Ferguson in Perspective: Jason Riley Tells Hard Truths

I am not in a position to judge whether Darren Wilson handled himself properly in his confrontation with Michael Brown. It is clear enough that Brown was a punk — the sort of dope-head thug who would forcibly rob a convenience store. And the story told by Wilson is plausible enough: that Brown was walking in the middle of the street and interfering with traffic; that, when told to move to the sidewalk, he balked; that, when Wilson began to get out of his car, Brown shoved the door back against the policeman, grappled for his gun, and ran; and that he later turned around and charged Wilson. But, of course, this story may not be entirely true, and Wilson may have overreacted.

But even if Wilson is at fault — and I am well aware that policemen can be trigger-happy and that, in a crunch, they can easily get rattled, misjudge, and overreact — what happened in Ferguson that night (as opposed to succeeding nights) was, from a political perspective, inconsequential. As Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal courageously points out in the video posted below, African-Americans make up 13% of the American population and 50% of the homicide victims, but very, very few of the African-Americans who are killed in this country die at the hands of white policemen. In fact, 90% of the African-Americans who are murdered in the United States are murdered by their fellow African-Americans. What happened in Ferguson was a relatively rare event that may or may not tell us something about Darren Wilson and the police force of St. Louis County. But it tells us nothing about white racism in the nation as a whole and next to nothing about discrimination against American blacks.

Once upon a time, Eric Holder called for us to engage in a conversation about race. If that conversation were to be frank, it would have to start with the brute and ugly fact pointed out by Jason Riley. I do not doubt that racial prejudice still exists, but it does not constitute a serious obstacle to African-American advancement. The most grievous problems that African-Americans face today have little or nothing to do with the conduct of ordinary white people. Of course, they may well have something to do with white conduct in the past, which has a lingering effect. But nothing can be done about that. Long before they encountered George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were on the downward path. Given their taste for dope, their instinct for defiance, and their predilection for violence, they were both likely to end up as killers or as killed.

If Barack Obama and Eric Holder were actually interested in the welfare of the likes of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, they would level with their fellow African-Americans. They would initiate a genuinely frank conversation about race aimed at altering African-American conduct. As things stand, they are only interested in manipulating African-American fear and anger for short-term political gain — and the same can be said for the scoundrels (largely white) who manage CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Pravda-on-the-Hudson, and Pravda-on-the-Potomac and who treat the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as national news. Apart from Jason Riley (and Bill Cosby), there are only a handful of African-Americans who care enough about the welfare of their fellow African-Americans to have the courage to level with them and there are even fewer whites (liberal or conservative). In the mainstream media the former are treated as traitors to their race and the latter are demonized as racists.

Do not get me wrong. I am not so naive as to suppose that simply telling the truth about moral breakdown within the African-American community will miraculously change conduct. I will only assert that, until the truth is acknowledged and becomes a subject for rumination within that community and the nation at large, things will most certainly not get better for those among our fellow citizens who happen to be black.