WHOSE LIVES MATTER?

The “Black Lives Matter” movement started about a year ago following a tragic incident in Ferguson, Missouri. In that incident a young black man was killed by a police officer. The operative premise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is that young black men are being unjustifiably targeted and killed by police officers. This has led to demonstrations, protests and riots for the alleged racism of government in general and police officers in particular. Conditions in many of our cities have spiraled into crises that are getting worse as the weather is getting warmer.

The violent death of any individual is always tragic, whatever the race or ethnicity of the victim. I grew up in an inner-city ghetto and have many black friends. I care about what happens to them. Unfortunately, there isn’t much reasonable dialogue taking place about this situation. Instead there is a great deal of posturing, angry rhetoric and ignoring of facts. I have no problem saying that “black lives matter” as long as I can also declare, that “every life matters.” Earlier this year when Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took that position he was attacked by Black leaders for being insensitive. In response to those attacks he capitulated and endorsed the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

I believe that the “Black Lives Matter” movement is sincere but misguided. It ignores the bigger issue facing most Black communities. Our large cities, and Black communities in particular, are experiencing devastating levels of violence and crime. The Civil Rights Movement and War on Poverty were supposed to eliminate racism and poverty. Fifty years and trillions of dollars later our inner-cities and urban Black citizens and communities are in crisis. Crime is rampant, gangs pose major threats, jobs for inner-city youths are somewhere between scarce and non-existent, and the schools are dysfunctional. Simply throwing money at problems has not worked. Here are some of the most distressing statistics:

  • Every year more than 6,000 Blacks (mostly youths) are murdered. That is more than all whites and Hispanics combined, even though Blacks represent only 13% of our population.
  • In Los Angeles Blacks between 20-24 die at a rate 20 times the national mean. Almost all of them were killed by other Blacks.
  • Black males aged 14 to 17 commit homicide(s) at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic teens combined.
  • Blacks of all ages commit homicide(s) at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined.
  • The nation’s police killed 987 civilians in 2015. Whites were 50% (493) of those victims, while Blacks were 26% (258). Almost all of those victims were armed (with unregistered handguns) and threatening the police officer involved.
  • Statistically, most perpetrators of violent crime are Black. In America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, Blacks constituted 62% of all robbery defendants; 57% of all murder defendants, and 45% of all assault defendants.
  • Statistics indicate that Blacks are treated with greater restraint by police than whites or Hispanics. Twelve percent of all white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by police, compared to 4% of all Black homicide victims.

Since the “Black Lives Matter” movement started the police have taken a more cautious approach to crime in the inner cities. As a result the crime rate has skyrocketed. In 2015 murders rose 17% in the nation’s 50 largest cities. Cities with the largest Black populations saw the greatest increase in crime and violence. Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate in 2015 was the highest in its history. Milwaukee’s homicide rate increased by 72%. Chicago saw shootings increase by 80% in 2015. FBI Director James Comey attributed these increases to the “chill wind” blowing against law enforcement. President Obama publicly rebuked him for his insensitivity to minorities.

Tragically, Black citizens are suffering most from this epidemic of violent Black crime. Gang members are killing thousands of school children, senior citizens and innocent bystanders. The number of police officers killed in shootings (including Black police officers) has doubled in the first 3 months of 2016. I am more concerned about the innocent Black victims than I am about the Black criminals. The real question is how can we make our cities safe for law-abiding citizens. Yes, I think Black Lives Matter. We need honest debate about how to reclaim our cities and protect all of our citizens.

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