, of course, is the JUSTICE Act, the reform legislation introduced yesterday by Scott and his fellow Republican senators.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the legislation “seeks to collect more data around controversial police practices, establish new training programs and widen the use of body cameras, among other proposals, but wouldn’t take more far-reaching steps to curb officers’ legal protections or change standards for prosecution.”

The bill would also collect data on the use of excessive force and “no-knock” warrants, and it would reduce funding for departments that don’t ban chokeholds except where deadly force is appropriate. In addition, it would create a national database to track officers’ disciplinary records to help ensure that bad cops aren’t able to infect one department after another.

Predictably, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Durbin in denouncing the Republican legislation, although she refrained from calling it a token effort. “The Senate proposal of studies and reporting without transparency and accountability is inadequate,” said Pelosi. She went on to sing the praises of the House Democrats’ competing bill, the shamelessly pandering George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Whether Floyd is a worthy martyr is certainly debatable, but the need for police reform isn’t. And unlike the Democrats’ effort, the Republican bill does so without demonizing or unduly burdening our nation’s 800,000 law-enforcement officers, the vast majority of whom are outstanding citizens who wish only to serve their communities.

As to the choice between supporting the cops or supporting the black community, Senator Scott rejects it as falsely binary. “The answer to the question of which side do you support is ‘I support America,’” he said. “And if you support America, you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority. If you support America, that means you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job, go home to their family. It is not a binary choice. This legislation encompasses that spirit.”

Will Republicans and Democrats ultimately hammer out a compromise reform bill? Consider us pessimistic. There’s an election around the corner, and any legislative agreement might be seen by Democrats as a win for President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans. Indeed, the image of this president at a Rose Garden signing ceremony, flanked by black families and white cops, is one that Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer would like to avoid at all costs.

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