“Every year, approximately 6,000 blacks are murdered in the United States. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined … Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined …. Who is killing them? Not the police … but other blacks …. Blacks of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.” — Heather MacDonald, Fellow, the Manhattan Institute.
“There is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police.” — Heather MacDonald
Since it began in 2013, as a social media movement of three black women urging that “young queer women (I will explain the significance of this later) play a role in the movement,” Black Lives Matter has enjoyed a virtual fireworks celebration of media attention. U.S. media outlets have elevated it into a national crisis—an implied genocide—implicating police law-enforcement action resulting in the death of a Black individual.
Turmoil has followed: riots, violent protests, and the assassination of police officers. Black Lives Matter and the media, in synchrony, have dealt a blow to the effectiveness of American law enforcement and thereby let loose a crime wave now engulfing innocent black men, women, and children.
An evasion of reality on the scale required to greet “Black Lives Matter” as a crusade for justice is possible only via philosophy. Call that philosophy “postmodernism,” “neo-Marxism,” or “the New-New Left”: it now pervades American colleges and universities and has yielded an “intellectual elite” graduated into the media, politics on all levels, and society at large.
Is it the nature of genuinely radical dissent—not dissent by groupie ‘radicals’ seeking ‘belonging’ in popular protests, but radical in terms of fundamental principles—that an individual must stand virtually alone against the “militant consensus of agreement”—the righteous orthodoxy of the era? In our time, philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand alone battered the philosophical foundations of both liberalism and conservativism. Ludwig von Mises stood astride the boulevard along which marched the Keynesian economic-policy parade. Historian Forrest MacDonald, writing his doctoral dissertation, brought down Charles Beard’s Marxist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Lowell B. Mason revealed the grotesque non-objective law wielded by anti-trust advocates to jail America’s leading businessmen for the crime of being too successful.
Heather MacDonald, who last year published The War on Cops: How the Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, is not, thankfully, alone in opposing the virtual conspiracy of media and academia to blame the shocking U.S. African-American culture of homicide on police officers. But in her focus on this topic, her depth of documentation, her moral confidence, her eloquence in print and at the lectern—and, above all, her desperate empathy with Black victims gunned down day after day—she stands alone on a height.
This article might appear to be my views on Black Lives Matter, but it has been shaped not only by my philosophical perspective and my reading of current news reports, but by the research and ideas of MacDonald.
Heather Lynn MacDonald, born in California, enjoyed the schooling of the New England intellectual elite. She graduated from Philip Academy in Andover, MA, in 1974; from Yale University (Berkeley College) in 1978; and, after a year at Cambridge, from Stanford Law School in 1985.
She could have been making a fortune at a Manhattan law firm or becoming a multi-millionaire as corporate counsel to Goldman Sachs or be president of the Ford Foundation or President Obama’s Attorney General. Instead, she is a non-practicing lawyer who has cast her lot with an extraordinary think-tank, the Manhattan Institute, where she is a John M. Olin Fellow and contributing editor to America’s most innovative and influential periodical of urban public policy, City Journal.
MacDonald is focused on justice. Her books, articles, editorials, and talks have justice as their theme. That her writing against the “right” to welfare, her defense of “profiling” in national security, her warning against impacts of unlimited immigration—or her decades-long focus on the scapegoating of “cops” for the black crime wave—are consistently in direct opposition to the “politically correct,” is a condemnation not of her work, but of the corruption of the concept of “justice” in our time.
On Friday, January 20, the United States inaugurated a new President. In the last days of the presidency of Barrack Obama, the headlines have hailed a U. S. Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police Department. The conclusions are grim and damning, finding in the department a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional police conduct. Not just occasional, outlying violations, but enough to recommend that the Department of Justice on an emergency basis take over supervision of the Chicago police.
Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined …. Who is killing them? Not the police … but other blacks.
Given hundreds of thousands of police actions filed each year in Chicago, and assuming there will be instances of misconduct—and at times, egregious behavior—don’t we need a standard by which to conclude there is a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional behavior justifying emergency supervision of this Department?
On this point, if no other, the report is definitive: No. The DOJ lawyers explain that “no statistical evidence” or even “specific number of incidents” are required. Surprisingly, their sole justification for that claim is citation of a court case on a distantly related matter.
The report, and accompanying “fact sheet,” go on page after page finding shortcomings in recruitment, training, operations, reporting, supervision, and evaluation of officers. Perhaps the lawyers assigned to make the report cannot be blamed. It was a foregone conclusion, when the investigation was launched in 2015, that the verdict would be “guilty.” That was the whole point.
The Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting, and the ensuing riot, with widespread looting and burning—arising from an incident, by the way, that the Department of Justice itself emphatically found not excessive use of police force—and incidents leading to riots elsewhere, had built irresistible pressure for the Obama administration to act.
Action came in December 2015, when a media video showed an unjustified police shooting a year earlier in Chicago of Laquan McDonald. Black Lives Matter literally had been able to call out anti-cop riots that had torn apart Ferguson and Baltimore. Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney General, the second African-American appointed to that position by President Obama, initiated an investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Conveniently, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, had led Obama’s first election campaign, then served as White House chief of staff. When the report on the Chicago Police Department was released—or before, for all we know—Emanuel agreed immediately to the report’s demand that the City of Chicago consent to allowing the Department of Justice to take over supervision of its police department.
In the report, almost the only statistics cited were focused on 2016 and an upsurge of violent crime—including hundreds more homicides. To anyone following media headlines in the United States, that rang true. Periodic reports on the homicide “score” in Chicago as the year went on seemed surreal. What was happening?
The question returns us to Black Lives Matter and how remarkably it catalyzed the U.S. news media to focus on “police brutality,” “police racial bias,” “excessive use of force,” and other themes taken up, in turn, by the Department of Justice report on Chicago.
Tens of thousands of police officers in America, reading newspapers and watching TV news, like the rest of us, are affected by the floodtide of criticism of police officers on the job as racist, brutally aggressive, killers of the innocent, perverting the ideals of justice out of racist motives, and long overdue for trials and imprisonment.
The Department of Justice report, MacDonald tells us, expressed the viewpoint of Black Lives Matter: that the “message” from the “community” was that the Chicago Police Department “ …does not genuinely care about the murders of young black men and women, and [does] too little to investigate and resolve those homicides …”
Perhaps only MacDonald could do “justice” to that calumny of the Chicago police. She begins by pointing out that just a few years earlier, the liberal-left media, bar associations, and law school professors had held up Chicago policing as a paradigm for departments nationwide. What happened?
Black Lives Matter happened. And its media-facilitated ability to dial up rioting in any city—and, ominously, a string of assassinations of police officers no longer explainable as a coincidence. With the Laquan McDonald video from Chicago, the prompt Department of Justice announcement of an investigation may have forestalled a Chicago riot.
Heather MacDonald already had plunged into the Chicago policing scene, interviewing police officers, watching patrols, and interviewing victims, their relatives, and others in the community. Only she can tell those stories as they should be told, and I refer the reader to MacDonald’s book. To take a brief example:
“When gang members executed nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee after luring him into an alley with the promise of candy in November 2015, his gangbanger father refused to help the police solve the murder. I spoke with the detectives who relentlessly tracked the interstate escape of the assassins and finally cracked the case; their passion and outrage were evident.”
But what about the crime wave sweeping Chicago in 2016, which made headlines across the country as the daily toll of homicide almost defied belief?
I will quote MacDonald:
“Chicago is the country’s most shocking example of what I have called the Ferguson effect: the phenomenon of police officers in high-crime areas backing off of proactive policing, resulting in the emboldening of criminals. With investigatory stops down 82 percent through most of 2016 compared with 2015, there were over 3,400 shootings in Chicago last year. One person was shot every two hours on average. The police shot just over 25 people, or 0.6 percent of all total shootings. The DOJ report is silent about that ratio. The biggest challenge facing the CPD today is how to encourage officers to reengage with criminal suspects. The DOJ report is silent about that matter as well.”
An evasion of reality on the scale required to greet “Black Lives Matter” as a crusade for justice is possible only via philosophy. Call that philosophy “postmodernism,” “neo-Marxism,” or “the New-New Left”: it now pervades American colleges and universities and has yielded an “intellectual elite” graduated into the media, politics on all levels, and society at large. This is not the place to characterize postmodernism at length. It is the sweeping rebellion that originated in Germany against the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment that viewed reality as objective, human reason as efficacious, society as comprising individuals, human rights as pertaining to freedom of action, and government’s proper role as limited to protecting citizens against aggressors at home (criminals) and abroad (potential invaders). It is the philosophy that shaped the U.S. Constitution and the new American government.
Just a few years earlier, the liberal-left media, bar associations, and law school professors had held up Chicago policing as a paradigm for departments nationwide. What happened?
Only postmodernism could give rise to a movement such as Black Lives Matter, which interprets all human relationships through the lens of “class conflict,” “exploitation,” and pervasive “inequalities,” that simply denies the importance of the homicidal onslaught of Black against Black and focuses, instead, only on the assumed “oppressor” (white cops) and the oppressed (blacks). The tip-off, if you understand postmodernism, is that among the three African-American women who launched Black Lives Matter on the social media, from which it was picked-up by the enthralled American press, an expressed concern was involvement of “queer,” “women,” and “African-Americans.”
Bias against lesbians, women, or African-Americans is not the issue, here. The issue is the pervasive focus on the conflict of the oppressor (white males) and the oppressed (everyone else) that characterizes postmodernist philosophy. Superseding the bloody legacy of the Old Left—Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-Un—postmodernism or neo-Marxism can never protect the individual’s rights. Its concern is ideology and an ideological categorization of all of us in service of radical egalitarianism—its own version of Leftist fundamentalism.
Heather MacDonald has expressed the hope that President Trump’s arrival in office, merely by changing the leadership of the Justice Department, and bringing to Washington a consistent voice of support for law enforcement—including cops now targeted by Black Lives Matter—will make a difference. If she has the ear of the new administration, and there is reason to hope so, the reign of terror unleashed by Black Lives Matter may end.
That alone would vindicate Mr. Trump’s ironical campaign pledge to blacks in America’s inner cities: “Hey, you can’t do worse …” than under Obama. And his reiterated warning, reviled by the media as “insulting” to black voters, that our inner-cities are becoming a “war zone.”
Listen to Heather MacDonald, Mr. President.