Jason Riley, author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, wrote before Barack Obama’s speech at a Dallas memorial service:
Mr. Obama’s initial response to the shootings was more of the same: equivocation mixed with an attempt to change the subject. He said there is no possible justification for violence against law enforcement, but then added a line about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system and finished with a nod to more gun control. “When people are armed with powerful weapons,” said the president, “it unfortunately makes attacks like these more deadly.”
Time and again during his presidency, in matters large and small, Mr. Obama has assumed the worst about police. Officers in Massachusetts, he told us months into his first term, “acted stupidly” when they responded to a 911 call about a possible burglary and arrested the black suspect for disorderly conduct.
The 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown,who attacked a cop after robbing a store inFerguson, Mo., led to a Justice Department report criticizing the racial makeup of Ferguson’s police department and municipal workers, and concluding, without any evidence, that it is “critically important” for law enforcement “to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff.”
After the Baltimore riots last year that followed the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, Mr. Obama once again condemned the lawbreakers, but not without adding: “We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions.” That’s trying to have it both ways.
Like others on the political left, Mr. Obama has made a habit of minimizing or ignoring the high black crime rates that obviously underlie tensions between poor minority communities and cops. More than 95% of black shooting deaths don’t involve the police, which would seem to undercut the notion that trigger-happy cops are hunting black men. Sadly, rates of murder, rape, robbery, assault and other violent crimes are 7 to 10 times higher among blacks than among whites, but liberals who don’t want to alienate black voters go to great lengths to explain away this behavior and focus instead on police conduct.
Yes, Mr. Obama has denounced what happened in Dallas, but he has also been winking at a Black Lives Matter movement that has spent the past two years holding rallies that call for (and sometimes feature) violence against cops. Like the president, these protesters maintain that the police are motivated by racial prejudice, not by the behavior of suspects. They insist that a biased criminal-justice system explains the black crime rate, not antisocial behavior. By indulging this narrative, Mr. Obama and his fans in the liberal media were playing with fire, and the Dallas carnage was the result.
Just last week, after the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota that sparked the Dallas protests, the Washington Post ran a long feature sympathetic to the left’s racist-cops narrative. The story offered a detailed breakdown of police shootings by race, but nowhere did it offer a racial breakdown of criminal behavior. By focusing on one and ignoring the other, the paper showed that it is most interested in pushing a political agenda.
The Dallas shootings have liberals requesting more national conversations about race. But these calls are mostly disingenuous. What liberals have in mind is more of a lecture, where they do the talking and everyone else nods in agreement. The left wants America to acknowledge that white racism explains black pathology; that the racial makeup of police departments and elected officials is crucial to good relations between law enforcement and black communities; and that reducing gun ownership will reduce gun violence.
In fact, America’s ghettos had lower levels of black crime and violence in the pre-1960s era, before major civil-rights legislation had even passed and in an era when racial discrimination was legal and more widespread. The racial makeup of the Ferguson police department may not have reflected that of the city, but the same cannot be said of other locales—Chicago, New York, Baltimore—where relations between police and black civilians are also strained despite the presence of black police chiefs, beat cops, prosecutors, judges, mayors and municipal workers. Dallas’s population is about 25% black, as is the police force, yet murders in the city were up by more than 70% in the first part of this year, according to the Dallas Morning News.
And if gun ownership rates drive gun violence, how do you explain the fact that rural areas of the country, where people own firearms at twice the rate of their urban counterparts, are significantly less violent?
Some good may yet come out of this Dallas tragedy if political leaders and the press stop treating Black Lives Matter like it’s the NAACP circa 1955. But don’t count on Mr. Obama to lead that effort.