American Elephants


Themes Loved by the Media, And the Consequences: by The Elephant's Child

If you inquire at Google about unarmed black men being shot by police, you will find that most newspapers in America seem to believe that it is an urgent crisis, young unarmed black men are being shot regularly by white policemen, and racism is sharply on the rise in the country. This piece from the Washington Post, dated August 8, 2015, is dramatic and typical, and remarkably biased.

Let’s examine a few facts. From a study from the American Enterprise Institute: (Do read the whole thing)

If you look beyond recent headlines about race in America, here is a surprising truth: Most black men in America are doing just fine. Most black men are not poor, most black men will not be incarcerated, most black men are gainfully employed, and most black men will marry.

Black men are CEOs of major corporations, Justices on the Supreme Court, Doctors, famous Movie Stars, Lawyers, Professors, Presidents, Inventors, and stars of every major sports team, they are Generals, authors, artists, and I’m pretty sure that most black women are doing just fine as well.

The Washington Post article linked above lists 17 ‘unarmed’ black men shot by police officers in 2015. Yet there were 990 people shot by police in 2015, in most cases armed and threatening. You have to read the numbers carefully, before coming to conclusions.

Here’s Heather MacDonald on the #Black Lives Matter movement, and what they miss about those police shootings, and the Washington Post data on fatal police shootings of civilians. Another article from MacDonald points out that there was a rise in violent crime beginning in the second half of 2014, up 76% in Milwaukee, 60% in St Louis, and 56% in Baltimore, and in most of America’s largest cities. Because of publicity about Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities, police officers were backing off from proactive policing in reaction to the hostility they were encountering in urban areas.

Officers had told me about being surrounded by angry, jeering crowds who cursed and threw water bottles and rocks at them when they tried to make an arrest. Suspects and bystanders stuck cell phones in officers’ faces and refused to comply with lawful orders. Officers were continuing to answer 911 calls with alacrity, but in that large area of discretionary policing—getting out of a squad car at 1 a.m., for example, to question someone who appears to have a gun or may be casing a target—many officers were deciding to simply drive on by rather than risk a volatile, potentially career-ending confrontation that they were under no obligation to instigate.

MacDonald called that “the Ferguson Effect,” and noted that applications to police academies were way down. Young men were not convinced that risking their lives daily to protect the American people was worth it if they were also going to face daily assaults and abuse from the people they were trying to protect.

In National Review, David French recalls the time when it was dangerous to walk outside at night, and black leaders called for a crackdown on crime. And  he notes the dramatic change in New York City when Rudy Giuliani instituted a program of “broken windows policing” and the cops began to see their jobs as preventing crime rather than just solving crimes. The crime wave broke.

And he turns to an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, which sees mass incarceration as consistent with America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow. Coates rejects messages that call for personal responsibility, pays no attention to black voices who cry for safety and justice in their own communities and focuses entirely on white supremacy, plunder and oppression.

To add to the problems of policing, we need to consider the “Butterfield Fallacy.” It is rooted in ideological prejudice. Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The ‘fallacy’ consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. When you put more bad guys in prison, crime goes down. This illusion is back in full effect today.

Those on the Left disapprove of sending people to prison because they think it is racially discriminatory. Yet more crimes are committed by black men.

In the upcoming election, Democrats are worried that black Americans who came out so strongly to vote for the first black president, may well not turn out so enthusiastically for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It may be merely a coincidence that #Black Lives Matter and the activists who turned out to stir up violence and protest in Ferguson and Baltimore were turned out along with Occupy activists to rouse up racial protests on American campuses where many young people will be voting for the first time.  And wherever there is an opportunity to rouse up racial animus, #Black Lives Matter is right there. If it is a coincidence, it’s an interesting one.

exjon_racial_healing_12-17-15


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