Monday, August 7, 2017
I Can't Support #BlackLivesMatter, Because I Believe Black Lives Matter
Regular laments about our society’s inability to have an honest conversation about race seems to be a fixture of left-wing punditry. Well, if I didn't get called a racist every time I try to point out that we will not promote the cause of equality in this country if we try to fit modern racial inequities into a 50-year-old box, I might more willing to join that conversation. Unfortunately, it seems today's "justice activists" are more interested in making the facts fit the narrative than in actually addressing the very real and enduring disparities between racial groups.
What if the root of the problem is not poverty or institutional racism, but criminality? What if higher rates of violent crime in black communities are the more significant factor in the vicious cycle of crime and poverty? What if it is the historical, and often racist, under-policing of black communities that have allowed criminals to flourish? How, in that case, does it promote the cause of racial equality to further a narrative, which in most cases is not supported by the facts, that deepens the division between black communities and law enforcement?
To be honest, I don't know the answers to the questions I asked, but I do think they're worth considering. And, to be clear, asking these questions are far from endorsing the racist view that "Black people are more violent." Instead, they acknowledge the race-neutral observation that criminals are far more likely to flourish in an environment where it's less likely they'll face consequences for their actions.
Demanding that people demonstrate that they are not racist by endorsing Black Lives Matter is an example of the Genetic Fallacy. It assumes that because the Black civil rights movement of the 1960s correctly identified and acted against a grave social injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement has also correctly identified a grave social injustice, the source of that injustice, and the remedy for that injustice. Personally, I only agree with one of those three pillars; the facts that so many fellow citizens remain locked in multi-generational poverty and face so many risks to their lives, property and liberty are the enduring legacies of institutional racism, and are national tragedies that demand long-overdue action.
Which raises the question, what action? And how do you mobilize effective national action when you tell half of the country that their point of view doesn't matter?
If you completely buy into the Black Lives Matter movement, you buy into the theory of systemic racism; the idea that the American system of government is inherently racist, and needs to be torn down and re-built. Instead, I believe American society, like every society in the world, is subject to manipulation by social prejudices, against which we should all be vigilant. I'm also convinced that the enlightenment principles that undergird our constitution, because of their universality and relative simplicity, are vastly superior to any modern social theories and we would wantonly discard them to our detriment.
Further, if you fully accept the Black Lives Matter argument, disparate crime rates between racial groups are irrelevant, or, to the extent they are relevant, they are yet another manifestation of systemic racism. I believe a better argument can be made that high crime rates in majority black communities are remnants of the institutional racism that we didn't begin to seriously address until the 1960s and 1970s, and that the disparities exist to a large extent because of racist policies that drove the police to frequently ignore criminal activity in black communities as long as the crime didn't affect whites. Before we further hamper police ability to effectively serve minority communities, shouldn't we be damned certain that we're not going to make the situation worse? Liberals regularly assert that poverty drives crime, which is true, but high crime rates also drive poverty. Establishing the rule of law is necessary before the creation of wealth. It's my opinion that we cannot address the wealth gap between "White" and "Black" America until we address the crime gap, not the other way around. Is that debatable? Certainly. Is the Black Lives Matter movement willing to have that debate? The evidence says no.
Instead, the Black Lives Matter movement demands reparations, in cash payments, for our country's history of slavery and racism, while glossing over the crime problem. While it's definitely true that America owes its Black citizens "reparations" to bring about a more equal society, it's not a foregone conclusion that the progressive remedies are the best remedies. That Black Americans were unfairly excluded from federal welfare programs through the early 1980s is well-documented. However, 35 years of progressive remedies to that injustice have not alleviated, but have exacerbated, the wealth gap. In my opinion, what is needed in poor Black communities is more investment, not so-called "handouts". While government investment is necessary, that investment needs to drive private investment.
So, I will gladly say Black lives matter, and long for a truly national conversation and effort to address enduring racial fissures in this country, but I refuse to join or support an ill-informed social media campaign seeped in insular progressive and racialist fantasies.