We have not yet learned the identity of the militant radicals who, in a patently coordinated attack targeting Dallas police, have killed five cops and wounded at least six others. I am thus sympathetic to the cautions against jumping to conclusions – to the notion that the Black Lives Matter protest that was the setting for the attack was hijacked by, as opposed to an abettor of, the militants.
That said, President Obama has wasted no time politicizing the attack. From Poland this morning, he punctuated his remarks praising the heroism and sacrifice of police, with the familiar demagoguery: We all need to be concerned about “racial disparity in the justice system” (as if there were no drastic racial disparities in offense behavior, and therefore that the police discriminate against African-Americans in enforcing the laws); and of course, “When people are armed with powerful weapons, it makes attacks more deadly and more tragic” (as if the real problem here is guns rather than radical ideology).
In light of the president’s statements, some clarity is in order. Thankfully, we have Heather Mac Donald’s essential new book, The War on Cops (Encounter Books, 2016):
In the summer of 2014, as we have seen, a lie overtook significant parts of the country and grew into a kind of mass hysteria. That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans— indeed, that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today. Several subsidiary untruths buttress that central myth: that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks; that there is no such thing as a black underclass; and that crime rates are comparable between blacks and whites, so that disproportionate police action in minority neighborhoods cannot be explained without reference to racism. The poisonous effect of these lies manifested itself in the cold-blooded assassination of two NYPD officers in December that year.
The highest reaches of American society promulgated those untruths and participated in the mass hysteria. President Barack Obama, speaking after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, declared that blacks were right to believe that the criminal-justice system was often stacked against them. Obama repeated that message as he traveled around the country subsequently. Eric Holder escalated a long-running theme of his tenure as U.S. attorney general: that the police routinely engaged in racial profiling and needed federal intervention to police properly.
University presidents rushed to show their fealty to the lie. Harvard’s Drew Gilpin Faust announced that “injustice” toward black lives “still thrives so many years after we hoped we could at last overcome the troubled legacy of race in America. . . . Harvard and . . . the nation have embraced [an] imperative to refuse silence, to reject injustice.” Smith College’s president abjectly flagellated herself for saying that “all lives matter,” instead of the current mantra, “black lives matter.” Her ignorant mistake, she confessed, drew attention away from “institutional violence against Black people.” The New York Times ratcheted up its already-stratospheric level of anti-cop polemics. In an editorial justifying the Ferguson riots …, the Times claimed that “the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.” In reality, however, police killings of blacks are an extremely rare feature of black life and a minute fraction of black homicide deaths. Blacks are killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. To cite more data on this point: in 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop-killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only about 13 percent of the nation’s population. Little over a quarter of all homicides by police involve black victims….
Meanwhile, protests and riots against the police were gathering force across the country, all of them steeped in anti-cop vitriol and the ubiquitous lie that “black lives” don’t “matter” to the police. “What do we want? Dead cops,” chanted participants in a New York anti-cop protest. Two public defenders from the Bronx participated in a rap video extolling cop-killings. Few people in positions of authority objected to this dangerous hatred. The desire to show allegiance with allegedly oppressed blacks was too great. The thrill of righteousness was palpable among the media as they lovingly chronicled every protest and among politicians and thought leaders who expressed solidarity with the cause. At another march across the Brooklyn Bridge, a group of people tried to throw trash cans onto the heads of officers on the level below them; police attempts to arrest the assailants were fought off by other marchers….
Protesters’ willingness to overlook anti-cop homicidal intent surfaced again in St. Louis in November. A teen criminal who had shot at the police was killed by an officer in self-defense; he, too, joined the roster of heroic black victims of police racism. This sanctification of black aspiring cop-killers would prove prophetic. It’s profoundly irresponsible to stoke hatred of the police, especially when the fuel used for doing so is a set of lies. Hatred of the police among blacks stems in part from police brutality during this country’s shameful era of Jim Crow laws and widespread discrimination. But it is naïve not to recognize that criminal members of the black underclass despise the police because law enforcement interferes with their way of life. The elites are oblivious both to the extent of lawlessness in the black inner city and to its effect on attitudes toward the cops. Any expression of contempt for the police, in their view, must be a sincere expression of aggrievement.
Cop-killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who assassinated NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on December 20, 2014, exemplified everything the elites have refused to recognize as the antipolice crusade marches on: he was a gun-toting criminal who was an eager consumer of the current frenzy of cop-hatred. (Not that he paid close enough attention to the actual details of alleged police malfeasance to spell Eric Garner’s name correctly.) His homicidal postings on Instagram—“ I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 of Ours . . . Let’s Take 2 of Theirs”— were indistinguishable from the hatred bouncing around the Internet and the protests that few bothered to condemn. That vitriol continued after the assassination. Social media filled up with gloating at the officers’ deaths and praise for Brinsley….
Did Black Lives Matter participate in this pre-planned mass-murder operation? We don’t yet know who executed this attack, and we must wait for details, which should be forthcoming soon enough. But to suggest that lethal attacks on the police are not made more likely by the hateful anti-cop climate stoked by Black Lives Matter — with the indulgence and often the encouragement of government officials and opinion elites — is to be detached from reality.