Of course, thinking people understand that Black Lives Matter isn’t really an organization concerned with the protection and improvement of the black community. What Black Lives Matter, and the white leftists who fund it, are more concerned with is gaining publicity and breaking down the existing political structure so as to institute something different where America currently stands.
From this corner it’s been very frustrating to see the development of an infantile hyper-racialism within that community, given that this development has been brought on through little more than rank demagoguery. Any statistical analysis of any seriousness will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the police are the best friend the black community has rather than the enemy – within that community there is a grossly disproportionate amount of not just homicide or violent crime in general, but also property crime, and though the latter gets little attention it might be the most damaging of all. While murder and rape and battery certainly leave scars on a community, theft and vandalism do as well; when people believe their property is not safe in a neighborhood they do the best they can to move that property out.
When the store deals with an unacceptable amount of shoplifting, when its outside walls are covered in graffiti, when its employees no longer feel safe, it’s usually just a matter of time before its owner decides to close the location. And then the neighborhood becomes poorer, with fewer jobs and less commerce.
This is also true of the homeowner who is burglarized or has his car stolen repeatedly. It’s not uncommon, if things become suitably unsafe in a given neighborhood, for that homeowner to flee – and to attempt to sell or rent the house, or even in the worst cases to give the bank the keys and abandon the home.
This has happened a great deal. In Jackson, Mississippi, for example, which is a city that is now 81 percent black, there are some 75,000 houses but only 63,000 households. That means there are 12,000 abandoned or vacant homes. In Detroit the numbers are astronomically higher. Neither city suffered a natural event to cause that blight like New Orleans did – those empty houses are simply the product of failed neighborhoods leading to lost value and homes no one wants to live in. And crime, particularly property crime as it’s the foundation under which violent crime erects itself, is the principal cause.
I’m going to say the majority of people in the black community understand this exceptionally well, because in city after city they’re on the front lines of it and they see its effects. And among middle class black people in this country, there are very, very few available solutions to the problem other than escape.
That’s why in suburbs all over America you’re not really seeing “white flight” anymore. You’re just seeing middle class flight from the city as it creates subdivision after subdivision, while the cities decline. Here in the Baton Rouge area, the most underreported, and yet fascinating, development is that amid the exploding population growth of suburban Ascension and Livingston Parishes, the minority populations are growing faster than the white populations are. Those parishes aren’t getting poorer, by the way; the opposite is true at the same time they’re adding black people faster than they’re adding whites. The lesson to be taken from that is there is “black flight” along with “white flight.” And Baton Rouge is typical.
For the individuals who are finding safety, better public schools and more house for the money in the suburbs this is a perfectly salutary phenomenon. For the cities they’re leaving and for the predominantly black neighborhoods within those cities, it’s a total disaster. And for the homeowners and law-abiders left behind, it’s an especially terrible circumstance.
Back in January, the Alinskyite leftist organization Together Baton Rouge released a study it called proof of the racism of the Baton Rouge Police Department, in that BRPD made far more drug arrests in predominantly-black North Baton Rouge than in predominantly-white South Baton Rouge. This was based on the contention that drug abuse in Baton Rouge is more or less uniform in frequency all over town, a contention which lacks support. Nevertheless, BRPD’s response was fairly simple and common-sense – they go where the telephone tells them to go, and there are a lot more people calling to complain about the crack dealers on the corner of Plank Road and Evangeline Street than on the corner of Bluebonnet Blvd. and Perkins Road – largely because there are no crack dealers at Bluebonnet and Perkins.
The people calling about the dealers on Plank and Evangeline want those streets to function like Bluebonnet and Perkins, and they want it very badly. They’re the ones who own homes, pay taxes, work jobs and attempt to raise productive citizens out of their kids in that neighborhood, and those crack dealers are doing great damage to those efforts.
But BRPD comes and arrests the crack dealers, and takes them off the streets. For a little while, at least. It’s something of a relief. Until the leftists at Together Baton Rouge show up to call that project an example of racism, that is, and sooner or later nobody answers the call to sweep the crack dealers off the streets. What happens to the law-abiding folks then?
It’s easy to talk about how many black criminals there are, and to base your discussion around that phenomenon. Nobody seems to have much regard for the disproportionate number of victims of crime who are black. Especially not the Black Lives Matter crowd.
And so for the past three years we’ve heard a whole lot about the Alton Sterlings and Mike Browns of the world, and much has been made about police shootings. We saw in Minnesota just a few days ago that you don’t have to be black to be shot by a cop; in fact, sometimes it’s a Somali cop who shoots a white Australian woman. Police shootings are going to happen; it’s unfortunate, but it’s an unavoidable risk when cops are tasked with attempting to deal with neighborhoods rife with criminality. Justine Damond’s neighborhood wasn’t even a dangerous one.
The reason there is some purchase in the Black Lives Matter message within the black community is not that there is a particularly large reservoir of sympathy for criminals, though that reservoir certainly exists within the urban Democrat political class in particular. It’s that for a lot of law-abiding folks in the black community, there is resentment at being mistaken for the criminals who victimize them. The “driving while black” complaint, for example, in which the police will stop black motorists and give them a fuller-brush treatment in an effort to check to see if the car is stolen or if it contains contraband and so forth, is a real thing, and it’s a justifiable irritant. Especially if you’re a member of the black middle class who has decamped to the suburbs to escape the crime of the inner city; to be lumped in with the people you escaped from, or to perceive that this is what’s being done to you, has to be a maddening experience.
So with all of that, here’s the idea for a productive way to deal with these issues rather than protest marches or rioting or hectoring. What’s needed is the civil society.
Americans are singularly good at joining organizations and working together to solve problems. In fact, our history shows it’s voluntary membership in organizations working for good causes which have made this country improve – from the Red Cross, to the Salvation Army, to church groups, to the March of Dimes to the abolitionist movement and even to the Tea Party, people of like minds have made a positive difference – and not necessarily in a political context; in fact, the best examples of civic improvement have usually come outside of politics altogether.
Which is why the way you solve the “driving while black” issue and alleviate the concerns about an innocent civilian being shot by the police is to start organizations dedicated to the proposition that the citizenry is committed to actively cooperating with the cops, and vice versa. These would be dues-paying fraternal or benevolent organizations which would serve as citizens’ auxiliaries – contributing to police charities, kicking in for supplemental equipment the cops might need, establishing scholarships for the children of fallen officers and so forth. Perhaps even participating in ride-alongs with the police to show that the black community, or an awful lot of it, is with the cops when they go on calls in troubled neighborhoods.
But for all those good works, there would be a tangible benefit going the other way. Namely, that when someone would be pulled over by the police and asked for their license and registration, etc., they’d have the ability to hand over their membership card as well. And that would be a signal cutting through a lot of – whatever you want to call it: suspicion, racism, bias, what have you – that the cardholder is one of the good guys and ought to be shown courtesy as such. If they’re speeding, fine; give them a ticket, but a little less humiliation might be in order in exchange for being part of the booster club.
These groups do exist. They need to be larger and have a higher profile, and they need to have credibility – you can’t have people who can be considered as criminals belonging to them. They also can’t be just a front for a political operation. In fact, they need to be divorced from politics; urban politics in this country is notoriously toxic, and the cause of the decline in our cities, and would inevitably render these organizations ineffective.
The majority of the black community is caught in a vise between the problems in that community and the distrustful response – which is too often called racism by people looking to shut down an honest discussion – of everyone else. And that situation won’t be alleviated without actions inside the black community. Only they can change the equation. Large, well-organized and cooperative groups of good people voluntarily making sincere efforts outside of politics to attack crime and manufacturing “privilege” of their own can take a larger bite out of the problem than marching with DeRay McKesson ever could.