Founded on a Falsehood

From Jason L. Riley:

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect.

— Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

The great lie of the summer has been the Black Lives Matter movement. It was founded on one falsehood—that a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot a black suspect who was trying to surrender—and it is perpetuated by another: that trigger-happy cops are filling our morgues with young black men.

The reality is that Michael Brown is dead because he robbed a convenience store, assaulted a uniformed officer and then made a move for the officer’s gun. The reality is that a cop is six times more likely to be killed by someone black than the reverse. The reality is that the Michael Browns are a much bigger threat to black lives than are the police. “Every year, the casualty count of black-on-black crime is twice that of the death toll of 9/11,” wrote former New York City police detective Edward Conlon in a Journal essay on Saturday. “I don’t understand how a movement called ‘Black Lives Matter’ can ignore the leading cause of death among young black men in the U.S., which is homicide by their peers.”

Actually, it’s not hard to understand at all, once you realize that this movement is not about the fate of blacks per se but about scapegoating the police in particular, and white America in general, for antisocial ghetto behavior. It’s about holding whites to a higher standard than the young black men in these neighborhoods hold each other to. Ultimately, it’s a political movement, the inevitable extension of a racial and ethnic spoils system that helps Democrats get elected. The Black Lives Matter narrative may be demonstrably false, but it’s also politically expedient.

It’s the black poor—the primary victims of violent crimes and thus the people most in need of effective policing—who must live with the effects of these falsehoods. As the Black Lives Matter movement has spread, murder rates have climbed in cities across the country, from New Orleans to Baltimore to St. Louis and Chicago. The Washington, D.C., homicide rate is 43% higher than it was a year ago. By the end of August, Milwaukee and New Haven, Conn., both had already seen more murders than in all of 2014.

Publicly, law-enforcement officials have been reluctant to link the movement’s antipolice rhetoric to the spike in violent crime. Privately, they have been echoing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who said in a speech last week that the movement was harming the very people whose interests it claims to represent. “Most of the people who now live in terror because local police are too intimidated to do their jobs are black,” the governor said. “Black lives do matter, and they have been disgracefully jeopardized by the movement that has laid waste to Ferguson and Baltimore.”

Over a three-day stretch last week, the New York Times ran two heart-wrenching stories about black mothers of murdered children. Tamiko Holmes, a Milwaukee native, has seen two of her five children shot dead this year and a third wounded by gunfire. Sharon Plummer of Brooklyn lost a 16-year-old son on Aug. 30. He was gunned down while standing on a street corner two blocks away from where his 17-year-old brother was shot dead three years earlier. After the older child’s death, Ms. Plummer moved to a safer community, but the younger son repeatedly returned to the old neighborhood to hang out with friends. She didn’t move to escape predatory cops, which is what the Black Lives Matter activists would have us believe. Rather, she moved to protect her children from their predatory peers.

Asked recently about the increase in violent crime, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said what precious few public officials and commentators have been willing to say. He stated the obvious. “We have, unfortunately, a very large population of many young people who have grown up in an environment in which the . . . traditional norms and values are not there,” Mr. Bratton told MSNBC. The commissioner added that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report warning that the disintegration of the black family could lead to other social ills had proved prescient. “He was right on the money,” Mr. Bratton said, “the disintegration of family, the disintegration of values. There is something going on in our society and our inner cities.”

But the left has no interest in discussing ghetto pathology. Summer movies like “Straight Outta Compton” are too busy glorifying it, and summer books like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” are too busy intellectualizing it. The Black Lives Matter crowd has become an appendage of the civil-rights industry, which uses the black underclass to push an agenda that invariably leaves the supposed beneficiaries worse off.

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Moral Manipulation

From Jason Riley:

Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 is not Selma, Ala., in 1965. Black people in America today are much more likely to experience racial preferences than racial slights. The violent crime that is driving the black incarceration rate spiked after the civil-rights victories of the 1960s, not before. And if voter-ID laws threaten the black franchise, no one seems to have told the black electorate. According to the Census Bureau, the black voter-turnout rate in 2012 exceeded the white turnout rate, even in states with the strictest voter-ID requirements.

The socioeconomic problems that blacks face today have nothing to do with civil-rights barriers and nearly everything to do with a black subculture that rejects certain attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to upward mobility. Yet Mr. Obama has a political interest—and the civil-rights industry has a vested interest—in pretending that the opposite is true.

“Liberalism in the twenty-first century is, for the most part, a moral manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs,” writes the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele in “Shame,” his timely new book on political polarization and race relations in the U.S. This liberalism, he adds, is “not much interested in addressing discrimination case by case; rather, it assumes that all minorities and women are systematically discriminated against so that only government-enforced preferential policies for these groups—across the entire society—can bring us close to equity.”

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