Context Matters or “Calm Your Racist Asses Down”: In Defense of Ernie Chambers

Last year, Omaha was called “The most dangerous place in America to be black.

North Omaha has the highest child poverty level of any US black metropolitan area.

312 people have been killed so far by the police in 2015, most of them people of color. Only 9 police officers have been killed in the line of duty.

And y’all motherfuckers wanna talk about Ernie Chambers comparing the police to ISIS. A thing he actually, kinda sorta didn’t actually do.

Conservatives are like superheroes of fake outrage. From “The War on Christmas” to “reverse racism,” if pearl clutching and faux insult was a professional sport, Republicans would be its Michael Jordan. Conservatives in Omaha HATE Ernie Chambers. They hate that he gives absolutely zero fucks about playing the game. They hate that he doesn’t cave to their pressure and dares to dress, act, and talk however he authentically feels. He’s their worst nightmare: A politician who cares more about actually doing the work of governing to help his constituents than power or fame. He is everything a representative should be, so he’s their nemesis. Of course they will use any possible thing they can to rid themselves of a legislator who dares speak the truth.

Guess what: Ernie’s statement about the cops is absolutely, 100% spot on. That’s mostly because he didn’t say what people are saying he said. Let’s not even look at the whole transcript quite yet. Let’s look at the pullquote everyone is running with:

“My ISIS is the police.” 

Oh, so he didn’t compare ISIS to the police. What’s the big deal? Again, let me repeat: HE DID NOT COMPARE THE POLICE TO ISIS. Not in any way shape and or form. What he said was “MY ISIS is the police.” Not “the police is like ISIS,” which would have been a direct comparison. “My ISIS” is not the same as saying “ISIS.” Last I checked, Ernie actually doesn’t have his own army of soldiers united under his banner, which is the only other way of reading his statement about “My ISIS.”

I wonder what he meant then. If it’s not a literal comparison, then what was he saying? If only there were some way of understanding it. Like, I don’t know, if he went on to explain exactly what he meant in no uncertain or confusing terms. Oh, right, that’s exactly what he fucking did.

My ISIS is the police. And you know what the county attorney said, Don Kleine: If the officer makes a mistake, if he’s wrong but he had reason to think that he was right, then he’s clear. I cannot get away with that and shoot you and say, well, I thought he was going to do something. They say, uh-uh, buddy, that doesn’t work. Well, now we presume that these officers are trained. To show how little their training means and how they hide behind it, some guy out east was fired because he was dealing with a guy who had a mental problem and wound up…he was on duty, shot the guy 14 times, and he was fired. Now he’s trying to get his job back. And you know what the lawyer is arguing? And he’s justified in view of the not finding any fault in what these cops are doing. He said, yes, he shot the man 14 times, but it was within his training. So now, if the police are trained to shoot somebody in the back, then the cop who shoots in the back says, it was pursuant to my training, and he’s home free. That’s what’s happening. I would tell young people: If you tell somebody to go across the world to fight for ISIS, they can put you in jail if you just talk about it. If you want to fight injustice, don’t…you don’t have to go around the world to find the ISIS mentality. Your ISIS is in America and you’re likely to die over there, one way or the other. So if you’re going to die, die making your home safe. My home is not threatened by ISIS. Mine is threatened by the police. The police are licensed to kill us, children, old people. They showed a guy on a highway. The highway trooper, he had this elderly black woman down on the ground, just beating the stew out of her, and nothing was done to him. That’s what I see. Now suppose somebody told me somebody from ISIS did that. Then everybody is up in arms: See what cowards they are? They beat women in broad daylight. But when a cop does it, it’s all right. I don’t feel that way.

Oh, so what he was saying was that the fear conservatives try to drum up about ISIS, a threat which will NEVER truly manifest itself on our soil, is how he ACTUALLY feels about the police, who have murdered and beaten tons of people who look just like him and get away with it. Well, that seems pretty fucking reasonable.

But I know what you’re thinking. Still, Ernie you nut, why would you even introduce the concept of ISIS into a discussion of concealed weapons permits? I mean, why even bring that up?! Oh, right, because he wasn’t the one who fucking did.

SENATOR CHAMBERS: Senator, I have to ask you this question. What are they afraid of? Before they could carry these concealed weapons, obviously, nobody killed them, nobody shot them, and now that they can carry these guns, they’re afraid of every…you tell me, since you’re one of the advocates, what are they afraid of?

SENATOR GARRETT: Well, I think you were making a very good point earlier about ISIS and ISIL and the Taliban and the way the world situation is now and so many Americans becoming radicalized. And as much violence as is going on, everybody has a personal feeling of insecurity or security and

You see, elected official and certified nongenius Senator Tommy “Pew Pew” Garrett was trying to make the point that we need more concealed weapons in case ISIS shows up. Right? Because we’re scared of ISIS…we need more hidden weapons in Nebraska.

Look, you don’t have to like Ernie’s metaphor, fine. But it’s nothing white people get to be pissed about, let alone take to The Omaha World Herald to tell an elected person of color the way he SHOULD be fighting for change.

Two keys to bringing about positive change are constructive criticism and civil dialogue.

This was presented as the Omaha World Herald’s stance, with no specific author cited. So I guess I have to address the whole OWH?

Um, hi Omaha World Herald! Listen, I really want you to hear me when I say this.

Go fuck yourself.

How dare you do that goddamn thing white people do where they suggest that the appropriate response to police KILLING PEOPLE is “constructive criticism and civil dialogue.” That’s like saying “I’m sorry we killed your family, could you please fill out this comment card and we’ll consider changes.”

By the way, Ernie WAS engaging in civil dialogue. He didn’t throw a brick through a window or “loot” anything. He spoke words. With his face and mouth. That’s what you wanted him to do. Don’t even tell me that in addition to not reacting in any “uncivilized fashion,” people of color now have to respond to murder-by-cop with polite language.

Oh, and get your facts right. He didn’t say the police act like ISIS! He didn’t suggest they behead people, like you claim in your opening. He said the truth: They kill people. A lot. And get away with it. And that scares him. Just like people claim to be scared of ISIS, an organization that also kills people and gets away with it. He was talking about the fear, not the methods. And if you can’t make that distinction…then I really am not that surprised because I’ve read your paper before and your grasp of the truth is, shall we say, “slippery.”

In conclusion, Ernie will weather this storm because he is a bad ass and cares about his people. His people will keep electing him because he truly represents them. Does he speak in inflated rhetoric to get attention? You bet your ass he does. He has to. People in Millard have their fingers jammed so far into their ears when hearing about North Omaha that the only way he can get them to listen is by saying something they have to do a double take at.

Keep lighting those verbal fires, Ernie. Keep making so much noise that they panic every time you speak. We’ve got your back.

If you want Ernie gone because he “compared the police to ISIS,” you have two choices: You’re an idiot or a racist. Pick one.