The High Cost of Radical Racialized Lies — Has the Ferguson Effect Gone National?

Protesters march in Ferguson, Mo., August 18, 2014. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

It turns out that lies have consequences. A movement that built itself on 2015’s “lie of the year” (as the Washington Post’s fact-checker labeled “hands up, don’t shoot”) and that sustained itself through an even bigger, bolder lie (that police have declared “open season” on black men) is not only dividing America, it may also be costing lives. According to recently released FBI figures, the very same year that the U.S. found itself embroiled in controversy over policing tactics, it has experienced a startling surge in murders — especially murders in major cities.

The numbers are dramatic. Nationally, murders jumped by 6.2 percent in the first half of 2015. To put that in perspective, if the number holds for the full year, it would represent the largest single-year increase in 25 years. In major cities, the numbers are even more startling. Murders in the nation’s 50 largest cities rose by almost 17 percent. That means 770 more people died in major cities in 2015 — again, the worst increase in 25 years.

While some are taking solace in the smaller reported overall increase in violent crimes — 1.7 percent — there is reason to believe that the murder rate is a more accurate measure of violent activity. As FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik noted, the murder count is “closely watched by criminologists both because of the seriousness of the crime and because they believe official murder counts are closer to the real numbers, and harder to fudge, than data for other categories of crime.”

RELATED: The Numbers Are In: Black Lives Matter Is Wrong about Police

Recall, this increase comes in the middle of a national debate over a so-called Ferguson effect, in which police — afraid of public controversy — are backing away from tactics that helped contribute to the massive and life-saving decline in the murder rate since the early Nineties. As FBI director James Comey said last October:

I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, “We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.”

I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.

He summed up the climate as causing “a chill wind” to blow through American law enforcement.

#share#It would be one thing if the “chill wind” was actually saving lives — actually ending the alleged “open season” on black men. But there is no “open season.” As a systematic Washington Post study found late last year, police shootings of unarmed black men (the inspiration for the Black Lives Matter movement) accounted for “less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.” In the overwhelming majority of cases, police used deadly force when they “were under attack or defending someone who was.” Moreover, the racial demographics of police shootings are largely in line with the demographics of violent crime.

RELATED: The Myth of Wanton Police Shootings Collapses Under the Weight of Facts

The massive, two-decade decline in the American murder rate was hard-earned. Cultural and faith-based efforts, public policy (including tough prison sentences), aggressive policing, and even — arguably — less exposure to lead combined to rescue our country from a dangerous spiral into lawlessness. Often overlooked is the black community’s 40 years of support for ever-tougher measures to save their kids and save their communities, including supporting tough anti-drug bills passed in the Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton administrations.

#related#How quickly we forget the lessons of the past. How quickly we squander the blessings of the present — all in the name of radical, divisive racial politics built on outright lies. One year does not a trend make, but it is certainly troubling that the largest increase in murders in a generation occurs at the very time when a radical political movement has not only captured the Democratic party, it is disproportionately affecting the front lines of the fight against crime.

It’s fashionable for white liberals to embrace black radicals — whether the Black Panthers in the Sixties or Ta-Nehisi Coates today. But in doing so, they’re turning their backs on the black Americans who often suffer the most — and who’ve fought hard to save their own streets. Reality is debunking the radical narrative. But how long before reality returns to urban politics?

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.


The Latest