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Last Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Memphis to talk crime, drugs, and violence, all of which are as abundant here as the barbecue. Last year, Memphis experienced a 43 percent spike in homicides, prompting Sessions to remind one and all that, “these aren’t just numbers:”
These are people, our citizens whose safety and lives are at stake everyday. They are people like the residents in Sycamore Lake Apartments here in northeast Memphis. Last week, two men were shot there and killed during a drug deal, according to the local detectives who worked the case. Tragically, this is not an uncommon thing there; since 2014, seven people, including a soon-to-be-mother and her unborn baby were murdered in just that apartment complex.
The Attorney General went on to pledge that “every lawful tool” would be employed to “take the most violent offenders off our streets.” Highlighting a link between illegal drugs and violent crime, Sessions added, “If you are a gang member, know this. You think you are targeting us. Well, we are targeting you. We will devastate your networks. We will starve you revenue sources, deplete your ranks, and seize your profits.”
One would think that a commitment to reverse the tide of innocent blood that spills daily on Memphis’s streets would be greeted with gratitude, but alas, one would not be terribly familiar with Memphis. The Commercial Appeal cited a local law professor who reasoned that, “Charging the harshest way possible is not required by law, and is opposite from the direction our mass-incarceration-cray society needs to go.” I read the professor’s comments in the newspaper at 4 PM Friday afternoon and then began a timeline of local news alerts:
Friday, May 26, 2017:
4:02 PM: WREG’s news alert flashed across my phone with: “Police still on the hunt for two suspects involved in today’s downtown Memphis hotel shooting…”
4:04 PM: Scrolled down through the alerts and saw the previous hour’s alert that, “Police are on the scene of a shooting at Misty Moor Ln…” Which itself followed the alert that, “As a precaution St. Jude is limiting who is allowed to enter their campus.” And further down still, “Police – 19-year-old charged in attempted murder of three women;” after which I see, “Arrest made in attempted murder of Northaven man.”
4:05 PM: Yes, yes, I now understand the law professor’s point — if we only had fewer criminal offenders in jail and more roaming the street, we’d be safer. Thus does counter-intuition transcend to lunacy.
5:51 PM: Another alert: “Graduation day gets cut short after shooting.”
5:59 PM: Yet another: “Police are at the scene of a shooting at St. Charles. The victim has been shot multiple times.”
7:37 PM: An update: “The Frayser woman has died from the multiple gunshot wounds.”
…All in the space of only three and a half hours.
9:59 PM: Here’s a doozy of an alert: “Why the Saudi Arabian embassy is investigating a shooting in downtown Memphis the details at 10 pm.” (After which we learn on the 10 o’clock news the that the shooting victim from the downtown skirmish was likely a Saudi special forces member at the Sheraton. But even special forces training can’t prepare one for an encounter with Memphis’s finest hospitality specialists.)
No worries, though. We just need to convince the Attorney General to incarcerate fewer criminals because, as the chairman of the local NAACP chapter said, “This type of sentencing destroys lives and families.” What about the lives and families of the innocent victims of these imbecilic thugs? No word from The Commercial Appeal.
Instead, we get platitudinous nonsense about the President’s immigration polices and bromides about “police harassment of minorities,” and a great deal of wondering why AG Sessions focused on Memphis rather than, say, Nashville or Knoxville. Local Columnist Tonya Weathersbee suspects that Sessions was playing to racial bias. Conspicuously missing is the hard data that show there have been 312 homicide victims in Memphis from January 2016 to present, 256 of whom were African American, with exactly four people being killed in an altercation with the police. The tragic reality is that the last sight the overwhelming majority of these people saw was the black face of their killer. As the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald explained:
To be blunt, the violent-crime increase has hit almost exclusively in black neighborhoods. Nine hundred additional black males were murdered in 2015 compared with 2014, bringing total black homicide deaths that year to more than 7,000. It is a marker of the perversity of elite rhetoric about race that both Trump and Sessions have been fiercely attacked as racist for pledging to save black lives.
The number of violent crime victims per 100,000 people stands at a national average of 373. In Tennessee, that number is 621 victims per 100,000 people. In Nashville, the number stands at 702, while in Knoxville the number is 927. Here in Memphis, there are a staggering 1,740 violent crime victims per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, could someone please offer a little proof, other than walking in circles while carrying their precious little signs, that any lives in Memphis matter? Because I’m not seeing it in the parade of violence which punctuates the evening news. I’m not seeing it when a vigil to mourn innocent victims becomes yet another shooting gallery, as happened just a few days ago. And I’m certainly not seeing it in local drivers who run each other with all the dumb abandon of a cattle stampede.
“We’re not going back to 50 years of Jim Crow,” intoned the NAACP chairman, who is certainly correct, though he’s got his time travel all mixed up. No, we are not going back to Jim Crow-era prohibitions and discrimination. In Memphis, we’re going back further still, back to a time of utter savagery that makes the O.K. Corral look like a civilized debate under Robert’s Rules of Order.
But the specter of Jim Crow, which invocation precisely exactly no one is advocating, allows the NAACP chairman to carefully tip-toe around the metastasizing cancer of lawlessness that is transforming a formerly beautiful city into a killing field — and all the theatrics of the racialists and all the obfuscations of law professors aren’t going to help one little bit.