Police officers have been getting a bum rap lately. During the Ferguson fiasco liberals created a false narrative about racist cops, a myth they have perpetuated since. Jason Riley, senior editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal, wrote about this false narrative in the January 2015 issue of Imprimis. Author of the new book, Please Stop Helping Us, the distinguished journalist who happens to be black wrote: “The shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri touched off a national discussion about everything except the aberrant behavior of so many young black men that results in such frequent encounters with police. We talked about racial prejudice, poverty, unemployment, profiling, the tensions between law enforcement and poor black communities, and so forth. Rarely did we hear any discussions of black crimes rates.”
In his article for Imprimis, Riley put his finger squarely on why I think cops are getting a bum rap. But before getting more deeply into the issue of the false narrative being promulgated by liberals with an agenda, a few caveats are in order. First, I acknowledge that there are racist cops, although it must be said that not all racist cops are white. Bad cops come in all races. However, I believe that racist cops—regardless of their race—represent a small minority of the nation’s overall police force. Second, I am an advocate of community policing. However, although this strategy can help relieve tension between police officers and black citizens, it will not solve the problem of black crime in America. In fact, the issue of black crime in America will never be effectively dealt with until we can have an honest dialogue about it. And therein is the rub. As things now stand, the myth of racist cops is being controlled by people who benefit from perpetuating the false narrative that currently prevails—people such as Al Sharpton and his supporters in the mainstream media.
Any honest dialogue concerning the racist cop myth must begin with some hard facts about black crime in America that liberals demand be ignored. In fact, just bringing up the issue of black crime in America is sure to get one labeled a racist in today’s politically-correct social environment, regardless of the race of the individual who raises the issue. Ironically, although Jason Riley is black and one of the most distinguished journalists in America, he is just as likely to be labeled a racist for straying from liberal orthodoxy on black crime as are people of other races. In fact, the issue of black crime and other problems in the black community taken together comprise a political mine field for people who—unlike paternalistic liberals—would really like to see life improved for black Americans. But Riley cares enough to present the hard facts that all Americans—liberals of all races—must understand and accept if we are ever going to make progress on racial issues in this country.
Riley walks courageously into the political minefield of crime, drugs, entitlement, fatherless families, and other destructive issues in the black community—most of them self-inflicted—in his book Please Stop Helping Us and in his article for Imprimis. As a white journalist, my thoughts on these issues will simply be dismissed by liberals as the racially biased rants of a member of the “great right-wing conspiracy.” Although they are likely to label Jason Riley in the same way, in truth it is harder for liberals to simply dismiss the thoughts of such a distinguished journalist who happens to be black. Consequently, the facts about black crime contained in this column come from Riley’s article. Using a distinguished journalist who is black and who obviously cares about the plight of black Americans as my source is not likely to change the minds of fact-averse liberals, but it might influence others who have open minds on these issues and would like to see black Americans improve the quality of their lives. Here are some of the hard facts from Riley’s article in Imprimis:
- The leading cause of death for young black men in America is homicide and 90 percent of these deaths are black-on-black crime. Clearly it is not police officers who are killing young black men. Further, police officers are six times more likely to be killed by a black person than they are to kill one. This is why police officers—including black officers—tend to view young black men with suspicion. They would be unwise not to. Granted this can lead to inconvenient encounters between police and young black men who are not criminals, but the blame for this unfortunate circumstance lies with those who create the perception of young black men as criminals, not with those who develop this perception on the basis of experience.
- Blacks commit a disproportionate number of the crimes in America. Blacks comprise approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for almost 50 percent of the murders. Further, the arrest rate for blacks for such crimes as aggravated assault, robbery, and property damage is more than two times their representation in the population. Once again, this tendency to commit a disproportionate number of crimes is why police officers often approach young black men with suspicion and even trepidation. Experience is the most effective teacher known to man, and police officers should not be criticized for learning from experience.
- Liberals want to blame the disproportionate involvement of blacks in crime on poverty and racial bias. But even a cursory glance at the facts belies this assertion. If crime was caused by poverty, all poor people of all races would be criminals. Since this is hardly the case in the population in general or within the black community, the high crime rate among blacks cannot be blamed on poverty. But what about racial bias? This assertion fails to explain the data either. In the 1940s and 50s when the racial bias and discrimination of Jim Crow were at their peak, the crime rate among blacks was much lower than it is now. Further, black poverty was much more prevalent in the bad old days of Jim Crow, yet black crime was significantly lower than it is now in the age of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, integration, and voting rights for all. In fact, the highest crime rates in America occur in cities governed by black public officials, including black mayors and police chiefs.
In his article for Imprimis, Jason Riley quotes the late Harvard professor, William Stuntz, on the issue of black crime in America. Stuntz said: “High rates of black violence in the 20th century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination. The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments.”
I will give Jason Riley the last word on this subject: “Liberal elites would have us deny what black ghetto residents know to be the truth. These communities aren’t dangerous because of racist cops or judges or sentencing guidelines. They’re dangerous mainly due to black criminals preying on black victims. But pointing this out has become almost taboo. How can we even begin to address problems if we won’t discuss them honestly?”