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If we do not truthfully diagnose the problem in America, systemic and otherwise, we will never make things right. Unfortunately for everyone, if we continue to ignore the body count that rises daily in the African-American community, and continue to focus on the exception to the exclusion of the rule, we’re toast.
What follows is not necessarily pleasant to read, and if I were in the NFL, academia, or a major media outlet, I suppose the wrath of God-knows-who would descend on me. But you know what? I didn’t spend 20 years on active duty and do three tours of duty in the Mideast and a year in Korea so that others can dictate my thoughts and words, and negate the rights I fought to preserve.
Let me start by placing a few facts on the table because ignoring them only makes the situation worse.
Wednesday, June 10: One man was shot to death and two others, including a child, were injured in a triple shooting here in Memphis. In a separate incident, two people were shot outside of a local bar in Memphis. In yet another incident, a 12-year-old boy saw his father robbed at gunpoint in the driveway of their home.
Monday, June 8: Three adults and one child were injured in a drive-by shooting, caught on camera, in which a car stopped, occupants got out, and fired a barrage of shots at a house. After the police left, the car drove up and stopped again as occupants shot up the house a second time. In a separate incident, another man was in critical condition after a shooting Monday night. In yet another incident, a man was arrested for shooting at a Memphis Police helicopter that was monitoring local protests for George Floyd. In still another incident, a woman was arrested for murder after shooting another woman in the face. The victim was holding her one-year-old son when she was killed. In two other incidents, two other people were shot.
Sunday, June 7: One person was fatally shot.
That’s 13 shootings, 15 people wounded and six fatalities, in the span of six days. And those six days are not any different from any other six-day stretch in Memphis. None of these people were shot by the police. There was no racism involved. African Americans are victimized every day here, yet none of the local protests that took place during those six days were for these victims. No traffic was blocked for them, no one took a knee or carried large banners or placards or even so much as an index card in their honor, and their names never escaped the lips of those who were yelling through bullhorns. Tell me again whose lives matter.
A Few More Facts
Of those 7,500 black lives lost annually, approximately 0.1 percent are unarmed and die at the hands of the police.
In 2019, there were 19 unarmed whites killed by police, and nine unarmed blacks (a 76 percent reduction from 2015).
In about 75 percent of police shootings, the deceased is not black.
African Americans make up 13 percent of the US population, yet account for 53 percent of homicides.
African American males make up 7 percent of the population, yet account for 45 percent of homicides.
According to the CDC, African Americans between ages 10 and 43 die from homicide at 13 times the rate of whites.
A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than a black male is likely to be killed by a police officer.
According to Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute:
Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent victimizations (excluding interracial homicide, which is also disproportionately black-on-white). That works out to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites. Whites committed 14.4 percent of all interracial violent victimizations, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.
And from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting 2018, we see this:
Looking more closely at the above graph, we see that the bulk of African American suspects’ interactions with the police are more often in instances involving the most violent crimes, which logically result in more volatile and/or violent situations in which suspects resist arrest. The police didn’t cause these crimes. They responded to 911 calls for help.
The above list should not be construed as to suggest that there is no racism. Racism is a blight on the human condition, and the human condition has been disordered since the time of Adam and Eve. Racism, like every other category of evil, will endure as long as human nature endures. I’ve seen plenty of bigots and even encounter a few to this day. But to look at the carnage of 7,500 African American lives lost each year, 90 percent of whom died at the hands of other African Americans, and to conclude that the 0.1 percent of that number, represented by nine unarmed African American deaths at the hands of the police (when there are nearly twice as many unarmed whites killed by the police), is proof of systemic racism against blacks is to become unmoored from the facts and from rationality itself.
Worse, to pretend like the police are declaring open season on African Americans is to ignore the fact that 13 percent of the population accounts for over half the homicides, over half the robberies, 34 percent of aggravated assaults, and 43 percent of weapons offenses. By logical extension, when police receive calls about robberies, homicides, etc., they are more likely to be called to the communities where these offenses occur. That isn’t racism. It’s real life.
To compound the error of misdiagnosing the problem by imposing equally erroneous solutions is to make a bad situation catastrophic. In her book, The War On Cops, Heather MacDonald tells how, in 2016, under the pressure from Black Lives Matter and others, police in Chicago (to take one example) reduced pedestrian stops and drug arrests by 80 percent. Whereupon homicides in the Windy City increased 60 percent. Carjackings, highway shootings, and robberies all increased and spread further across the city. Additionally, when cops backed off from proactive policing in 2015, those cities with the largest African American populations saw the largest increases in homicide, with Washington DC at 54 percent, Cleveland seeing a 90 percent increase in homicides, and Milwaukee experiencing a 72 percent increase. That’s what happens when police stand down.
In the last week alone, homicides in Los Angeles have increased over 250 percent over this time last year. The number of people shot has increased 56 percent. In New York City, murder is up 94 percent and shootings are up 63 percent. Still want to defund the police?
On Monday, June 8, Stephen Cannon was arrested for the murder of David Dorn, the retired St. Louis police captain who was murdered while trying to protect a pawn shop from looters. In 2014, Cannon had been sentenced to seven years for robbery and assault after he confessed to beating a man and robbing him in order to steal his cash and his phone. He pled down to second-degree robbery and was granted a suspended sentence. He violated his parole in 2018 and the judge declined to enforce the sentence. He was arrested for theft just last February and was out free, pending a hearing on June 22. He never served so much as one day.
Surveillance film shows Cannon pointing a gun at 77-year-old David Dorn, who then fell to the ground where he lay dying as people looted the store. Cannon has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, felon in possession of a firearm, and three counts of armed criminal action. His bond is set at a meager $30,000.
Here, then, is the systemic injustice. The problem of predators who are released back into communities across the country to victimize innocent people must be addressed. According to Matthew Clark, writing in Prison Legal News:
A U.S. Sentencing Commission report on recidivism among federal prisoners, released on January 24, 2019, showed that nearly 64% of prisoners who had been convicted of violent offenses were arrested within eight years compared with about 40% of those convicted of nonviolent offenses.
Why such high arrest rates? A February 2019 report from the California state auditor questioned the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programs used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Our analysis of inmates released from prison in fiscal year 2015-16 did not find an overall relationship between inmates completing CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) rehabilitation programs and their recidivism rates,” said State Auditor Elaine Howle. “In fact, inmates who completed their recommended CBT rehabilitation programs recidivated at about the same rate as inmates who were not assigned to those rehabilitation programs.”
It is well and good that defendants in the US are not placed in double jeopardy, per the Fifth Amendment. It would also help tremendously to ask exactly how many times the lives and wellbeing of innocent citizens should be jeopardized by repeatedly releasing known predators in their neighborhoods. The idea that violent offenders are in prison to protect the community at large must be reinforced, and judges have got to stop playing Russian Roulette with the lives of law-abiding citizens.
Expand Educational Opportunities
It’s also worth considering whether or not the African-American community is being properly served by an education establishment that precludes parents from moving their children from underperforming schools to ones that will most benefit their children. Economist Walter Williams writes that in 2016, in 13 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, there were zero students making a proficient score on Maryland’s state math test. Six other Baltimore high schools saw 1 percent of their students achieve a proficient score, while only 15 percent of the city’s students could pass the state’s English exam. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, only 19 percent of eighth-graders could score proficiently in math, with 16 percent in reading. Detroit saw 4 percent of its eighth-graders score proficiently in math and 7 percent in reading. Wealthy politicians routinely send their children to private schools while voting to deny the same options to their constituents. Is it any wonder that kids are struggling? Why isn’t this regarded as a systemic failure?
Reduce Union Control
What teachers unions have done for inner-city schools, police unions have done for their communities. Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin had a string of at least 17 complaints against him, including being named in a brutality lawsuit. None of it derailed his career, however, though he did receive two letters of reprimand. Such are the protections against even bad officers, that when she served as County Attorney, Amy Klobuchar declined to prosecute cops in over two dozen officer-involved fatalities.
Office Tou Thao, who stood by passively as Mr. Floyd, had numerous complaints against him as well. In 2017, the city of Minneapolis settled a $25,000 lawsuit alleging Thao’s excessive force and that of another officer. As Mayor Jacob Frey admitted:
The elephant in the room with regard to making the changes necessary to combat the institutionalized racism and have a full-on culture shift is the police union, the contract associated with that union, and then the arbitration that ultimately is necessary. It sets up a system where we have difficulty both disciplining and terminating officers who have done wrong.
In 2017, the Washington Post reported that a total of 1,881 police officers from 37 major municipal police departments had been fired since 2006. Of those, 451 successfully appealed and the police departments had to reinstate them. Writing for the Heritage Foundation, Rachel Greszler found that:
A 2019 study of “moral character” violations reported by local police agencies in Florida between 1996 and 2015 found that “collective bargaining rights led to about a 40% increase in violent incidents of misconduct among sheriffs’ offices.”
Of course, it’s not unusual to see a conservative writer criticize the tendency of unions to protect substandard performers, any more than it should be surprising to see those protected substandard performers go on to inflict serious harm. What would be refreshingly unusual, however, would be to see the problem actually addressed. But that would require the Democratic Party to liberate itself from its symbiotic relationship with unions.
Accountability Begins In The Home
Next, I turn to Dr. Shelby Steele, an African-American author and fellow at the Hoover Institution who has written numerous books on race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. He weighed on the plight of African Americans in a recent interview with Mark Levin:
I would be happy to look at all the usual bad guys, the police and so forth, if we had the nerve, the courage, to look at black people, to look at black Americans, minority Americans, and say, ‘You’re not carrying your own weight. You’re going to have a fit and a tantrum and demonstrate and so forth and yet you’re not doing — are you teaching your child to read? Are you making sure that the school down the street actually educates your child? Are you becoming educated and following a dream in life and making things happen for yourself? Or are you saying I’m a victim and I’m owed and the entitlement is inadequate.’
In his 1983 book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? another African American economist Dr. Thomas Sowell, who grew up in Harlem, describes it this way:
Few people today are aware that the ghettos in many cities were far safer places two generations ago than they are today. Incredulity often greets stories by older black as to their habit of sleeping out on fire escapes or on rooftops or in public parks on hot summer nights. …In the 1930s whites went regularly to Harlem at night, stayed until the wee hours of the morning, and then stood on the streets to hail cabs to take them home. Today, not only would very few whites dare to do this, very few cabs would dare to be cruising ghetto streets in the wee hours of the morning.
So what happened? Dr. Sowell continued:
…If crime is a product of poverty and discrimination as they say endlessly, why was there so much less of it when poverty and discrimination were much worse than today? If massive programs are the only hope to reduce violence in the ghetto, why was there so much less violence long before anyone ever thought of these programs? Perhaps more to the point, have the philosophies and policies so much supported by black leaders contributed to the decline of the community and personal standards, and in family responsibility, so painfully visible today? For many, it may be easier to ignore past achievements than to face their implications for current issues.
Fast forward to 1963, when future UN Ambassador and Senator from New York, Patrick Moynihan authored a book titled, Beyond the Melting Pot, in which he lamented an illegitimacy rate in the African American community that was 14 to 15 times higher than of the white population. Today, over 70 percent of African-American children are born to fatherless homes. As one commentator wrote just yesterday:
When 28% of black kids grow up in 2-parent homes compared to 83% of Asian kids, and Asian adults go on to statistically blow the doors off everyone across every meaningful metric while black adults statistically lag everyone else in every meaningful metric, you simply can’t tell me the absence of 2-parent homes is not a dominant factor in that disparity.
You will also, for obvious reasons based on those same statistics, have a harder time convincing me that “white supremacy” is the culprit.
I know that to suggest that at least some of the programs brought about by President Johnson’s Great Society initiative might have been counterproductive is heresy. To recommend personal responsibility when young African American men make up 7 percent of the population and 45 percent of homicides is to be guilty of apostasy.
The point remains that in Memphis and elsewhere, carrying placards, chanting slogans, and blocking traffic in the name of one man who was wrongfully killed by bad cops in another city, while ignoring the endless bloodshed and death in your own neighborhood, has not worked to this point. And averting our eyes from the facts isn’t working either. Maybe Shelby Steele is right. Maybe it’s time to try other solutions.Published in