Commentators on MSNBC and CNN have been shedding crocodile tears over Donald Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” and lamenting his failure to unify the country. This sudden concern for national unity is rather hard to take from the same worthies who have incessantly glorified the Black Lives Matter movement over the last year and a half.
Let’s dip into the rhetoric of a garden-variety Black Lives Matter march that I observed last October on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It featured “F**k the Police,” “Murderer Cops,” and “Racism Is the Disease, Revolution Is the Cure” T-shirts, “Stop Police Terror” signs, and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Racist Cops Have Got to Go” chants.
What about the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter leaders? Last October, DeRay Mckesson, one of the self-appointed spokesmen for Black Lives Matter, led a seminar at the Yale Divinity School, while his BLM ally, Johnetta Elzie (ShordeeDooWhop), tweeted about the proceedings. Mckesson (now running for mayor of Baltimore) had assigned an essay, “In Defense of Looting,” which justified the August 2014 Ferguson riots as “getting straight to the heart of the problem of the police, property, and white supremacy.” Elzie’s tweeted reporting on the class included “If you put me in a cage you’re damn right I’m going to break some glass” and “Looting for me isn’t violent, it’s an expression of anger.” (Let’s hope Baltimore residents do their homework before voting.)
How about presidential rhetoric? President Obama routinely claims that the police and the criminal-justice system treat blacks differently than whites — an allegation without any empirical support. Last October, he defended the Black Lives Matter movement on the ground that “there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that is not happening in other communities.” And might that “specific problem” be drive-by shootings, which happen virtually exclusively in black communities, mowing down innocent children and drawing disproportionate police presence? Of course not. Obama was referring to the alleged problem of racist cops’ mowing down black men. In fact, a police officer is two and a half times more likely to be killed by a black man than a black man is to be killed by a police officer. Blacks make up a lower percentage of victims of police shootings — 26 percent — than their astronomical violent-crime rates would predict. And the percentage of white and Hispanic homicide deaths from police shootings (12 percent) is much higher than the percentage of black homicide deaths from cop gunfire (4 percent).
#share#The rhetoric of Democratic presidential contenders is just as incendiary. Hillary Clinton says it’s a “reality” that cops see black lives as “cheap.” Bernie Sanders says the killing of unarmed black people by police officers has been going on “decade after decade after decade.” In fact, among the 36 “unarmed” black men killed by the police last year (compared with 31 unarmed white men), a large percentage had been trying to grab the officer’s gun, were pummeling the officer with his own equipment, or were otherwise so viciously fighting with the arresting officer as to legitimately put him in fear for his life.
To the mainstream media, Black Lives Matter’s claims and academic identity politics are not “divisive,” they are simple truth.
Black Lives Matter ideology, eagerly embraced by media and political elites, has created a volatile, dangerous atmosphere in urban areas when officers make an arrest. Bystanders curse, throw rocks and water bottles, and stick cell phones in officers’ faces. “Our authority is routinely challenged now,” a New York Police Department officer told me this weekend. Suspects’ resistance to arrest has become more frequent and more intense, increasing the odds than an officer will have to escalate his own use of force. Black Lives Matter hate-mongering has led to the assassination of cops and may be contributing to this year’s increase of cop ambushes.
Decades of academic rhetoric set the stage for the Black Lives Matter movement. Academia immerses students in the counterfactual propaganda that the world is divided between people enjoying white-male-heteronormative privilege and everyone else. Events such as New York University’s annual Ally Week reinforce the conceit that the student body is divided between, on one hand, the oppressed and their “allies,” and, on the other, their putative oppressors — i.e., everyone who can’t lay claim to membership in the two previous categories.
To the mainstream media, Black Lives Matter’s claims and academic identity politics are not “divisive,” they are simple truth. But if you don’t accept those truth claims — and the data refute them — the vitriolic anti-cop rhetoric of the last year and a half, and its underpinning in academic victimology, easily match the alleged divisiveness of anything that Trump has said.
— Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of the forthcoming The War on Cops.