Take a bow, UC Davis English professor Joshua Clover. Through twisted thoughts and tweets, Clover you are an impostor posing as an ideologue for a righteous cause.
For years Clover has suggested that violence against police would somehow be useful to society at large. His name surfaced again on Tuesday after he was newly taken to task in the UC Davis student newspaper for years-old pronouncements that remain as vile today as when Clover made them public.
In 2014, Clover tweeted: “I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore,” according to the California Aggie. He has also tweeted: “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?”
In a 2015 interview with SF Weekly, he said: “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.”
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Fresh criticism of Clover comes after the killing of Davis officer Natalie Corona in January.
Corona’s story – of a 22-year-old beloved rookie cop who was senselessly gunned down after mere weeks on the job – became national news. Her emotional memorial was held on the UC Davis campus.
The author of a column critical of Clover in the California Aggie – Nick Irvin – reminded UCD officials that only weeks ago they praised the bravery of officers like Corona. And yet, now, they defend Clover’s right to be heartless and irresponsible. Irvin called this “hypocritical.”
When Clover was asked for comment by The Bee in response to his comments in light of Corona’s murder, his email reply was a peach of moral obfuscation. “On the day that police have as much to fear from literature professors as Black kids do from police, I will definitely have a statement.”
OK, a few relevant points before returning to why Clover deserves to be called out.
UCD’s decision to defend Clover’s First Amendment rights was correct. Clover deserves his academic freedom and his freedom of speech.
But the rest of us enjoy freedom of expression as well.
To begin with, Clover’s email response to Bee reporter Sawsan Morrar was nothing short of cowardly. When police have as much to fear from college professors as African Americans do from cops, you’ll have something to say?
If that isn’t an egregious misuse of white man’s privilege, then who knows what is?
Spewing invective on social media is so easy and dehumanizing. From someone’s basement to the Oval Office, any idiot can tweet threats or demean and objectify another human being in the name of righteousness.
In the case of police brutality in America, a white man like Clover spouting about killing cops is not all that impressive. He is secure in his privilege, his status, agency, academic freedom and First Amendment rights.
But violence is never the answer. Advocating for violence is always wrong. Suggesting that some police officers should be killed because other police officers killed African Americans is a reckless notion that would provide no comfort to grieving African American families whose loved ones were victims of police violence.
Tanya Faison, a leader in Black Lives Matter Sacramento, does not enjoy Professor Clover’s privilege. She is one private citizen who puts herself in harm’s way every day while protesting police brutality. Last September, I saw her – and others – go face to face with flag-waving men wearing red #MAGA hats downtown. BLM and others were remembering Stephon Clark’s death at the hands of Sacramento Police six months earlier.
Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones had encouraged people to show up at the Clark commemoration to show support for law enforcement – and people did. The situation almost boiled over. Faison is a petite person and yet there she was. She was not saying that cops should be hurt or killed. She was imploring cops not to hurt of kill black people.
That nuance is dismissed by irresponsible people in law enforcement like Jones – and people who support him.
But it doesn’t stop there. Like many people who have demanded justice from law enforcement and elected officials, Faison has made influential people angry at her group in general and her in particular.
She gets accused all the time of advocating for violence against police. But if you really follow her statements, that accusation doesn’t hold up. She is demanding that black people not be killed so easily. When Corona died, Faison shared an op-ed piece that raised questions about the use of an American flag with a thin blue on it. That flag is synonymous with the phrase “Blue Lives Matter.”
Before her death, Corona took a widely circulated photo holding the Thin Blue Line flag and wearing a blue dress. Faison wasn’t criticizing Corona or celebrating her death. She was circulating a commentary that spoke of how some black people feel about that flag. To some, it symbolized oppression of black people.
What happened? Her voicemail was filled with racist comments using the n-word and other horrid insults. So if privileged people concerned about police brutality really wanted to help those who actually have reason to fear being gunned down by cops, maybe there are better ways to express solidarity than tweeting that cops should be killed?
Maybe those who are privileged need to be more vocal when people try to twist the phrase “Black Lives Matter” into an threat against police, when it’s not.
Maybe those who are privileged to be elected – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Jones – need to be barred from donating money to each other and then turning around and investigating deadly shootings carried out by law enforcement colleagues?
Maybe local officials who are privileged – Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the Sacramento City Council and Sacramento County Board of Supervisors – need to use their platforms to insist on more transparency from Becerra, Schubert, Jones and the Sacramento Police Department. They need to support state legislation that would chip away at the obvious conflicts cops have when investigating each other.
A civilized society can insist on a greater appreciation for the sanctity of life and more accountability within law enforcement without threatening law enforcement. We can insist that state and federal laws be changed so that more cops are held accountable when they kill in the line of duty.
All of Sacramento is worried right now. Becerra and Schubert will soon release their investigations a year after the shooting death of Clark in March 2018. Most expect Sacramento cops will not face criminal charges even though they killed an unarmed man in his grandmother’s back yard.
Will we experience the unrest we saw after Clark’s killing from a public that rightly questions the need for law enforcement reforms?
Nothing Clover has tweeted about cops helps change the killings of black people that inspire his commentary. Take an idiotic bow, Professor Clover, for making a problem worse by suggesting more violence. And then, with your privilege intact, smartly bow out.