Politics & Policy

Black Lives Matter Puts Feelings First, Evidence Last

Black Lives Matter supporter in St. Paul, Minn., July 7, 2016. (Eric Miller/Reuters)
Our leaders have opted for sympathy instead of action.

As the families of slain police officers in Dallas, Texas, prepared for the burials of their loved ones, America’s top politicians from both sides of the aisle came to a consensus. They decided that the solution to racial tensions — tensions that have now resulted in the mass shooting of white police officers, as well as a dramatically escalating murder rate in America’s largest cities — was to talk about feelings.

Yes, feelings.

Not a culture of crime in minority areas of America’s major cities. Not the hamstringing of police by the Department of Justice, or the nasty, politically driven coverage of yet-to-be-investigated police shootings by the media.

No, said our politicians. We had to discuss coming together in a sort of national group-therapy session.

Naturally, America’s group-therapy leader, President Obama, led the way. After two videos surrounding police shootings went viral — one showing the shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, the second, the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota — Obama leapt to the airwaves to declare, without evidence, that such shootings were not merely “isolated incidents.” No, Obama explained — they were more. “They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal-justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve,” Obama stated, ignoring the fact that such statistical disparities are largely due to higher rates of crime among some racial subgroups.

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Obama concluded, holding the conch: “All Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling — feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils. Michelle and I share those feelings. Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better.”

Except that Obama offered no solutions. Because advocates of feelings over facts never do. They believe that merely acknowledging feelings, justifying them, and excusing them allows them to wash their hands of the problem entirely.

It’s not just Obama. On the right side of the aisle, Newt Gingrich declared, “If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.” Senator Marco Rubio stated: “Those of us who are not African American will never fully understand the experience of being black in America. . . . How they feel is a reality that we cannot and should not ignore.”

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But if the political goal is to alleviate feelings of discrimination, no end point can ever be reached so long as a disproportionate number of black people end up in prison. And a disproportionate number of black people end up in prison not because of discrimination in the criminal-justice system, but because a disproportionate number of black people commit crimes.

Obama, Gingrich, and Rubio all prize offering sympathy over help; crediting the unjustified feeling that there is pervasive bias in the criminal-justice system means making evidence secondary to perceptions. In the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., a large majority of black Americans felt that Officer Darren Wilson was guilty of murder in August 2015. They were wrong. But according to our political leaders, such feelings ought to be granted the patina of legitimacy.

This isn’t leadership. It’s moral cowardice.

#share#There are only two real solutions to ending tension between black communities and the police. First, the police could withdraw from black communities entirely. That would end the problem of confrontations, but it would also result in a tremendous uptick in crime. That’s beginning to happen now, as Heather Mac Donald has documented in what she calls the “Ferguson effect”: Violent crime, up to and including murder, is skyrocketing in America’s major cities, and especially in minority areas.

Second, the police could actually solve the crime problem. That would require more police presence, not less.

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In the short term, more police presence could exacerbate conflict with members of minority communities, of course. That’s because policing in high-crime areas is necessarily more abrasive and aggressive — if you place men and women in blue at higher risk of danger, then they’re significantly more likely to get rough with those they confront.

But it is also possible that more police deployed to high-crime areas would tamp down racial confrontations. As Jill Loevy, of the Los Angeles Times — a liberal herself — writes, “It may seem paradoxical, but the police tactics that protesters have recently denounced as harassment and discrimination actually overcompensate for what is, in essence, a weak police presence in these neighborhoods.”

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In the long term, there is no choice but to increase police presence. In order for high-crime areas to become places of investment and safety — in order to tamp down the need for more policing — the source of crime must be removed: criminals. And there is only one group in America empowered with the ability to remove criminals from high-crime communities, no matter how much locals may feel uncomfortable about it: the cops.

#related#Over the course of American history, population groups in which crime is concentrated have routinely come into conflict with the police — and, as their crime rate has lowered, so have their adversarial relations with law enforcement. Lowering the crime rate in particular areas has generally occurred through those areas’ advancing economically, or through population movement. But America’s current high-crime areas are short on economic opportunity and mobility thanks to intergenerational legacies of single motherhood and crime. That leaves just one option: cleaning up the streets as they currently stand.

But that’s precisely the option foreclosed by the Black Lives Matter evidence-last, feelings-first racialism we’re now hearing from our loudest and most prominent voices.

And that, in turn, means more black Americans will die. More cops will die, too, as they’re forced to try to handle crime while understaffed and overburdened. And the drumbeat of criticism will continue, because it’s always easier for politicians to tell you they feel your pain than to give you solutions that may hurt.

Mr. Shapiro is the host of the podcast The Ben Shapiro Show, the editor emeritus of The Daily Wire, and the author of How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps and The Right Side of History.


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