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The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James

A former Miss Alabama is taking heat for saying on Facebook that she could not help thinking of the killer of five White police officers in Dallas as a “martyr.”

Kalyn Chapman James, crowned in 1993, was the first Black Miss Alabama. She is today an on air host at WPBT2 South Florida PBS in Miami.

Make that was. After her Facebook post on the Dallas shootings went viral the good liberals at South Florida PBS lost no time in placing James on administrative leave pending public stoning.

There may still be a few people who don’t know what happened in Dallas. On July 7, Black Lives Matter held a peaceful protest in Dallas. The protest was interrupted by sniper fire which killed five police officers and wounded seven other police and two civilians. The sniper was subsequently identified as a 25-year old African American named Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson, who had been a member of the US Army Reserve, had been sent back to the US from Afghanistan in 2014 after he was accused of sexual harassment. Johnson was honorably discharged in 2015. During a two hour standoff with Dallas police, Johnson supposedly said that he wanted to “kill white people.” The standoff ended when Johnson was killed by a bomb delivered by a Dallas PD robot.

Three days after Johnson killed the five officers, Kalyn Chapman James posted a two and a half minute long video of herself on Facebook. (I have linked to YouTube. The video appears to have been taken down from James’ Facebook page.)

It is a difficult video to watch. James is in tears. She begins:

I’m dealing with a bit of guilt because [long pause] because I don’t feel sad for the officers that lost their lives. And I know that’s really not my heart. I value human life. And I want to feel sad for them but I can’t help but feeling like the shooter was a martyr.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! At the word “martyr” alarms went off in every right-wing hideout in the land. A cop killer a martyr! The right-wing outrage brigade went wild, even though James immediately added:

And I know it’s not the right way to feel because nobody deserves to lose their lives and I know that those police officers had families and people that loved them.

But I’m so torn up in my heart about seeing these men…these Black men being gunned down in our community that I can’t help but feel like I wasn’t surprised by what the shooter did.to those cops….

I thought of Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The book’s narrator, Changez is a thoroughly Westernized Pakistani who was educated in the United States and now works at a high paying job on Wall Street. Then 9/11 occurs.

Changez watches the airplanes hit the Towers on television:

I stared as one—and then the other—of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased.

Changez is not a monster. But on 9/11 Changez finds himself “caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees.” As he tells the American assassin who tracks him down when he returns to Pakistan:

But surely you cannot be completely innocent of such feelings yourself. Do you feel no joy at the video clips—so prevalent these days—of American munitions laying waste the structures of your enemies?

Chapman James is not a monster, either. Chapman James is not gloating over the deaths of White cops. As she says again later in her video:

And I know that the people who know me know my heart. I definitely do not condone violence against innocent people, but I’m sick of this. I’m sick of this and something has to be done, period.

She is not calling on Blacks to kill Whites. She is calling on White cops to stop killing Blacks.

Commenting on White reaction to her video, James told CNN: “People latched on to one word”—martyr.

Of course they did. That’s a symptom of RADD: Racist Attention Deficit Disorder. A sufferer from RADD only hears what seems to confirm his racial prejudices.

FOX host Sean Hannity is a long time sufferer from RADD. In his interview with James, Hannity repeatedly hurled the word “martyr.” Hannity told Chapman James that she does not value human life—this from a man who has never met a war he has not loved.

Hannity hammered away at the White officers in Dallas who were “gunned down in cold blood,” but said nothing about the young Black men who police have gunned down in cold blood.

James told Hannity that when she made her Facebook video she had felt “conflicted.” Hannity said: “I don’t understand the conflict.” No, he doesn’t. Hannity does not understand how an African-American can hate violence but want payback for agents of the state who use violence against Blacks. James was willing to show us the complexity and contradiction of her feelings. That took courage.

And the indignities against Blacks continue. Alabama, which gave Chapman James her crown, flew the Confederate flag above the State Capitol until 2015. Also in 2015, Alabama closed most of the branches of the Department of Motor Vehicles located in Black communities. The DMV just happens to be where many Alabamans register to vote. The year before, Alabama adopted a draconian voter ID law. Sweet home Alabama, indeed.

Since the Dallas shootings, three cops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana were shot dead. The shooter was another disaffected African-American veteran.

“This has got to stop,” James said in her video. But the end is nowhere in sight.

 

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Charles Pierson is a lawyer and a member of the Pittsburgh Anti-Drone Warfare Coalition. E-mail him at Chapierson@yahoo.com.

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