by Edward Ring
The rioting and looting across the United States have been widely—though not universally—condemned. The “peaceful protests,” on the other hand, have been universally praised. But is this appropriate? Wouldn’t a broader and more balanced discussion be more constructive than praise without reservation?
Obviously, people have the right to peacefully protest injustice, and obviously incidents of murderous police brutality are more than sufficient justification for protests. But that’s as far as it goes. The scope of these protests is disproportionate to the offense, not because the offense wasn’t hideously wrong, but because there are far more dangerous challenges facing black Americans. The biggest challenge of all: leftists who indoctrinate blacks to think they are always first and foremost victims of racism.
Debunking this narrative of racism can start with the allegation that a disproportionate number of blacks are victims of police brutality, which in itself (and regardless of race) is extremely rare.
To put this into context, there are more than 800,000 sworn police officers in America, authorized to make arrests and use deadly force. Over 50 million Americans have at least one encounter with a police officer per year, usually involving something minor such as a traffic stop. Police make over 10 million arrests each year. On average, just over 1,000 Americans each year are killed by police, but nearly all of them were armed. In confrontations with unarmed people over the past decade, only between 50 and 100 have been shot per year by police, about the same number as police who are killed in hostile encounters per year.
These are big denominators, yielding infinitesimally small fractions of tragedy. Over 50 million police encounters, less than 100 unarmed people killed. It is statistically impossible to root out every single incident of misconduct in a group that large.
Social media makes it easy to collect and aggregate tragic incidents and make them appear to be epidemic, and the leftist media amplifies every incident. It is grossly misleading. But whether police misconduct is epidemic or incredibly rare, are blacks disproportionately targeted?
In a word: No.
It is true that the number of blacks killed by police is consistently disproportionate to their share of the U.S. population. Over the three year period from 2017 through 2019, blacks represented 27 percent of all people shot to death by police, yet they comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population. On the surface, this looks pretty bad. But there is a lot more to this story.
When considering any case of disproportion, you have to examine the underlying facts. In an unvarnished analysis recently published in the Wall Street Journal, Manhattan Institute fellow and author Heather Mac Donald presents some inconvenient facts: Blacks are indeed twice as likely to be fatally shot by police than whites, but, “in 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.”
These facts are well known, but they’re ignored.
When crime rates are taken into account, it turns out that blacks are not disproportionately killed by police and, in fact, the opposite is true.
In a recent study that even NPR reporters acknowledged was peer-reviewed and published by the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers concluded: “We find no evidence, at the national level, that officers show racial bias against Blacks in the decision to use deadly force,” and “we found no evidence that the race of a police officer related to the race of a citizen shot.”
The Obsession With Disproportionate Outcomes
Like many civilizations throughout human history, the southern states in America had black slaves. This is an indefensible legacy. But at the same time, the northern states had millions of white abolitionists who viewed slavery as the abomination it was and were willing to fight and die to end it.
Moreover, prejudice and discrimination have never been limited to race. Immigrants to America from Ireland and Eastern Europe were white as snow, yet encountered discrimination to rival what blacks endured.
When you examine why some groups in America succeeded and assimilated in spite of discrimination, and others did not, one quality surfaces again and again: They did not think of themselves as victims. Maybe it was easier for white immigrants to adopt a positive mindset because they could blend in more easily. But was it easier for Orthodox Jews with their exotic attire? Was it easier for Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, or Nigerians? All of those groups outperform whites in academic and economic achievement.
So what else explains their success?
The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining, obviously accounts for some of the challenges facing American blacks, even today. But how much? Slavery was abolished 157 years ago, Jim Crow laws were completely eradicated by 1965, redlining by 1968. Most American blacks of working age were not even born during the era of Jim Crow and redlining.
And what has happened since the 1960s civil rights era? Americans have gone, if anything, to the other extreme, with mandatory racial quotas now applied to college admissions, corporate hiring and promotions, and awarding of government contracts. In every American institution, the “institutional racism” in effect is most assuredly directed against whites, in favor of blacks.
At the same time, the “War on Poverty” has showered hundreds of billions of dollars into black communities over the past half-century, providing food and shelter in the form of food stamps, welfare, and subsidized housing. And despite all of this effort and expense, blacks continue to lag behind every other ethnic group in America in household income and household wealth, at the same time as they are the most likely to be convicted of crimes, imprisoned, or killed by police.
For the American Left, there is only one explanation. Racism. Endemic, systemic, conscious, unconscious, full-spectrum white racism. A virus in the brain of every white person in America.
Maybe Treating People As Victims Makes Them Victims
But what if the Left is wrong about everything? What if blacks have lower academic and economic achievement, and wind up on the wrong side of the law more than other groups, as a result of welfare and affirmative action?
How does it benefit anyone’s character to be told they’re victims, that they can’t achieve because of their skin color? That they live in a hostile nation and cannot succeed without the government subsidizing their lives and forcing people to hire them? Why shouldn’t we draw a direct line of causation between the rate of broken homes in black communities and the rate of high school dropouts and criminal convictions? Why are these obvious, common-sense connections ignored by leftist politicians and community leaders and the left-wing press?
One reason is that the Left feeds on the victim narrative. It is the currency of their political power. It is a seductive message with a destructive impact, but while the target of the message is destroyed, the purveyor of the message collects another paycheck. It is a tool of big government, at the same time as it is parroted by every pernicious special interest and fringe element that would see us tear ourselves apart as a nation. It has nothing to do with helping black people get ahead in life.
Charlie Kirk, despite mixed reviews from many conservatives, gets it right at least as often as he gets it wrong, and he outdid himself in a recent video. Kirk not only debunked the whole police-are-racist lie, but also steadfastly asserted his right to discuss these issues despite his pale skin. Bravo for that. Everyone in America loses if black Americans don’t succeed, so everyone needs to stand up and be counted—especially if they’re being told to sit down and shut up because they’re white.
When it comes to members of the black community who will challenge the victim narrative, however, they are not in short supply. They just find themselves cut out of the mainstream conversation. Here are just a few of them:
Justin Wilson, Antonia Okafor, Candace Owens, Dr. Carol Swain, Chandler Crump, CJ Pearson, Anthony Brian Logan, David J Harris Jr., Lynnett Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson (Diamond and Silk), Jesse Lee Peterson, KingFace, Larry Elder, Mike Nificent, Allen West, Pastor Mark Burns, Patricia Dickson, Horace Cooper (Project 21), Shekinah Geist, Stacy Dash, Star Parker, Terrence K Williams, Taleed Brown, Keith Hodge and Kevin Hodge, Brandon Tatum, Will Johnson, Wayne Dupree, Jon Miller, Jamarcus Dove-Simmons, Derrick Blackman, Joy Villa, Mind of Jamal, Jermain Botsio, Jay McCaney.
For a stirring recapitulation of why blacks are not and should never consider themselves as victims, watch this video by the Hodge Twins. If the media adopted a healthier bias—perhaps encouraging people to not think of themselves as victims—these two brothers would be world-famous superstars.
For a critical insight that you’ll never get from ABC’s David Muir or CNN’s Anderson Cooper, or any member of the Democratic Party, watch this video by Candace Owens, where, quoting Shelby Steele, she makes this unforgettable observation: “The black community is unique from other communities because we are the only community that caters to the bottom denominator of our society.”
The point Owens is making is incendiary, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Why, she is asking, are blacks uplifting a man who at the time of his arrest was high on methamphetamine and fentanyl, a man who was convicted of armed robbery, a man who was imprisoned five times? Why are leftists making a martyr out of this man? Owens isn’t saying this man deserved to die, nor is she defending the rogue cops who killed him. But why is he being held up as someone who led a heroic life, in defense of the lie that police are systemically racist?
If you want to know why blacks in America, in aggregate, have lagged behind other groups, don’t look to racism from whites. Instead, look to the Left. You will find a kaleidoscopic melange of media deities from Stacey Abrams to Joe Biden, spanning the color wheel, making their money and careers by spinning endless, useless lies.
Want to assign blame for black underachievement? Look to the Left. Blame them, and walk away.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness and co-founder of the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013.
Photo “Black Lives Matter Supporter” by David Geitgey Sierralupe. CC BY 2.0.