Crispus Attucks

As protests against police brutality continue to rage all over America, it is mind boggling how many conservatives still don’t understand that reforming our criminal justice system is an issue they should support. As a former Libertarian candidate, eliminating systemic racism at all levels of government is something that I and other libertarians have always wanted. In a democratic republic, all lives don’t matter until Black lives matter. After all, how is spending billions of dollars on the futile war on drugs or overcrowded prisons a worthwhile use of taxpayer money? How is the over-militarization of police forces not the very definition of big government? How is “qualified immunity” for police officers who murder innocent citizens not a direct violation of our rights and a trait of tyranny?

However, I have also noticed that conservatives do love America and the Fourth of July. Hoo boy, do they love those! So in honor of the holiday, it would be good to remind conservatives of a little history about one of the first major events of the American Revolution and more importantly, one of those event's first casualties. The Boston Massacre of 1770 was vital to making more colonists realize that the British government was ruling them with a tyrannical fist. British troops were sent to Boston in 1768 to deal with the ongoing unrest relating to taxation without representation, but it would be two years later when things really came to a head.

Similar to the protests occurring in American cities today, the British soldiers’ presence in Boston didn’t help calm things down, but instead made them even more tense. After a crowd of colonists confronted some British troops stationed at the Old State House on March 5, 1770, some protestors started throwing snowballs and debris, with one soldier apparently being struck with a club. In response, the British troops opened fire on the protestors, killing five and injuring six others. A black man named Crispus Attucks was reportedly the first one to be killed, hence becoming the first casualty of the American Revolution.

There’s still some controversy over the exact facts of the Massacre, as well as Attucks’ race and heritage (some reports say he was half African and half Native American,) or if he was a free man or an escaped slave who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the worst part of Attucks’ story is that future American president John Adams, a colonial lawyer who was given the task of defending the British soldiers, used Attucks’ race against him in court, referring to the protestors as "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negros and molattoes” and accusing Attucks of instigating the conflict due to his "mad behavior."

Despite his other contributions to the American Revolution after the Boston Massacre, at the time Adams filled a role that so many conservatives who still don’t understand our current police brutality problem are filling now. After all, while the American Revolution had been brewing for years since the end of the French and Indian War, and tensions continued to escalate over taxes, British soldiers hadn’t killed anyone until the Massacre took place. In comparison, our modern police forces are now seemingly playing the role of the British soldiers quite frequently, while victims like George Floyd are serving as modern Crispus Attuckses, despite the fact that Floyd was far from being the first casualty of this current American “revolution” -- and in recent weeks, we’ve seen he’s unfortunately not the last.

So as conservatives continue to blindly support the police and our country’s current criminal justice system, it would be good for them to remember why we have such things as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights or celebrate Independence Day. It would be good for them to remember how a big, tyrannical government that didn’t adequately represent the colonists is what led to the American Revolution in the first place. It would be good for them to remember that the misuse of taxpayer dollars also played a YUGE role in our country’s beginnings, much like our federal government’s $721 billion military budget is doing now, or our various cities’ astronomical police budgets, including a $356 million money pit right here in Columbus.

It would be good to remind conservatives that every American citizen has a right to feel safe in their own communities and not be arbitrarily harmed or killed by government agents in times of peace or war. It would be good to remind them that even in 1770, there were Black lives that mattered, much like they do now. It would be good for them to remember Crispus Attucks and what he meant -- and continues to mean -- to our country’s beginnings.