Deception & Misdirection

The Costs of Romanticizing Criminals in the Black Community

The Left’s narratives don’t fit the crimes.

Seemed like a bad dream, she laid in a blood puddle
Blood bubbled in her chest, cold air brushed against open flesh
No room to rest, pain consumed each breath
Shot twice with her hands up
Police questioned but shot before she answered
One Panther lost his life, the other ran for his
Scandalous the police were as they kicked and beat her

—From a “A Song for Assante” by Common


These powerful lyrics and the melody that accompanies them are full of pathos. Together, this poignant tale of oppression brought me to tears as a liberal teen growing up in the ’90s. I sincerely thought I was hearing the story of a freedom fighter who fought the “evil empire” of America with sheer “power” and beauty. Teens can be pretty naive, and I was no exception.

It wasn’t until years later, when I became a conservative adult, that I learned the truth. Assata Shakur, born Joanne Chesimard, was a member of the notorious Black Liberation Army (BLA), a domestic terrorist organization whose “sole purpose,” according to domestic terrorism expert Bryan Burrough, was “assassinating policemen.” She was convicted of the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster after she and other BLA members attacked Foerster during a traffic stop in which Trooper James Harper was also injured.

Celebrating Cop Killers and Domestic Terrorists

When I read the case details, years after the rap song made me think she was a hero, I was furious. I had been lied to, manipulated. No one told me that Foerster was survived by his wife and two children. I didn’t even know he was killed. The rapper Common omitted the part about Shakur being part of a domestic terrorist organization. I wasn’t told that just before this murder, BLA “had ambushed two pairs of NYPD officers in a 48-hour spree, killing two; murdered another cop in Atlanta; and executed another pair of NYPD officers in 1972.”

The picture that was painted for me was one of a righteous fighter against oppression. It wasn’t that much different from the email sent out to supporters by the nonprofit Movement for Black Lives (MBL), which celebrated Shakur as an “incredibly talented poet.” Again, the whole convicted murderer part is left out. Instead, MBL tells how “Assata was a child full of pride, joy, imagination.” It’s a puff piece for a domestic terrorist. Readers are treated with a detailed explanation of the meaning of Shakur’s chosen name. Apparently, those are details Movement for Black Lives considers more important than the lives of the police officers Shakur and the BLA took.

Since Movement for Black Lives celebrates a domestic terrorist and convicted cop killer, it should be no surprise that their website contains a section promoting bailing out protestors, even violent ones, as we saw in the so-called Summer of Love 2020 Black Lives Matter riots. “Free ‘em all,” the website declares. “The Movement for Black Lives demands all charges be dropped against protestors.” Even the most violent “protesters”? Again, those are details that don’t concern MBL. Just “free ’em all!”

Inspiring the Next Generation

Go back to those lyrics I opened with. Note the focus. The “victim” here, we’re told, is Assata. Her pain, her trauma, is what is focused on. Think of how the news media can sway public opinion by focusing on the victims of their chosen causes. An illegal immigrant rescued from dehydration in the desert—highlight that. Or a Native American smirked at by a MAGA hat-wearing teen—turn that into a week of news stories, and make sure to zoom in on that smirk. It’s the same trick here but in song form. If you only heard the song, you wouldn’t even know Foerster was murdered. Focus on chosen “victims” and pretend the others don’t exist.

This is how you romanticize a woman convicted of brutal, cold-blooded murder. And by doing this for years, even generations, you end up with the Black Lives Matter movement and this knock-off version, the nonprofit Movement for Black Lives. But if these are the heroes MBL presents to the Black community, what “virtues,” or lack thereof, are you inspiring in the next generation?

If you ask me, there should be a song about Assata’s victim, State Trooper Werner Foerster, instead.

Kali Fontanilla

Kali is serving as CRC’s Senior fellow, particularly focusing on topics related to K-12 public education. She has 15 years of experience as a credentialed educator working in public and…
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