In the slugfest following the first debate, President Trump’s comments when asked to condemn a group called the Proud Boys received overwhelming attention. He told them to “stand back and stand by,” which he clarified the next day. He was telling the group to stand back and stand down so that law enforcement can handle the riots and other crimes going on in some of our major cities. Trump also shared that he was not familiar with the group or its aims.
Props to the president for not outright condemning a group he knew little, if anything, about. While some Proud Boys chapters seem to engage in direct confrontation with antifa protestors, not all do. Conservative commentators and even some liberal outlets like the Los Angeles Times acknowledge that the all-male group is racially diverse, even if they do not care for their tactics. The national leader of the group is Cuban-American.
Joe Biden threw out the Proud Boys’ name when debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump to denounce “white supremacists and right-wing militias,” citing recent situations in Portland and Kenosha. This question was inaccurately framed since there is no evidence the shooting in Kenosha was related to either one. And the Trump supporter shot in Portland was actually a member of Patriot Prayer, not the Proud Boys.
In the wake of all of this tongue-wagging and finger-pointing, an encouraging story came out of Utah that political activists nationwide may want to consider. From Fox 13 in Salt Lake City:
After the Presidential debate on Tuesday night, one major talker has been President Donald Trump’s comments about white supremacy and “stand back, stand by” when given the Proud Boys as an example.
Proud Boys Salt Lake Utah Chapter in conjunction with Black Lives Matter Northern Utah Chapter spoke out against the divide on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
Yes, you read that correctly. Black Lives Matter and the Proud Boys gave a joint press conference because they have actually been talking to one another.
“I will go out and say that the Proud Boys as a whole, I will say this on behalf of the entire national organization, denounce white supremacy,” said a man named Thad, who identified himself as the Chief of the Salt Lake Utah Proud Boys Chapter. “We are in no way shape or form, white supremacists, we have a vetting system that just gets those guys out of our hair.”
Standing alongside two members of the Proud Boys was Jacarri Kelley from Black Lives Matter Northern Utah Chapter. Kelley says the two have been working together for a few months to discuss issues including police reform.
The two Proud Boys leaders repeatedly denounced white supremacy and even went so far as to say that being a supporter of the president is not a prerequisite for membership. One of them, Seth, specifically said he does not support Trump.
When you look at the group’s website, their core values are a mix of positions held on the right and the left. The part that probably really confuses the left where they claim both Anti-Racism and Anti-Racial Guilt as core values. They can acknowledge our history, including the horrific institution of slavery, without assigning guilt to people living today who do not engage in racist behavior and likely have no ancestral connection with the institution. In other words, the Proud Boys elevate the individual, not group identity.
They also use the term Western Chauvinism. This concept is reflected in their ideals of limited government, personal freedom, free speech, economic freedom, and entrepreneurship. The site says members must believe “the West is the Best.” Given that an appreciation of Western civilization is deemed racist by the critical theorists, it is easy to see why the group is smeared as white supremacists. The group seems to be aware of this and states:
Though these are our central tenets, all that is required to become a Proud Boy is that a man declare he is “a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.” We do not discriminate based upon race or sexual orientation/preference. We are not an “ism”, “ist”, or “phobic” that fits the Left’s narrative. We truly believe that the West Is The Best and welcome those who believe in the same tenets as us.
Fair enough. In the absence of the direct confrontation of Marxist groups like antifa that some chapters engage in, the Proud Boys would likely still be designated a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League because they have a strict immigration stance. They call for closed borders. The group also opposes political correctness, often speaking in coarse terms, and seems to really like Roger Stone.
However, a chapter in Utah can have a dialogue with BLM that seems to be genuine and productive enough that they will appear together. The BLM leader, Jacarri Kelley, went so far as to say:
“We sat down and had a conversation about each others’ myths that we heard about the Black Lives Matter movement and about the Proud Boys,” Kelley said about her first meeting with the leaders. “And we came to realize we had more in common than not. And in order to combat evil and racism and hatred in this country, we do need to be able to reach across the aisle and have these tough conversations.”
“They’re not white supremacists. These are proud American men,” Kelley said, before adding that both groups “have an issue with the media” because they feel their organizations are not fairly portrayed.
This story is an excellent example of getting beyond the hype on a local level where problems can be avoided, and issues can get resolved. As Americans, most of us do have more in common with each other than the media wants us to believe. This cooperation between two groups that our media tells us should have nothing in common is good news. In a country that often feels irreparably fractured, it is something more of us should try to emulate.