As discussed in Parts I – VII,[i] most of the Democrats’ well-intended attempts to address the legitimate and serious obstacles facing Blacks in America failed because Democrats misdiagnosed the causes of those obstacles. In many instances, Democrat policies created new obstacles or exacerbated old obstacles. BLM has incorporated those misdiagnoses and added some of their own. Let’s start with BLM’s complaint that gets the lion’s share of attention: The police are the problem.
Disproportion. BLM was founded in 2013 after George Zimmerman, a non-policeman, was acquitted in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. At this point, the impetus for BLM outrage was about injustice in the judicial system, not with the police. Nevertheless, BLM soon focused much attention on policing. As I noted in Nike’ Mistake—Supporting a Counterproductive Cause Against Police, by 2018, BLM’s Black Lives Matter’s Platform included “END THE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE.”[ii] In July 2020, BLM’s website said, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”[iii] Sadly, the percentage of America’s Black population killed by police is higher than the percentage of the White population. That fact, however, would validate a “War On Black People” only if the percentage the Blacks who commit violent crimes were comparable to the percentage of Whites who commit crimes. Vastly more Blacks commit such crimes. [See more on this point below
Rather than intentionally targeting Blacks for demise, crime statistics tell us the following:
- Police kill more Whites per encounter than Blacks.[iv]
- Armed or unarmed Blacks who resist arrest are less likely to be killed than armed or unarmed whites who resist arrest.[v]
- According to the Washington Post database (which uses an expansive definition of “unarmed”), police officers in the US in 2019 killed nine “unarmed” black men.[vi]
Every life matters, but nine out of 47.8 million is not exactly an epidemic.
As to disproportion, police in the US fatally shoot about 1,000 people per year. Just under 50% of the killings are of Whites, and about 25% are of Blacks.[vii] Given that Whites are 63% of the population and Blacks are 13%, Blacks are disproportionately killed based on population. Population, however, would be a relevant metric only if the incidence of interaction between police and resisting suspects were the same for both Whites and Blacks. They are not. Interactions between cops and suspects are a function of crimes, not population. Blacks ages 10 – 43 die of homicides at 13 times the rates of whites, and those homicides are overwhelmingly committed by Blacks.[viii] In the 75 largest counties, Blacks commit roughly 60% of all murders and robberies, while Blacks represent 15% of those counties’ population.[ix] As long as Blacks commit disproportionately more crimes, and given that cops are dispatched to where 911 callers report crimes taking place, there will naturally be disproportionately more interactions between Blacks and the police. (Unless, of course, the police are abolished. In that case, criminals of all skin hues will do a lot more violence. There is no reason, however, to believe that would reduce the disproportionate victimization of Black people.[x])
By intensely reporting on a national level every police killing of a Black person and reporting police killings of Whites only locally with little fanfare, the media creates a wildly false narrative in the minds of Americans.[xi] Whereas throughout most of America’s history there has been a robust anti-Black bias, that is no longer the case. As Coleman Hughes put it, “America only cares when the victim [of police killings] is Black now.”[xii] Contrary to BLM’s diagnosis of the current state of affairs, Black lives do matter to the vast majority of Americans today — especially American police.
Police Brutality. Following the invidious video of George Floyd dying, BLM amped up its emphasis on “police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people.”[xiii]
Let’s first observe that, though terrible and real, police brutality is neither a racial issue nor the relevant issue. Consider this hypothetical: A court issues a murder warrant to arrest a Black ex-con rapist; a cop finds the suspect attempting to drag a Black trans woman into his car and orders him to stop. The suspect ignores the order and continues to push the woman into his vehicle. The cop uses a stun gun on the suspect, but the suspect is unfazed, and the suspect grabs a baseball bat from the car and threatens to beat the cop with it. The cop has only two options: Let the suspect (prey in toe) go or use sufficient force to stop him. Something short of brutality might not be significant. If the Black trans woman was the daughter of a BLM activist, surely even BLM activists would agree that brutality is permissible if there is no other way to stop the brutality that the ex-con would likely inflict on the trans woman.
The relevant issue is whether a cop has used excessive force. BLM could legitimately protest excessive (more than necessary) force by police against a Black person. BLM, however, typically labels any force used by police that harms the suspect as “brutality,” even when the force used was necessary to detain the suspect. That labeling is almost always illegitimate and deceptive. Sadly, however, such labeling is politically useful. Talking about “excessive force” instead of “brutality” would implicitly concede that some force was appropriate. Making that concession would lead to a conversation about the suspect’s conduct. That conversation won’t fit on a placard and cannot be chanted. Even in instances in which excessive force was a possibility, having to talk about the conduct of the person under arrest detracts from the more compelling “What do we want? Dead Cops! When do we want them? Now!”[xiv] and “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon”[xv] messaging. Also, if the suspect resisted arrest, the amount of force that would be necessary to subdue the suspect is unknowable and, therefore, debatable. BLM discards these ambiguities because a grassroots movement that is propelled by emotions will die absent simple messages.
The George Floyd Narrative. The incident that triggered the current BLM-lead uprising arose from the video of “the two faces, Officer Chauvin on top, George Floyd on the bottom, having Officer Chauvin’s knee on his neck. And the image of face — the expression on Officer Chauvin’s anger, dominating position, just in total control of the situation,”[xvi] as Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart (Ret.) described it. That description of the event and others like it underlie BLM’s outrage over the death of George Floyd. The characterization projected on Officer Chauvin (an angry dominator) may be accurate, but only Chauvin knows which of the many attitudes cast on him is correct. A projected attitude that cannot be disproven is that Officer Chauvin was calmly and professionally following his department’s protocol for dealing with a detainee suffering from positional asphyxia, i.e., Chauvin was not angry or domineering, but attempting to save the life “suffering the effects of a self-administered toxic overdose of fentanyl, a dangerously powerful synthetic painkiller signs of which ‘include severe respiratory depression, seizures, hypotension, coma and death.’ According to his toxicology report, Floyd had over three times the potentially lethal amount of fentanyl in his blood when he expired.”[xvii] The latest BLM uprising appears to have been predicated on a misdiagnosis of what happened when George Floyd died.
[ii] (Like so many other BLM webpages, the page that included that claim is no longer available.)
[iv] “How many unarmed blacks were killed by cops last year? 9. How many unarmed whites were killed by cops last year? 19,” [Larry Elder] tweeted Tuesday. “More officers are killed every year than are unarmed blacks…”
[vi] Id. @13:00
[viii] Id. @9:00