The War on Cops, Part I
There was never a more appropriately named book than “The War on Cops” by Heather Mac Donald, published a few weeks ago, on the eve of the greatest escalation of that war by the ambush murders of five policemen in Dallas.
Nor is this war against the police confined to Dallas. It is occurring across the country. Who is to blame?
There is a ton of blame, more than enough to go around to the wide range of people and institutions that have contributed to these disasters. In addition to the murderers who have killed people they don’t even know, there are those who created the atmosphere of blind hatred in which such killers flourish.
Chief among those who generate this poisonous atmosphere are career race hustlers like Al Sharpton and racist institutions like the “Black Lives Matter” movement. All such demagogues need is a situation where there has been a confrontation where someone was white and someone else was black. The facts don’t matter to them.
The same is true of the more upscale, genteel and sophisticated race panderers, including the President of the United States. During his first year in the White House, Barack Obama chastised a white policeman over his handling of an incident with a black professor at Harvard – after admitting that he didn’t know the specific facts.
Nor did he know the specifics when he publicly announced that, if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon Martin. Are we to decide who is right and who is wrong on the basis of skin color? There was a long history of that in the days of the old Jim Crow South. Are we fighting against racism today or do we just want to put it under new management?
No one should imagine that any of this is helping the black community. The surge in murder rates across the country, in the wake of the anarchy unleashed after the Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore riots, has taken a wholly disproportionate number of black lives.
But, to the race hustlers, black lives don’t really matter nearly as much as their chance to get publicity, power, money, votes or whatever else serves their own interests.
The mainstream media play a large, and largely irresponsible, role in the creation and maintenance of a poisonous racial atmosphere that has claimed the lives of policemen around the country.
That same poisoned atmosphere has claimed the lives of even more blacks, who have been victims of violence by thugs and criminals who have had fewer restrictions as the police have pulled back, or have been pulled back, under political pressure.
The media provide the publicity on which career race hustlers thrive. It is a symbiotic relationship, in which turmoil in the streets gives the media something exciting to attract viewers. In return, the media give those behind this turmoil millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity to spread their poison.
It is certainly news when there is turmoil in the streets. But that is very different from saying that giving one-sided presentations at length of the claims of those who promote this turmoil makes sense.
The media have also actively promoted the anti-police propaganda by the way they present the news. This goes all the way back to the Rodney King riots of 1992. Television stations all across the country repeatedly played a selectively edited fraction of a videotape covering the encounter between the police and Rodney King, who had been stopped after a wild, high-speed chase.
The great majority of that video never saw the light of day on the TV networks that incessantly played the selectively edited fraction.
When the police were charged with excessive violence in overcoming Rodney King’s resistance to arrest, the jury saw the whole video – and refused to convict the policemen. That is when people who had seen only what the media showed them rioted after the jury verdict.
Today, the media keep repeating the mantra that there was a “peaceful demonstration,” even when it ends in violence. How many people have to die in “peaceful demonstrations” before the media admit that those who promote mob disruptions have to know what is likely to happen when you put mobs in the streets at night?
Mob rule is not democracy. It threatens democracy, as it threatens lives – black or white – and all lives should matter.
The War on Cops: Part II
Even in this age of runaway emotions, there are still some people who want to know the facts. Nowhere are facts more important, or more lacking, than in what has been aptly called “The War on Cops,” the title of a devastating new book by Heather Mac Donald.
Few, if any, of the most fashionable notions about the police, minorities and the criminal justice system can withstand an examination of hard facts. Yet those fashionable notions continue to dominate discussions in the media, in politics and in academia. But Ms. Mac Donald’s book of documented facts demolishes many fashionable notions.
Consider one of the big talking points of politicians and others who claim that the harsher penalties for people selling crack cocaine than for people selling powder cocaine show racism, since crack cocaine is more likely to be used by blacks.
The cold fact, however, is that black political and community leaders, back in the 1980s, spearheaded the drive for more severe legal penalties against those who sold crack cocaine. Black Congressman Charlie Rangel of Harlem was just one of those black leaders who urged these more severe penalties. So did the New York Times, the promoter of many crusades on the left.
Fast forward to the present, when both black leaders and the New York Times are blaming white racism for the more severe penalties for selling crack cocaine. If you want to see what they were saying back in the 1980s, check pages 154-159 of “The War on Cops.”
When the political winds change, politicians change. But that does not change the facts about what they said and did before.
As in her previous book, “Are Cops Racist?” Heather Mac Donald put hard facts front and center – and those facts devastate many a fashionable notion in the media, in politics and in academia.
One of the most popular arguments used in many different contexts is to show that blacks have been disproportionately represented among people stopped by police, arrested or imprisoned, as well as disproportionately represented among people turned down for mortgage loans or for other benefits.
Although many people regard these “disparate impact” statistics as evidence, or virtually proof, of racial discrimination, suppose that I should tell you that black basketball players are penalized by NBA referees out of all proportion to the 13 percent that blacks are in the American population.
“Wait a minute!” you might respond. “Blacks are more than just 13 percent of the players in the NBA.”
Black basketball players are several times more numerous than 13 percent of all NBA players. This is especially so among the star players, who are more likely to be on the floor, rather than sitting on the bench. And players on the floor most are the ones most likely to get penalized.
The difference between the percentage of blacks in the general population and the percentage of blacks in the particular activity being discussed is the key to the fraudulent use of “disparate impact” statistics in many other contexts.
Hillary Clinton, for example, decried a “disgrace of a criminal-justice system that incarcerates so many more African-Americans proportionately than whites.”
The most reliable crime statistics are statistics on murders, 52 percent of which were committed by blacks over the period from 1976 to 2005. If blacks are convicted of far more than 13 percent of all murders, does that mean that racism in the courts must be the reason?
On the benefits side, there was instant condemnation of mortgage lenders when statistics showed blacks being turned down for prime mortgage loans in 2000 at twice the rate that whites were turned down.
Seldom, if ever, did the media report that whites were turned down at nearly twice the rate that Asian Americans were turned down – or that Asian Americans’ average credit scores were higher than the average credit scores of whites, which were higher than the average credit scores of blacks.
Such facts would have spoiled the prevailing preconceptions. Many facts reported in “The War on Cops” spoil many notions that all too many people choose to believe. We need to stop this nonsense, before there is a race war that no one can win.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.