Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Decoding the Rules of Baltimore

For the left, rioting is an effective political tool.

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

NBC’s Al Sharpton shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she prepares to speak at a summit to address issues surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and its aftermath at New Shiloh Baptist Church, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Note the “No Justice, No Peace” slogan behind them. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

NBC’s Al Sharpton shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she prepares to speak at a summit to address issues surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and its aftermath at New Shiloh Baptist Church, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Note the “No Justice, No Peace” slogan behind them. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

No one knows what exactly happened to the deceased Freddie Gray, except that it should not have happened. Between what is outlined in the indictments and what will be proven in court is an unknown abyss. But the more dramatic the short-term exuberance over the sweeping indictments, the more likely the long-term fury when the charges are likely to be substantially reduced or unproven in court.

Almost everyone blames the subsequent Baltimore rioting on some –ism — endemic racism, economic inequality, the lack of jobs, the legacy of slavery, systematic police brutality and insensitivity, the pathologies of the black underclass, the destruction of the black family and on and on. However, most of America, rich and poor, black, white and other, liberal and conservative can more or less chart the conditions that explain a Ferguson or Baltimore — and remain quiet about it. At this point, I don’t think much will change until action follows rhetoric and someone like Barack Obama symbolically puts his kids in the public schools rather than at Sidwell Friends, or some of the loud MSNBC team choose to live, in desegregated style, in the Baltimore inner city, or Apple and Google grandees mentor East Palo Alto gangbangers, or an Al Gore recruits inner-city youth on his green staffs, or a Warren Buffett leads a national effort on the part of plutocrats to invest money in Detroit or Oakland shopping centers. And as long as the proverbial black community has self-appointed adjudicators of racial redress that blame pathologies on cosmic racism rather than demand introspection — of the likes of the Revs. Al Sharpton [1], Jesse Jackson [2], and Jeremiah Wright [3], in a way quite unlike the Asian, Jewish, ethnic, and Latino communities — things will not change much. Is there a Cuban or Chinese or Korean national reverend who takes it upon himself to agitate and negotiate collective grievances?

Until then, let us review the Baltimore Rules:

1) Statistics are irrelevant. Emotion rules and no one cares about larger statistical challenges. Blacks make up almost 13% of the population and commit 52% of the nation’s murders. Based on their statistical representation in the U.S. population, African-Americans on average are eight times more likely to inflict a violent crime and six times more likely to suffer a criminal act than is the general population. This fact is irrelevant; it is not the numbers per se that frame black homicide, but the conditions under which they occur that seem to matter. “Black lives matter” supposedly translates into the fact that blacks might be able to pressure police (of all races) from taking 200 black lives a year during arrests, but can do little if anything about stopping 6,000 black murders at the hands of other blacks. Darren Wilson serves as an easy poster boy for the public enemy, but a Crip gangbanger [4] is a quite different candidate for group-hate.

In quite rare, but highly charged interracial murders, African-Americans are almost twice as likely to kill whites as whites are blacks. This, too, is irrelevant for a variety of reasons. Historically blacks suffered from the racism of a white majority, not whites from a black minority. Whites are hardly likely to protest about this imbalance given the rarity of interracial crime and the rarity of whites rioting on the basis of racial grievances. Most liberal professionals understand privately how to navigate travel in the inner city and how publicly to decry just such insidious stereotyping and profiling. Few of the 14% of murdered white crime victims who were killed by blacks are the elite and thus the problem remains minor.

Black youths (over 13% of the nation’s youth population) make up 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58.5% of those for homicide and 67% for robbery. Blacks commit hate crimes against other races at rates proportionally far higher than do whites, based on their respective populations. These imbalances probably suggest why police brutality may be higher during black than white arrests, but it is also irrelevant. As a nation we expect police to be professional 100% of the time during arrests and to be indifferent to the fact that less than 13% of the population is committing well over half the nation’s violent crime, higher in the inner city. A suspect may have a prior arrest record of over 20 felonies, but if he were treated any differently from someone who has never been arrested, then the police are at fault. Such perfection is as it should be, but then again few know much about the average day of a police person [5] in the inner city. For now, disproportionally high black crime rates mean far more black arrests and more opportunities for something like what happened in Baltimore.

Liberals say that these depressing statistics reflect either current racism and the legacy of slavery or undue policing and unequal application of the law; conservatives suggest that if black crime statistics reflected the percentages prevalent in other ethnic groups, then policing practices would become largely irrelevant. Or alternatively, inner-city police forces would have to become entirely African-American, on the theory that either supposedly racially driven police brutality would cease, or if it continued, the race of the perpetrator would mitigate popular outcry.

2) Causation is irrelevant. Turn on the television and talking head A decries black unemployment, racism, and lack of federal money as the causes of the riots and violence. Talking head B points to the destruction of the black family, dependence on entitlement rather than self-help, a sense of victimization and pathologies from sky-high illegitimacy to a lack of emphasis on education. In general, during a riot, no one much cares about the causation. All that matters is the superficial fact of not achieving parity, not how or why it occurred.

The $30 trillion War on Poverty over the last half-century left the poverty rate about the same [6] as when the Great Society began [7]. Those invested in such largess will say it was never enough, while critics will insist it was the cause not the solution in the first place. The only relevant point is that violence or the threat of violence usually results in some sort of federal money and expansion of government programs. As long as there is a sense that money follows unrest, riots will continue — even if the cost-to-benefit ratios are not favorable to the rioters.

3) Rioting has advantages. Once violence descends into the streets [8], stores are looted and burned down, and people hurt, usually law and custom are suspended in a desire to cease the violence. No one really cares whether the charges lodged against the six charged officers are plausible, only that they were at least charged. The theory of a scapegoat or sacrificial pawn operates. No one cares that the authorities may have ordered the police to stand down and not to arrest protestors, only that they did. No one cares that the state attorney had about as serious a conflict of interest as possible (she is a close friend and associate of the deceased family’s attorney who is calling for indictments; her husband is a council member in a district dependent on the votes of an outraged electorate). We forget the lessons of the 1950s Western: when the mob approaches the jail and demands a hanging (usually in “no justice, no peace” fashion), either the accused is spirited out of town, the sheriff stands down the mob, or the mob lynches the accused. Any of these three alternatives brings peace — in the short term. Given that the Baltimore police cannot flee the state, and given that no one stood down the mob, then quick indictments and subsequent guaranteed convictions by state or federal authorities (our postmodern version of a hanging) are about the only means of quieting the unrest. Rioting is an effective political tool.

Note a footnote on racial rioting. The perpetrators usually loot, harm, and burn their immediate vicinities. Four possible causes explain this phenomenon: a) it is far more convenient to riot in your own neighborhood; b) many of the targeted stores and their owners are deemed to be inauthentic members of the community (the owners are either racial minorities other than blacks, or considered entrepreneurs and at odds with the community [9]); c) the police might not stand down if the rioting migrated to an upscale suburban shopping center; d) other minority groups and whites might arm and resist [10] if the rioting hit their neighborhoods.

4) Racialism is OK. In times of rioting, blanket racialist statements are fine. Black leaders decry that the rioters were burning “their own community” — with the obvious inference that if they were not and torching another ethnic community, it might not be so regrettable. The television audience assumes that the protestors will voice racialist anger, and that this is a legitimate sort of venting. Talking of white supremacy and racism is considered normal discourse in a way referencing black inner-city pathology is not. “Thug” is a racist word [11] if voiced by someone not black, merely problematic if by the president or mayor. The state attorney, in outlining her indictment, can appeal in explicit language to racial solidarity, in the sense that she is seeking justice for her community rather than for the city at large — and in such a quid pro quo she expects peace for issuing arrest warrants.

5) Politics is irrelevant. During the Ferguson rioting, it was charged that racial underrepresentation fueled the violence. But in Baltimore, all the principals are black: the mayor, police chief, city attorney, and a majority of the city council. Three of the accused officers are black. The president of the United States and the attorney general are black. It matters little.  Perhaps the fact of a mostly black establishment seemed to intensify the anger. If there is no supposedly racist cabal to blame, then who is to blame? The community itself? Elected officials? The mayor? Black police? Police chief? DA? President Obama? And on what grounds — racism? For now we are left only with the fact that the Baltimore police force is 40% rather than 80-90% black as an extenuating circumstance — and we should expect to see those percentages radically change.

6) Warning of more. It is always wise to hint that more violence will follow. Political leaders, Sharpton-like incendiaries, op-ed writers, and black community and religious leaders all hint that Baltimore may be the wave of the future — with obvious implications that unless more federal resources are invested in their agendas, or unless their own statures magnify, more violence will follow. That mostly elites cynically use the threat of violence of mostly non-elites is never remarked upon. It is easy to write a smarmy op-ed declaring that unless A happens, then B will occur, but more difficult to calibrate the growing backlash of those who are not in sympathy with the Baltimore rioters — which may well be over 70% of the population. Certainly, identification largely by racial affinity is a dangerous thing to do in America, because such solidarity only breeds solidarity in others that may be more numerous and growing just as angry. Vocal and ubiquitous talk of white supremacy as the mother lode of all racial unhappiness does not sell well outside the New York television studio — especially among the lower middle classes and poor who are not black and do not feel themselves particularly privileged at the expense of blacks.

A year from now, an out-of-the-news Baltimore will be a little poorer, smaller, and less frequented.

The future of all this racialization is not good [12].


Article printed from Works and Days: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/decoding-the-rules-of-baltimore/

URLs in this post:

[1] Al Sharpton: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2015/05/03/al-sharpton-nationalize-police/

[2] Jesse Jackson: http://www.redstate.com/diary/gawken/2012/03/25/what-jesse-jackson-really-thinks-about-trayvon-martin-well-sort-of/

[3] Jeremiah Wright: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/07/20/how-the-wright-free-zone-was-built/

[4] a Crip gangbanger: http://twitchy.com/2015/05/02/at-baltimore-rally-malik-shabazz-calls-bloods-and-crips-new-generation-of-community-protectors/

[5] the average day of a police person: http://pjmedia.com/blog/dunphy-baltimore/

[6] about the same: http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-war-on-poverty-21-trillion-later.html

[7] the Great Society began: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392842/legacy-liberalism-thomas-sowell

[8] violence descends into the streets: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2015/04/26/space-to-destroy/

[9] at odds with the community: http://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2015/05/03/if-they-protected-themselves-against-you-protect-yourselves-against-them-dont-spend-your-money-there/

[10] might arm and resist: http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/danieljmitchell/2012/11/05/drunks_with_guns_you_loot_we_shoot/page/full

[11] “Thug” is a racist word: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417787/no-calling-baltimore-rioters-thugs-does-not-make-you-racist-jonah-goldberg

[12] is not good: http://www.city-journal.org/2014/eon0818fs.html

Copyright © 2015 Works and Days. All rights reserved.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

9 Thoughts on “Decoding the Rules of Baltimore

  1. Why does this remind me of Communists shooting some poor man in front of his family, and charging the surviving family members for the bullets used? Is there any evil Progtard Controllers won’t call good?

    We can plainly see the Progtard Gordian Knots. We’ve got swords. Who has the cajones to call this failed Weltanschauung (taught at all K-12 & Universities) out? Rather than nit pick here and there, and let the Progtards dodge all responsibility thru Mesmer memes and propagandistic deceptions for rube-made voters, let’s have a Presidential election based on intelligent Liberty’s Freedom vs. Progtard Control Idiocracy.

    Rather than drill down on individual arguments/causes/issues… simply expand each argument to either choosing Enslavement and Progtard Control (which creates, and never solves problems) vs. choosing Liberty’s Freedom (which humanely and quickly solves problems, i.e. WWII in 3.5 years.) Period.

    It’s a worldview fight. One will win: Progtard Control and Decline & Death… or Life and Liberty and Freedom.

    • zygote314 on May 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm said:

      Until we find a true conservative champion with the courage and vision of an Alexander, the Gordian Knot of indecisiveness and confusion will remain unbroken.

    • The current culture feels much like the stock market. Decoupled from fundamentals, the market will move higher and higher because of the fear of missing further future returns. This is analogous to the safety of a PC worldview in political circles. And it is the best strategy until something flips the switch and everyone rushes for the exits. In the aftermath, a few, perhaps even by simple chance, emerge as the new success stories to be emulated.

      The switch is never predictable and is always further in the future than one supposes.

  2. zygote314 on May 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm said:

    Where is the Golden Mean for the Black community? Will they ever find the peace and happiness that comes with achieving excellence in family structure, education, and morality, or will they be forever mired in an endless cycle of misery, dysfunction, and depravity?

    The social contract for Blacks has changed dramatically since the 1960’s. Fifty years of transfer payments, Affirmative Action and new Federal case law has achieved a black middle-class, and shifting attitudes about race in our society helped to elect a black president, an achievement that would have been laughable only a couple of decades ago. Most large inner cities have had exclusive Democrat and often minority run governments for decades, yet many inner city Blacks still live in communities blighted by crime and poverty.

    The moral imperative to keep addressing these pathologies has largely faded. Where once a ‘Dream Deferred’ resonated deeply with the majority, considering our nation’s legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, only anger and disgust remains for the way the victims of racial hatred and scapegoating have become the new perpetrators.

  3. Cas on May 6, 2015 at 6:52 am said:

    THE BUSINESS PLAN:
    Turmoil is good…agitators have full time jobs…encouraging others to trash the system keeps them employed…lots of potential earnings from tv/radio gigs, oh and the aura of power…perhaps an invitation to be part of the White House team…seriously I as a minority person do not personally need to suffer…

    Follow the money.

  4. linnea on May 6, 2015 at 7:41 am said:

    There’s a clear danger in the winds as the left continues to spew the most virulent hate and propaganda for their own political ends. The left has become accustom in the states to reacting to the obvious by the most vile and reactionary statements. All reason and intelligence has been tossed out the window for the greater cause. Just what is that cause? Pure hate for police, the white population and of course the United States system.

    When reporters asked logical questions of those in the streets of Baltimore, the responses were beyond irrational which exposes the many decades liberals and their minions have been showered in propaganda.

    Just a few examples if I may….

    Fox reporter asked a local government official during the riots ” why are you standing here and not stopping those guys behind us from looting that store? ” The response was ” why are you focusing on the looters rather than the injustice of young black men? ” When the reporter asked the question again the local official said ” this interview is over ”

    Fox reporter asked an African American woman how she felt about the riots and her answer was ” young black men are angry at the injustice of white police brutality.” When the reporter stated that three of the police officers are black the woman responded ” Baltimore ships in white police from other counties.” You see? There can be no escape from their logic. The propaganda says its white police, then at all cost its white police and truth need not apply.

    Marc Lamont Hill also spewed incitement on CNN when he said ” we have to become more strategic in our rioting. ” Really ??? He also called it ” an uprising ” Not very smart things to say while a city is burning. Lamont is the same man who defends those who shoot people who draw cartoons by claiming they have nothing to do with Islam since there were only two of them, but is more than willing to wash the whole police entity in the United States when one white cop has to use his weapon. Pure propaganda.

    When we saw with our own eyes young black men tossing huge rocks and concrete slabs at the heads of police, the liberal elites and their cadres said ” it’s racist to call them thugs ” even when their own texts before they gathered to riot said it was ” time to thug ” When we all saw Michael Brown commit a strong arm robbery on camera before he was shot for attempting to kill a police officer, the liberal elites wanted us to not believe what we were seeing on that video, because he was a “gentle giant ” and how racist it was to release that video when his body was not even cold yet. Oh yes, you are not seeing what you think you are seeing, we are going to tell you what you see and SHOULD think.

  5. satta on May 8, 2015 at 9:08 am said:

    The media and the political class it servers are are in the business of perpetuating poverty, the state, and the false two party dichotomy. Until the poor realize that they would be much better off on their own than in the opiate haze paralysis of the welfare state, nothing will change.

  6. David Park on May 8, 2015 at 10:12 am said:

    Thirteen percent of the population doing fifty percent of the murders and other crimes? That’s one hundred percent of the problem. After years of special school treatments, special hiring programs, special considerations for welfare, rent, food purchases and medical care, there’s obviously a problem that’s internal, cultural, and incurable by the piling on of even more of the same. Racism as an excuse for its failed situations has now become a self inflicted infection in the black community.

  7. KuhnKat on May 9, 2015 at 8:23 am said:

    ” Historically blacks suffered from the racism of a white majority, not whites from a black minority. Whites are hardly likely to protest about this imbalance given the rarity of interracial crime and the rarity of whites rioting on the basis of racial grievances.”

    Except whites are supposed to hate blacks and think they are not human etc!! You are saying the leftards are wrong there?? (snicker)

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