For almost two years, a protest movement known as “Black Lives Matter” has convulsed the nation. Triggered by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. This belief has triggered riots, “die-ins,” the murder and attempted murder of police officers, and a campaign to eliminate traditional grand jury proceedings when police use lethal force.
Even though the U.S. Justice Department has resoundingly disproved the lie that a pacific Michael Brown was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender, Brown is still venerated as a martyr. And now police officers are backing off of proactive policing in the face of relentless venom directed at them on the street and in the media. Violent crime, as a result, is on the rise.
The need is urgent, therefore, to examine the Black Lives Matter movement’s central thesis—that police pose the greatest threat to young black men. I propose two counterarguments: first, that there is no government agency more dedicated to the idea that black lives matter than the police; and second, that we have been talking obsessively about alleged police racism over the last twenty years in order to avoid talking about a far larger problem—black-on-black crime.
Every year, approximately six thousand black people are murdered. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though only 13 percent of the national population is black. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Who is killing them? Not the police, and not white civilians, but other black people. The astronomical black death-by-homicide rate is a function of the black crime rate. Black males between the ages of fourteen and seventeen commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Black people of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.
The percentage of black people among civilians killed by the police—26 percent—is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings will occur most often in areas where cops are confronting violent, armed criminals and people resisting arrest. 40 percent of all cop killers have been black males over the last decade, even though black males are only 6 percent of the nation’s population. Yet standard anti-cop ideology holds that law enforcement actions are racist if they don’t mirror population data. New York City illustrates why that expectation is so misguided. Black people make up 23 percent of New York City’s population, but they commit 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies and 66 percent of all violent crime, according to victims and witnesses. Add Hispanic shootings, and you account for 98 percent of all illegal gunfire in the city. Whites are 33 percent of the city’s population, but they commit fewer than 2 percent of all shootings, 4 percent of all robberies and 5 percent of all violent crime. These disparities mean that virtually every time the police in New York are called out on a gun run—meaning that someone has just been shot—they are being summoned to minority neighborhoods looking for minority suspects.
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