After a brief period of rest, the Black Lives Matter movement is back in full swing again following the deaths of Walter Scott in South Carolina and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. In what could be considered the third act in this media-driven play – the first being Trayvon Martin and the second being Michael Brown/Eric Garner – the instigators who have found ratings gold in these stories have finally managed to turn up a kernel of truth. Lacking a surprise, Officer Michael Slager of Charleston deserves the murder conviction he has coming. But then again, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
Regardless of how cut and dried the case of Scott may be, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the first two acts of this movement were predicated on pure fantasy. In fact, it finally allows us to get away from the specifics of any particular police shooting to expose the grandest lie of them all: there is no epidemic. There is no need for a Black Lives Matter movement. Even if all of the sensationalized cases of the last couple of years had been clear instances of murder, it wouldn’t change that central truth. As Dennis Prager pointed out in his column this week, 97 percent of black homicide victims in 2013 were killed by assailants other than police. And of the remaining three percent, almost every single one of them was armed and dangerous. There is no epidemic. There is no story. There is only a race-based clan of profiteers and a political party trying to connect dots that aren’t there.
If this was just about boosting cable news ratings or giving talking heads something to yell about, that would be one thing. But this fictional account of America in the 21st century has real ramifications. Politicians are taking concrete steps to change the way police work is done, and there is very little evidence that says any such changes are necessary. The danger here is that these changes make police less effective, less safe, and leave our communities without the protection they need. Is there room for police reform? Always. But it should be done in careful steps, following real evidence of a systemic problem. Not in kneejerk reaction to a handful of stories, the majority of which justify the actions of the officers.
Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, took data from the website Killed By Police and determined that, between May 2013 and April 2015, 30 percent of people shot by cops were black. But what may come as a shock to those who have hung on this movement from the beginning, 49 percent of the victims were white. Going by the raw data and ignoring the media madness, one might wonder whether a White Lives Matter movement would be more appropriate.
There will, of course, be no such thing. And even someone unwise enough to suggest it would be drowned out by liberals saying, “Well, even if that’s true, shouldn’t you support reform?”
And the answer, again, is yes. Always. If body cameras will improve things, let’s get to it. If this training or that training will make things better, then let’s pursue it. But let’s have all the facts on the table before we rush to change the system. We owe it to blacks, whites, and the police. We owe it to ourselves.