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.

Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Members have made 30 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Jules PA Member

    Can I hear an Amen?

    Amen.

    • #1
    • August 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm
  2. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    I have become a big fan of Jason Riley. He is clearly tired of the garbage that passes for conventional wisdom, and he’s willing to “speak truth to power.”

    Interestingly, so far I have not heard condemnation of him, like there was for Cosby some years ago. This may be due to Cos breaking the ground, and/or that Riley brings the facts that can’t be argued with. (If I recall correctly, Cos’ evidence was more anecdotal.)

    • #2
    • August 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm
  3. Profile photo of Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author

    Probable Cause:

    I have become a big fan of Jason Riley. He is clearly tired of the garbage that passes for conventional wisdom, and he’s willing to “speak truth to power.”

    Interestingly, so far I have not heard condemnation of him, like there was for Cosby some years ago. This may be due to Cos breaking the ground, and/or that Riley brings the facts that can’t be argued with. (If I recall correctly, Cos’ evidence was more anecdotal.)

    That may be because Cosby is a bigger deal. I fear that Riley will soon come under attack.

    • #3
    • August 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm
  4. Profile photo of Yeah...ok. Member

    “…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 you suppose William F. Buckley Jr. would judge John Derbyshire as one who “levels” with blacks? Clarity is courage.

    Did NRO help or hinder our conversation about race by removing Radio Derb?

    • #4
    • August 19, 2014 at 6:34 pm
  5. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Probable Cause:

    Interestingly, so far I have not heard condemnation of him, like there was for Cosby some years ago. This may be due to Cos breaking the ground, and/or that Riley brings the facts that can’t be argued with. (If I recall correctly, Cos’ evidence was more anecdotal.)

    That may be because Cosby is a bigger deal. I fear that Riley will soon come under attack.

    It wouldn’t surprise me. Though I strongly suspect he doesn’t care.

    • #5
    • August 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm
  6. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Derbyshire’s main problem is that he’s white. From a practical standpoint, whites can’t say what Jason Riley can.

    That’s just the way it is.

    • #6
    • August 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm
  7. Profile photo of harrisventures Thatcher

    I live in the suburbs of Houston, and in the last couple of years, there have been a lot of apartments built nearby. Going to the local grocery store, there has been a noticeable change in demographics. As well as a noticeable increase in local bank robberies, almost always attributed to black males.

    A couple of months ago, I was awakened by commotion outside my bedroom window. I got my gun and investigated, and it turned out there was a home invasion in progress. I live in a nice quiet gated community, but later that morning, I had young black males running through my front yard with automatic weapons while eluding the police.

    I’m not racist, and I am always happy to see young people gainfully employed, especially if they are young black males. I believe in merit, and take joy in people working to improve themselves. My first job was as a dishwasher, and I eventually got promoted to short order cook. At I believe $1.25/hr. That’s how I learned responsibility, and now I am glad say I make at least twice that.

    Let me repeat: I am not racist. However, I am much more leery of young black males because it is just a fact that they present a greater threat to personal safety than any other demographic category.

    Whatever the cultural or societal reasons for this, it is objectively true, and it behooves everyone who practices situational awareness to be cognizant of this fact.

    • #7
    • August 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm
  8. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    harrisventures:

    I live in a nice quiet gated community, but later that morning, I had young black males running through my front yard with automatic weapons while eluding the police.

    A quibble: they were likely semi-automatic weapons.

    • #8
    • August 19, 2014 at 8:12 pm
  9. Profile photo of Danny Alexander Member

    When, in the collective, an African-American community (in this case Ferguson) starts receiving unsolicited Twitter-transmitted advice from Palestinian activists based in the Mideast on effective tactics for rioting and related crowd-scale violence and disorder, perhaps that ought to be taken — both by the specific community in question and also by the larger African-American community seeking to weigh in on such matters — as some sort of indication that the behavior presently on display and its motivating mentality are not attracting exactly a laudable variety of kindred-spirit support.

    • #9
    • August 19, 2014 at 8:12 pm
  10. Profile photo of Brandon Shafer Thatcher

    As a request to the editors, I would love to hear Jason Riley as a guest on one of the podcasts…

    • #10
    • August 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm
  11. Profile photo of harrisventures Thatcher

    Probable Cause:

    harrisventures:

    I live in a nice quiet gated community, but later that morning, I had young black males running through my front yard with automatic weapons while eluding the police.

    A quibble: they were likely semi-automatic weapons.

    Well, this is what it looked like, granted it was 3:30 am and I was peering through the window shades, but it sure looked like it was an automatic to me. Bad guys don’t usually care what the law is, and semi autos are certainly easier to obtain, but I would think a weapon that looks like this would be fully auto.
    FN-P90_2

    • #11
    • August 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm
  12. Profile photo of Lidens Cheng Member

    Paul A. Rahe:

    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. 

    Exactly. The problem blacks are facing is not racial one. It’s blacks killing blacks, and not a single so-called black leader brings that up. Just this weekend alone seventeen blacks were killed in Chicago, the perpetrators are blacks; it’s not national news. It’s the absence of fathers in black households that’s the problem. We have a black president, he’s in such a great position to tackle this problem and doing a world of good, instead he’s a race-baiter.

    • #12
    • August 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm
  13. Profile photo of Fake John/Jane Galt Member

    So if I understand correctly more blacks need to kill whites so that the rates even up? That way everybody will be happy?

    • #13
    • August 20, 2014 at 12:11 am
  14. Profile photo of Simon Templar Member

    Although I may be “in things racial” a coward, I also argue politics with progressives. Hope you enjoy this excerpt from a black US Army lieutenant colonel:

    As far as Thomas Sowell is concerned, his premise is all wrong. He bases his arguments (many of them) on the faulty premise that Black people are enthralled with a liberal government. However, he (since it has been sometime since he speaks of talking to people that grew up in the hood and are still there) ALWAYS conveniently forgets to include in his argument, that Blacks simply pick the better of two evils, based simply on policy, and not enthralled by either.

    I have written to Sowell, some years ago, and I asked him, “What program has EVER, EVER in American history been directed, solely for the benefit of the African American?” – After some email dialogue and his laborious side-winding, he eventually acquiesced and agreed with me – NONE.

    Black people KNOW this and clearly understand, that neither party will stop putting black men in prison, destroying black families, address unfair labor practices, balance the legal system, stop shooting unarmed black men, or even say the words “…help Black People” in public.

     

    • #15
    • August 20, 2014 at 1:28 am
  15. Profile photo of Full Size Tabby Member

    A white person can’t say what Jason Riley said. Any one who did would pay a very high price at the hands of the racial grievance industry. Eric Holder’s statement of a couple of years ago that we were a “nation of cowards” afraid to discuss race and that we needed an “honest conversation about race” was a farce because we all know that as soon as any white person makes a statement not already in line with the views of the racial grievance industry, heavy pressure is applied to marginalize that person, and stop the conversation. When people pay a high price for attempting an honest conversation about race, the rest quickly learn to keep their mouths shut.

    • #16
    • August 20, 2014 at 4:52 am
  16. Profile photo of GKC Member
    GKC

    Simon Templar: I have written to Sowell, some years ago, and I asked him, “What program has EVER, EVER in American history been directed, solely for the benefit of the African American?” – After some email dialogue and his laborious side-winding, he eventually acquiesced and agreed with me – NONE. 

     Affirmative Action?

    • #17
    • August 20, 2014 at 5:18 am
  17. Profile photo of Simon Templar Member

    P.S. The excerpt in #15 above is from an e-mail that the LTC sent to me. I tried for almost two years to get him to see the light, but only ended up proving that die hard pogz cannot be moved. Oh yea – and one more thing – there is no level of nastiness (that I ever discovered) that they won’t go to in order to “win” an argument. Many of his comments to/at me would self-destruct on contact with Ricochet’s CoC.

    • #18
    • August 20, 2014 at 5:24 am
  18. Profile photo of Simon Templar Member

    GKC:

    Simon Templar: I have written to Sowell, some years ago, and I asked him, “What program has EVER, EVER in American history been directed, solely for the benefit of the African American?” – After some email dialogue and his laborious side-winding, he eventually acquiesced and agreed with me – NONE.

    Affirmative Action?

    Been there – done that. This was his reply:

    Affirmative Action (designed to counteract historic discrimination faced by ethnic minorities, women and other underrepresented groups) actually benefited Blacks very very little. It overwhelmingly supported White women.

    However, whenever I hear about Affirmative Action (which was instituted because racism was so blatant, overt and damaging to the nation as a whole) I think of the following (let me know if you disagree) as the REAL AFFIRMATIVE ACTION:

    – The 1790 Naturalization Act

    – Indians dispossessed of lands

    – Nonwhites barred from testifying

    – African Americans denied citizenship

    – Alien land laws (discrimination against Asians)

    – The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act

    – 1934 Housing Programs

    – Minorities denied social security and union protection

    Note: Notice that Thomas Sowell never discusses any of the issues above in his books and opinion papers.

    • #19
    • August 20, 2014 at 5:46 am
  19. Profile photo of liberal jim Inactive

    I also like JR and he demonstrates more courage than most journalists, if he were truly courageous however he would be talking about black racism which is what we are seeing. If officer Wilson were black and all other circumstances were the same, would we be seeing any of this? It is assumed by both the rioters and most of the peaceful demonstrators he is guilty of some sort of misconduct simply because of the color of his skin. Racism? I think so!

    • #20
    • August 20, 2014 at 7:39 am
  20. Profile photo of Rawls Inactive

    As much as I like Jason Riley and his new book “Please Stop Helping Us” (an Encounter book!), and as much as loathe the media circus that’s developed around Ferguson, I must point out that the argument that “blacks are killed more by blacks that whites” is — by formal argumentation standards — a fallacy of logic.

    It could be red herring and/or the “tu quoque” fallacy.

    Unlike the Trayvon Martin case, there is also something beyond and separate from the race issue in the Ferguson case, namely, that a person in a position of authority (someone authorized to apportion violence under strict protocols) killed an unarmed civilian. The case is deserving of the utmost scrutiny, and though the media’s high volume of coverage may be in bad taste, their premises for that reportage are fine.

    • #21
    • August 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm
  21. Profile photo of Petty Boozswha Member

    I am completely, adamantly opposed philosophically to reverse discrimination programs; but I do think we as conservatives need to confront the perception in communities like Ferguson that the police are not members of the community but an occupying army. It seems to me that laws could be written in a race neutral way to require that police recruits have a preference if they were schooled or have lived in the jurisdiction they are going to patrol. The inconvenient fact is that Black Americans score so much lower than whites on standardized or written tests, and police work [unlike being a fireman] is at least 85% paperwork. Maybe technology can help with body cams and dash cams reducing the amount of written reports required, maybe patrolling and taking statements can be made separate functions. Liability laws also need to be relaxed for good faith errors made by policemen that can’t navigate the bar exam hypothetical nature that modern policing entails. Black Americans are taught cradle to grave in this country that the deck is stacked against them and that they as a community and individually should be given a pass on impulse control issues. Having Black police officers would help.

    • #22
    • August 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm
  22. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Petty Boozswha:

    I am completely, adamantly opposed philosophically to reverse discrimination programs; but I do think we as conservatives need to confront the perception in communities like Ferguson that the police are not members of the community but an occupying army.

    That perception is called “prejudice.” It should be confronted as such.

    Also, the flip side of your proposal means that white neighborhoods will prefer “people from around here” to be their police officers. Chew on that one for a minute.

    • #23
    • August 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm
  23. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Rawls:

    Unlike the Trayvon Martin case, there is also something beyond and separate from the race issue in the Ferguson case, namely, that a person in a position of authority (someone authorized to apportion violence under strict protocols) killed an unarmed civilian. The case is deserving of the utmost scrutiny, and though the media’s high volume of coverage may be in bad taste, their premises for that reportage are fine.

    Agreed, to the extent that it should be, say, a statewide story in Missouri. However, the reason it’s a national story is because the unarmed civilian was black and the officer was not.

    • #24
    • August 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm
  24. Profile photo of Petty Boozswha Member

    Probable Cause:

    Petty Boozswha:

    I am completely, adamantly opposed philosophically to reverse discrimination programs; but I do think we as conservatives need to confront the perception in communities like Ferguson that the police are not members of the community but an occupying army.

    That perception is called “prejudice.” It should be confronted as such.

     I agree we should confront the prejudice that is taught to our children and impressionable adults by just about every institution in our society – the prejudice against the concept of personal responsibility. But until we become a more perfect union we have to make what improvements are currently feasible and I think Black neighborhoods seeing Black police officers would make a difference.

    Also, the flip side of your proposal means that white neighborhoods will prefer “people from around here” to be their police officers. Chew on that one for a minute.

    I don’t think it would cause white neighborhoods to “prefer” anybody, but concede it would have the same effect on their communities as others; I have no problem with that result. I’m not a racialist.

    • #25
    • August 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm
  25. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Petty Boozswha:

    I don’t think it would cause white neighborhoods to “prefer” anybody, but concede it would have the same effect on their communities as others; I have no problem with that result. I’m not a racialist.

    Yes, you do think it would cause white neighborhoods to “prefer” someone. At least according to your statement, “It seems to me that laws could be written in a race neutral way to require that police recruits have a preference if they were schooled or have lived in the jurisdiction they are going to patrol.”

    And even if you don’t have a problem with it, the NAACP, the ACLU, and the federal courts might.

    • #26
    • August 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm
  26. Profile photo of Petty Boozswha Member

    Probable Cause:

     At least according to your statement, ”It seems to me that laws could be written in a race neutral way to require that police recruits have a preference if they were schooled or have lived in the jurisdiction they are going to patrol.”

    And even if you don’t have a problem with it, the NAACP, the ACLU, and the federal courts might.

     I think Black communities would prefer more Black police officers, I do not think most white communities care if the percentage of minority police in their neighborhoods go up or down, so in that sense I don’t think your statement is valid. As for the ACLU, NAACP and federal courts I agree they may have a problem with any idea that tries to inject common sense into the American legal system.

    • #27
    • August 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm
  27. Profile photo of Full Size Tabby Member

    Petty Boozswha:

    I am completely, adamantly opposed philosophically to reverse discrimination programs; but I do think we as conservatives need to confront the perception in communities like Ferguson that the police are not members of the community but an occupying army. It seems to me that laws could be written in a race neutral way to require that police recruits have a preference if they were schooled or have lived in the jurisdiction they are going to patrol. The inconvenient fact is that Black Americans score so much lower than whites on standardized or written tests, and police work [unlike being a fireman] is at least 85% paperwork. . . . Having Black police officers would help.

    I recently read that another contributor to a lack of change in the demographics of a police force as the population changes is the low turnover on the police force. Civil service, promotion, and pension systems are set up to reward longevity, and to discourage moving to different cities.

    • #28
    • August 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm
  28. Profile photo of Probable Cause Member

    Boozswha, if I understand you correctly then, your proposed law would only apply to black communities.

    • #29
    • August 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm
  29. Profile photo of Ray Kujawa Thatcher

    Anger, not racism, is the root of the problem of crime for many men. And anger is not dealt with as long as one continues to play the blame game. In black communities, white racism is the easy culprit that keeps people from taking responsibility for changing themselves and improving their lives.

    • #30
    • August 21, 2014 at 6:28 am