There is an aphorism that I find helpful when deciding what to focus my time and energy on. It’s the expression: “Pick your battles.” In my mind, it basically means you shouldn’t get caught up in minor conflicts and should focus on the “big picture” objective you are trying to achieve. You want to focus your time and energy on things that will most effectively achieve your overall goal.
I see something similar happening with white “liberals” and black “civil rights” groups that express concern over the “problem” of unjustified killings of black men by police. Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But, I suspect that the vast majority of cops are hard-working professionals. Are black men sometimes shot by police without legal justification? I’m sure that also happens. Everyone agrees that the unjustified killing of people in America, and the world, should be reduced to zero. But, what is the most effective method of achieving that goal? And, what does it reveal about a political movement when they seem unable or unwilling to recognize the most effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people?
The “Black Lives Matter” web site is fairly short on specifics, in terms of what their goals are. They make a lot of claims but they back few of those claims up. For instance at “http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/” we are told:
“How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.
How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.
How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.
How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.
How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.
How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.” (see http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016)
I couldn’t find any actual proof on the web site to back up any of these assertions. The biggest “head-scratcher” for me was: “How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.” Exactly what wars and conflicts are they talking about? What do they mean black girls are used as “negotiating chips”?
The Black Lives Matter web site does discuss why they were formed:
“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.…#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. ” (See http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
There are numerous dubious assertions made here, but I’ll focus on the last one. The assertion that black people are “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The assertion here isn’t just that black people are accidentally or unintentionally being killed due to certain bad government policies. An example of an unintentional death due to bad government policy would be something like this: The state highway commission passes a regulation requiring roads to be made out of a certain type of asphalt, and it turns out that asphalt is more likely to cause cars to skid off the road and wreck.
“Black Lives Matters” is asserting that black people are being “…systematically and intentionally…” murdered -intentionally killed without justification. Since “Black Lives Matters” tends to focus on black people who die while interacting with the police, which is why they tend to use terms like “state violence” and “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police”, it is the assertion that black people are intentionally targeted by police for murder.
To be clear, intentional murder by the state has happened before. It happened during the “rein of terror” in post-revolutionary France in the late 1700’s. It happened during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 when forced collectivization of farms by Stalin killed millions. It happened in Rwanda when the Hutu-controlled government ordered the slaughter of ethnic Tutsis in 1994. But are black people being “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise…” by one of the fifty states or by the Federal government? It seems highly unlikely, and I think the burden of proof lies with “Black Lives Matter” on that assertion, and they haven’t met their burden of proof. It sounds more like a “conspiracy theory” than reality.
The belief that the major problem facing black people in America is the death of black men during law-enforcement encounters has led to the rise of an associated “Black Lives Matter” group, “Campaign Zero”. (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/, last accessed 9-5-2016; see also, http://reason.com/blog/2015/08/21/black-lives-matter-activists-release-pol, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
This group says:
“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America. Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless “quality of life” behaviors or mental health crises. This year is no different. There have only been fifteen days this year when the police have not killed somebody. Last month alone, the police killed 100 people. This must stop. We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country.” (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/problem/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
This group offers the following policy solutions:
(1) End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses
(2) Community Oversight
(3) Limit Use of Force
(4) Indepenently Investigate and Prosecute
(5) Community Representation
(6) Body Cams/Film the Police
(8) End for-profit Policing
(10) Fair Police Union Contracts (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/#solutionsoverview, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Without going over all of these policy solutions in detail, I will note that some of them are worthy of consideration. For instance, requiring police officers to wear body cameras could be useful for both the officer and the civilians the officer encounters. However, there is clearly an issue of cost involved. Body cameras cost money, and the government’s funds are limited. So, the question is this: Is it worth the cost? Are we as taxpayers prepared to pay for body cameras for all police officers? Is this the best use of that money? I do not know the answer to this question, and this is why we have legislatures to help make a determination as to how to spend limited taxpayer money in a way that most effectively achieves the goals of government.
Is the major problem facing black people today the fact that some black males are killed by police? Even assuming for the sake of argument that some police officers are committing murder and intentionally killing black men for no legally justifiable reason, is this the major problem facing black people today?
This question is important to ask because, as I’ve alluded to already, resources are limited. Given the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people, is the best use of time, money, and energy, on things like additional training of police officers in use of force and not to engage in racial profiling when they pull black people over on the road? If we spend money on things like body cameras for cops will that most effectively reduce the number of unjustified black killings in America, given our government’s limited funds? How are most black people who are illegally killed in America killed? Is it at the hands of cops or someone else?
First, we should ask the following question: How many people are killed during a law enforcement encounter? The government tries to collect these statistics:
“After the passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began collecting data on deaths that occurred in the process of arrest.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
“From 2003 through 2009, BJS obtained reports on 4,813 such deaths through its Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program. About 3 in 5 of these deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel. The remaining 2 in 5 deaths were attributed to other manners, including suicide (11%), intoxication deaths (11%), accidental injury (6%), and natural causes (5%). In three-quarters (75%) of homicides by law enforcement personnel, the underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Since 2,931 deaths from 2003 to 2009 during an “arrest” were homicides by law enforcement, this means that approximately 489 people per year were killed by police over 6 years, where the killing was a “homicide”. A “homicide” is not necessarily an unlawful killing. Killing someone in self-defense is classified as a “homicide”, and it appears that these statistics include both legally justified and unjustified killings by police. (The “…three-quarters…of homicides…underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense…” language suggest this.) But, even assuming that all of these homicides were unjustified police killings, that is 489 killings of people (of all races) per year by cops.
Lets compare these 489 killings per year, of people of all races, by cops to the murder statistics.
In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls,last accessed 9-5-2016.)
Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the 489 persons per year killed by cops from 2003 through 2009 were black, and also assume that all of those 489 persons per year were illegally killed by a cop, as opposed to a police shooting in self-defense or pursuant to the cop’s legal right to enforce the law. How does that compare to the fact that in 2013, 2,245 black people were murdered by another black person? 2,245 divided by 489 equals 4.59. A black person is at least 4.59 times more likely to be murdered by another black person than he is to be unjustifiably killed by a cop. (Keep in mind, it’s actually much higher, since I made the “generous” assumption that all of those 489 people per year killed by cops between 2003 and 2009 are black and that all of those killings were unjustified.)
If you were betting on a team that was almost 5 times more likely to win than another team, you’d want to put your money on that team. It would be foolish to spend a lot of money betting on the team that is 5 times more likely to loose, and if you did so, people would question your motives and rationality.
So, why do “Black Lives Matters”, and white “liberals”, focus so much time and energy on the much less likely incidence of unjustified killings by cops rather than the much more likely incidence of unjustified killings of black people by other black people? I have a few possible theories:
(1) They are unintelligent. They simply cannot see the truth because they aren’t very good at making logical connections. There is no shame in this. Some people are just smarter than others.
(2) They are ignorant of the facts. They simply haven’t studied the issue in sufficient detail or have never been presented with the evidence. There is no shame in this, as long as one is willing to continue learning. Nobody is omniscient, and it’s impossible to know everything.
(3) They are irrational. They are deliberately, mentally, evading facts and refusing to make logical connections because it satisfies their unexamined and unquestioned emotional whims. There is great shame in this. Irrationality is a major vice. (It’s actually the major vice, but that is for another time.)
(4) Their actual goal isn’t reducing the number of black people unjustifiably killed. (This is actually just another version of theory #3.) Their goal is to find a scapegoat for the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of crime being committed by black people, and that most of that crime is aimed at other, peaceful, law-abiding, and respectable, black people. It’s a way for the “civil rights” movement to divert the attention of law-abiding and good black people onto something other than the fact that they are the victims of crime primarily at the hands of members of their own race. It’s also a way for white “liberals” to focus their attention and outrage on something that is more “politically correct” than the fact that black people commit a disproportionate amount of the crime in America, and that most of that crime is aimed at other black people.
I hasten to add, that with any group or movement, especially one with ill-defined goals and methodology like “Black Lives Matter”, different people within that movement can have different reasons for being involved. That means these theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The movement can be made up of some mixture of people with mental states and goals that match all four of my theories above. It’s also possible there are other reasons, that better explain the facts, and I just haven’t thought of them. (I am certainly open to suggestions.)
A person’s time, money, and energy is limited. He or she should pick a cause that maximizes his or her goal. If your goal is truly to reduce the number of black people being unjustifiably killed, then you should focus most of your time, money, and energy on reducing black on black crime like murder.
How do we best reduce the number of black people being murdered by other members of their own race? I don’t have all of the answers, but I suspect many of them are not political solutions, which is probably why politicians don’t like to spend too much time on the subject –they cannot even appear to be doing anything to solve it if the problem must come from within the “hearts and minds” of individuals in society.
Some possible solutions that I see are:
(1) Ending the cycle of dependence and single-motherhood caused by the welfare state. That means ending welfare and requiring people to live with the consequences of their own choices, or to seek private charity if they truly are impoverished through not fault of their own.
(2) Changing attitudes about sex and birth control. Both the “left” and the “right” have some solutions that make sense on this front. (I also think both political groups share blame when it comes to educating young people about sex and when to have it, but that is for another time.) Young women should be encouraged to use birth control if they are going to have sex. (The “liberal solution”.) However, young women should also be encouraged to be more selective regarding the men that they sleep with, and to only have children with men they are married to. (The “conservative solution.”) If young unmarried women do have accidental pregnancies they should be encouraged to either (a) have an abortion, or (b) give the baby up for adoption. Although it is the subject of debate, it appears that there is a connection between being raised by a young single mother and becoming a criminal later in life. (See http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-real-complex-connection-between-single-parent-families-and-crime/265860/ ) It would also seem to make sense that a young boy without a reliable father-figure to model himself on is going to be more likely to make bad choices.
(3) Encouraging young men and young women to educate themselves and to instill “bourgeoisie” values of hard work and thrift.
There are others possible solutions I can think of, but that’s not really the focus here. I also tend to think that inner cities need more police patrolling, not less. But, I am uncertain. I suspect, but cannot currently prove, that a large portion of people, both black and white, are murdered by a friend or family member, and I don’t know how much additional police presence in inner cities is going to change that.
It’s not entirely clear in my own mind how to reduce the unjustified killing of black people by other black people, but it is clear to me that focusing on the relatively low occurrence of unjustified police killings of black people in America is an effort to direct attention away from a much bigger problem. The title of the blog entry is a reference to George Orwell’s short novel “Animal Farm”. At the end of it, the pigs who have taken over the farm declare that while “All animals are equal”, as the revolution had initially declared, “…some animals are more equal than others.” “Black Lives Matter” activists apparently believe that the lives of people like Michael Brown matter more more to the “civil rights” movement and white “liberals” than the lives of people like Jamyla Bolden, and there are a lot more of the later than the former.