The #BlackLivesMatter movement has a message. It is a message they are so desperate for you to hear that they have recently shutdown an anniversary celebration of Medicare and Social Security for you to hear it, even if that meant physically bullying 73-year old Bernie Sanders off the stage. Their message is, primarily, that the police are a threat to the African American community
It is not a new message, of course. As Marco Rubio said, “It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country, there has been for a number of years now a growing resentment toward how the law enforcement and criminal justice system interacts with the community.”
As a member of that African American community, I am well aware of this resentment and of the tension between my community and the police. In fact, I am reminded of a conversation with a friend, an African-born NJ college professor, who told me of an informal experiment he likes to conduct. He would have a White student lay in the backseat of his Audi while he drove through one of NJ’s very wealthy neighborhoods. He said he would do so to show how inevitably and how quickly a police officer would find a reason to pull him over for questioning. According to him, this experiment has never failed to produce the predicted results. This experiment is never conducted with a Black student because there would be little point. Blacks almost always already assume that even a well-dressed Black in a nice car driving through a wealthy neighborhood would be stopped by the police.
Along with this resignation, and largely because of it, there is an anti-police sentiment within the African American community, further poisoning the relationship between police officers and African Americans. Our very culture helps cultivates this hostility. Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example, recently recounted that growing up he saw the police as just another force “with no real moral difference from the crews and the gangs and the packs of folks who dispensed violence throughout the neighborhood.” And Mychal Denzel Smith even argues that the police should be abolished, thinking that, “a world without police” would result in “less dead Black people.”
In fact, the most popular movie in the U.S. as I write this is Straight Outta Compton, based on the release of the album of the same name, by rap group NWA. In one of the hit songs on the album, F*** Tha Police, the group, or at least the personas the group created to appeal to their audience, complains about harassment from the Los Angeles police department because of their skin color. Ice Cube states, “F*** the police coming straight from the underground. A young n*gger got it bad cause I’m brown. And not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”
Yet in the titular song of the album they – in their personas – boast of such things as using a sawed-off shotgun, “jack moves,” and having “a crime record like Charles Manson.” Based on that it seems as though NWA is pointing out very strongly that they have reason to have it bad from the LAPD based on much more than their skin color.
Racism alone can not be used to explain the often tense relationship between the police and the largely African American inner city community, not when three of the police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray are themselves Black, or when even Jesse Jackson himself stated, “There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
People like NJ Senator Cory Booker often complain about “a prison system that is 61 percent African-American even though our state is just 13 percent black.” But rarely, if ever, do they mention the reason that African Americans are in prison at such high percentages is because African Americans commit a higher percentage of crimes. Despite being just roughly 14% percent of the population, Blacks are responsible for 52% of homicides overall, and 66% of drug-related homicides.
Furthermore, rarely, if ever, will those who bemoan such things as the percentage of Blacks incarcerated mention that almost all of the crimes committed by these prisoners were against other Black people. Despite the impression one would get from reading Conservative blogs, with their incessant postings about “Black thugs,” Black crime — like all crime — is nearly exclusively intraracial. 93% of the Black murderers imprisoned murdered other Blacks, 74.8% of the Black rapists rape Black women. And 68.3% of the Blacks robbed are robbed by Blacks as well.
There are many times when the police overstep badly in their interactions with the African American community. It is for this reason that I am a strong supporter of dash-cams, body cams, and any other measure to monitor and temper those interactions. As John Adams once said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Police officers are not angels.
However, when I read the demands of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which say “we will advocate for a decrease in law-enforcement spending at the local, state and federal levels” and “that the federal government discontinue its supply of military weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement,” it puzzles me. If the vast majority of crime is intraracial, if the overwhelmingly majority of Black crime victims are victimized by Blacks, then who are activists seeking to protect by demanding softer law enforcement against Blacks? If Black lives matter, then Blacks need more and better policing so that Black lives can be protected from the Black predators that would otherwise prey upon them.