Ripples of Ferguson

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Police tape in front of smoldering remains of Prime Beauty Supply in Ferguson in the aftermath of riots. Photo taken on 11/25/14 by R. Gino Santa Maria /
Police tape in front of smoldering remains of Prime Beauty Supply in Ferguson in the aftermath of riots. Photo taken on 11/25/14 by R. Gino Santa Maria /

There is some blame to go around in nearly all racial confrontations. Why the body of Michael Brown was left in the street for hours seems inexplicable. The apparent chokehold that contributed to the death of Eric Garner, with the benefit of video hindsight, does not seem to square with the de facto exoneration of the officer involved. In contrast, there has been absolutely no credible evidence that the unfortunate shooting of Michael Brown was not in self-defense.

Instead, most of the protests about Ferguson are based on untruth and the lessons are therefore surrealistic. Indeed, the reductionist messages of Ferguson from the street, the media, and the Justice Department seem to appear twofold. In hindsight, Officer Darren Wilson apparently made two postmodern mistakes. One, when he saw Michael Brown strangely walking down the middle of the street — and collated that behavior and his appearance with breaking information of a suspect on the loose who had just strong-armed a clerk and robbed the store — he stopped to investigate. Had Wilson simply waved and passed Brown by — and ignored the prior possible felony act and the misdemeanor that he was watching in progress — then Brown would never have had an opportunity to assault him. Brown would not have been shot. And the Ferguson chain of events would never have been jump-started on that particular day.

Some of the public may think that the lessons of Michael Brown — and Trayvon Martin — are that it is unwise to commit a crime and then assault an officer, or confront a stranger in the rain and slug him in the head and get into a tussle, given that such targets may be armed and may respond with deadly force. But I think critics would privately respond that in Al Sharpton’s America both cases instead advise to take the beating [1] and do not dare use a firearm for self-protection from assault on the chance the attacker is unarmed. In retrospect, Zimmerman might have preferred to have been “whoop-assed,” [2] or Wilson preferred being slugged than to become lifelong targeted pariahs [3].

So Wilson’s second apparent error [4] was in winning the fight over Brown for his gun. Had he allowed Brown to beat him, then Wilson might well have had a chance of surviving the wounds, and thus he might now still be a policemen with a career rather than ostracized, in danger, and unemployed. Neither the community nor the media would have found newsworthy the shooting or beating of a white policeman by an African-American youth — in the manner that the murder of two California sheriffs by a twice-deported illegal alien was one-day news. In contrast, once Wilson stopped Brown and once he managed to wrestle his gun back into his own control, then the options narrowed as Brown charged and the inevitable shooting ensued.

So another unspoken lesson from Ferguson may be that unarmed assailants such as Brown — or Trayvon Martin — can, just as armed suspects, pose as great challenges to those who confront them , in the sense that being assaulted by them might now be seen as preferable to using a firearm in self-defense, with the subsequent ruin [5] that follows.

Note further that the community of Ferguson dissenters was not much worried that strong-armed robbery occurred, or that a town cannot long exist [6] with youths walking in the middle of the street under the influence or assaulting police officers, or disobeying orders to cease and desist, or postfacto rioting and looting as much as the fact that in the shoot-out, a white policeman shot a black unarmed assailant.  That fact, too, will be silently noted.

Will some law enforcement officials now surmise that it is wiser to ignore some crimes in the inner city on the practicable logic that the denouement for the officer will likely be negative — either by stopping the assailant through force or not stopping the assault and thus being assaulted? If the suspect is unarmed but attacks, the post-Ferguson choice will either be to suffer physical harm or to respond in ways that may equate with the end of a career. So it may be preferable that the suspect is armed, at least in the sense that any resort to armed self-defense at least offers the hope of dodging the first bullet or two, while still escaping the specter of Ferguson justice. (Note the near contemporaneous case of an off-duty officer in St. Louis who shot an African-American assailant who had first fired but missed. The key fact of the case was that the assailant got in the first three shots and thus the protests that followed fizzled out before rioting.)

Critics might rightly point to Eric Garner and argue that he posed no threat to policemen; certainly, his misdemeanor merchandising of cigarettes was hardly worth a violent confrontation. Perhaps New York City policemen should have been able to find a way of arresting the obese and asthmatic 300-pound suspect without the use of a chokehold. And Garner’s pleas to allow him to breathe should have resulted in an end to pressures on his neck and throat. All that is true. But the fallout also suggests that if policemen cannot subdue a large African-American unarmed suspect — with 30 prior arrests including larceny, resisting arrest and assault —  who resists arrest, without using force that in theory could threaten his safety, then they logically will just ignore the crime.

If you are a libertarian, a street full of enterprising Garners, even if prior felons, working, profiting and breaking senseless laws is a tolerable thing; if you are a traditionalist of the broken-windows school [7] of law enforcement, then openly defying the laws, even petty laws, undermines all law. I point this out again not to judge the police or Garner, but simply to note the likely effect of all these cases is for police to red-flag these landscapes and to pull back from certain criminal scenarios, both major and petty —  a fact that will be known to society at large.

That 5,000 to 6,000 African-Americans are murdered each year, the vast majority by other blacks — more than the aggregate American dead in Iraq from of five years of intense fighting — is not so important as the single death of Michael Brown, at least as evidenced by media and community reactions. Also not important is the disproportionality of African-American crime rates in which a small fraction of the population — young, male African-American — is largely responsible for 50% of annual homicides committed. The disturbing lesson is not that it is an outrage that African-Americans are gunned down in catastrophic numbers, or that African-Americans commit and suffer murders at rates far higher than other ethnic and racial groups, even allowing for comparable low-income population subsets, or that in rare white-black crime, African-Americans are far more likely to be the perpetrators, or that police fatal shootings of suspects are relatively rare and do not disproportionately focus on African-Americans, at least in light of crime statistics that might explain the more likely landscapes in which police are confronted with violent criminal suspects.

Instead, in the world that Al Sharpton envisions, the rules of police and citizen conduct that unleash popular furor would be something like the following. Of all the many racial and firearm-related violent scenarios — armed blacks shooting armed or unarmed blacks or whites; unarmed blacks attacking armed or unarmed blacks or whites; armed whites shooting armed or unarmed blacks or whites — only one merits national, even global outrage. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation or the level of prior violence inflicted, armed whites, either private citizens or law enforcement officials, must not under any circumstances shoot unarmed blacks.  Again, that is an empirical observation, not one of judgment.

Note well that last week a Bosnian immigrant was beaten to death [8] by young African-American and Latino teens. Other such black-on-white cases are said to have preceded and followed the murder.  The usual official bureaucratese followed the shooting: that such targeted violence had nothing to do with race, that it could not be a hate crime, and that it was not associated with Ferguson, etc. Was there rioting or a Justice investigation over the unwillingness of authorities to cite this as a hate crime? Certainly, two messages were implicit about the killing of Zemir Begic: had he been African-American and his assailants white, Ferguson-like violence may well have followed; and had he had a gun and shot his hammer-welding attackers, he might well have found as bleak a future as did George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson for shooting and killing an attacker who did not wield a firearm.

By racializing crime and the reactions to it, and by dismissing facts in lieu of racial stereotyping, the Al Sharpton [9] school of racists has more or less redefined both race relations and criminal justice itself.

In a blink of an eye, we have gone from Barack Obama citing Ferguson at the United Nations; to the father-in-law of Michael Brown, in front of a crowd on the verge of rioting, screaming into a mike “burn this bitch down”; to Louis Farrakhan all but calling for a race war: “But when we die and they die, then soon we gonna sit down at a table and talk about – we tired. We want some of this earth. We tear this God damn country up.” [10]

Just as the ethics reformer in the White House has left a legacy of unprecedented presidential scandal, so too the racial healer has presided over the greatest erosion in racial relations in the last half-century. That is the lesson of Ferguson — and the Fergusons to come — and the backlash outrages to the Fergusons to come — and on and on and on.

Article printed from Works and Days:

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URLs in this post:

[1] take the beating:

[2] “whoop-assed,”:

[3] lifelong targeted pariahs:

[4] second apparent error:

[5] the subsequent ruin:

[6] cannot long exist:

[7] broken-windows school:

[8] was beaten to death:

[9] Al Sharpton:

[10] We tear this God damn country up.”:

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16 thoughts on “Ripples of Ferguson”

  1. Post modern cultural relativism has turned basic police functions into potential national flashpoint crises ala Austria-Hungarian Empire and Serbia. How on earth can one be entrusted and to properly ensure the peace, while in possession of a weapon, when you have both the fear of losing your life or serious injury and of being the next Bernie Goetz? Now try and make a rational fraction-of-a-second decision weighing those possibilities and trade-offs.
    Policing ought to be the avante-guard of upholding standards and making them clear to the public. People will argue that many forces have failed in this respect, but according to modern liberal critiques standards are an obsolete pomp from the West’s bygone white, privileged, racist past–simultaneously, according to the president, it is still heavily ingrained, while speaking to BET.
    It’s not until you look into the US’ past standards for (then) privileges such as public housing, that you can truly see how far the US has fallen in this regard. The soft bigotry of low expectations and, essentially, affirmative justice for those deemed inculpable, will only aggravate tensions. It will also further incentivize the media’s checklist reporting scheme, and either withhold information or disseminate abject lies in order to cloud the proceedings and incite riots.
    Coupled with the media, I also fail to see how anything can be achieved with so many third parties involved with agendas that run counter to there being a candid and transparent communication between citizen and police. They seem to care less how many of nationality x or gender xx you have on a force, the problem is the force in and of itself, and the standards they (ought) to endeavour towards.

  2. Great thoughts, Professor Hanson.

    In Tom Horn’s autobiography, Mr. Horn says he learned three lessons from Indian Chief Pedro, who when told as a courtesy by US Army Scout Al Seiber that the Army would pursue some of Pedro’s renegade, feral tribe members who had murdered white settlers… Chief Pedro said he wanted to gather some of his own braves and kill them first.

    Here was Chief Pedro’s lesson: When it comes to the spirit of evil in certain people (the bottom rung of any group — gays, transgenders, whites, blacks, men, women…) a) wherever big trouble is, there are those people, b) Those people almost always never get better and c) the spirit animus that drives those people, it never dies. You’ll always and ever have these kind of people, who create problems, to deal with.

    Further, the black church… even the Evangelical church… is guilty of using mesmerizing, dumbing-down hypnotism techniques, along with expected persona worship of brazen leaders, and winking and known sins (such as broadcasting that no “victim” group has evil rampant within its bottom tier members)… to the point that the overarching lesson is: When folks of color don’t like something that happened, God wants rioting, burning, looting and furious vilification against innocent folk who did right. Shame on the Evangelicals for dumbing their audiences unto a point that dogs and chickens behave more intelligently than these leaders.

  3. I wish this was a more thoughtful analysis of the problems being exposed with possible approaches to solutions. Something along the lines of wondering why a sole white law enforcement officer patrols a majority black community. Why do we expect confrontation between that sole law enforcement officer is the expected situation? Is this the climax to “High Noon”? Has the law enforcement officer abandoned all other approaches to deal with the situation because he believes he has to be heroic and maintain the “thin blue line” for a neighborhood that does not know him and cares less about his duty? Is there a neighborhood patrol?

    1. I find the remark, “I wish this was a more thoughtful analysis of the problems being exposed with possible approaches to solution,” rather odd given how thoughtful ALL of Professor Hanson’s analyses are. And although he may not point to the solutions in this article, he has done so in many other articles. I am reminded of what Dennis Prager has said about this particular problem in Ferguson… “What difference would it make to the general outcome of blacks if ALL white cops retired and were replaced by cops of color?” I would add to Mr. Prager’s question, what is the difference in those police forces already populated by majority cops of color now, like in some Leftist controlled cities around America? The answer is simple… none. Without changing the root of the problem, which is the culture and attitudes of these thuggish youth, nothing changes. The problem starts at home… 80% out of wedlock births, fatherless boys, gangs that replace families, and attitudes of “acting white” and getting an education as a sign of betrayal to the race. Also, much like the solution to radical Islam can only be found in the followers of Islam, so too is the solution to this problem found in the very place where the howls are the loudest.

    2. Because Affirmative Policing will garner the same results, it will then require race baiters and the like to have to concoct a new problem. If my hunch is correct it will be the Uncle Tom Cop problem. I wish this wasn’t the case, but given the asininity the media puts out, it is right up their alley.

  4. And… one more line of thought, Professor Hanson:

    Natural Law would tell us that none has a right to aggress upon our spirit, soul, mind, body, possessions, finances or property… without due process or just cause. In fact, Natural Law would tell us that if threat of violence is upon our person, we must have the option to use violence against the perpetrator, else we lose a limb that cannot be reattached (i.e. our head sawed off ends our life)… else we have a hammer indentation two inches into our skull (i.e. we cannot again think)… else we die (i.e. no waiting for cops to arrive, time is out!)…

    All those things our Founding Fathers knew and bequeathed a civic society wherein government does not alone possess the right to violence, nay rather citizens own this right at birth and give a little of it to government hirelings. But now Progressives want all laws plastic, and want the right to not be aggressed upon to apply to blacks always, but whites never when confronted by blacks?

  5. “If you are a libertarian, a street full of enterprising Garners, even if prior felons, working, profiting and breaking senseless laws is a tolerable thing;”

    Well it certainly does seem that we’re getting to a point where everything has become illegal. Libertarians have long argued that government needs to establish priorities. The same argument can be made for law enforcement and violence should be at the very top of that list. Assaults, murders and other violent crimes should be where the most talent and most resources are focused and for which the harshest sentences are laid down. A place where law enforcement personnel have little time for non-violent nuisance crimes because they’re too busy upholding a steadfast focus on drastically reducing violent crime would be a pretty nice place to live.

  6. So with this orchestrated outrage expect to follow the money, that would be your tax dollars, which will flow to the major black orgnaizations who will require payment to settle down the people…temporarily…until their media catching antics are needed at a future date.

    Though he is being beaten up over the rape charges, Bill Cosby, became quite vocal starting in 2006 within the black communities. He gave major presentations to the poor, encouraging blacks to take responsibiltiy for their own lives, reminding them how important it was to go to school in order to break the cycle of poverty. And this plea, according to Juan Williams in his book “Enough” fell on deaf ears within the black elite and with the liberal media…he got no support.

    Actual caring at the local level always gets in the way of elite power and elite lifestyles.

  7. When governments enact laws, whether they be misdemeanors or felonies, they ARE, in essence, “setting priorities”; i.e., what behaviors are acceptable in the maintenance of polite society. Although in some aspects these events are dissimilar, the fact remains that the tragic consequences of both were the direct result of decisions made by the deceased after initial contact with the police. Regardless the severity of their infractions, both men chose belligerence rather than compliance to reasonable orders from duly appointed law enforcement officials.

  8. on Hannity congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said she didn’t care about the evidence when it came to the the New York and Ferguson not the exact thinking, that white lynch mobs used against their black victims.

  9. This large man speaking clearly while out of breath is, in my mind impossible. I’ve been out of breath having fell out of a tree. A boy was asking Q’s while I was out of breath. All

  10. This large man speaking clearly while out of breath is, in my mind impossible. I’ve been out of breath having fell out of a tree. A boy was asking Q’s while I was out of breath. All I could do was wave my hands
    for wave my hands for quite a while.


  11. Thinking about that ‘backlash’ thing, it seems a quaint notion that a quiet majority (orders of magnitude more people than in all the riots and protests combined) will fail to seek a solution to a situation in which one group insists on ignoring laws guaranteeing the security of selves and properties while simultaneously the authorities almost totally fail to enforce those laws. Given enough fear, they make seek radical solutions to that problem. Security would historically seem to be more popular than freedom at certain levels.

  12. The reason the body was left in the street for four hours is because there was an investigation to complete. I live in Middle TN. If I were to die on I-40, I would expect to be left in the road for about 4 hours while the TN highway patrol’s fatal accident completes their investigation. They shut the interstate down completely. Not even a single lane open. Seen it many times. Sucks to be stuck on the way home from work, but sucks worse to be in the road dead. They did not leave the body in the road because of spite.

  13. could it be that there is a dearth of black policemen to patrol these black neighborhoods? the reason is because the police departments cannot find suitable applicants who have the minimum education–the physical abilities and are also drug free? could it be that black unemployment in general is so high–a dearth of suitable applicants to fill job openings. one reason for the belligerent and aggressive behavior of the so called “gentle giant” was that his system was overloaded with whacky tobacky. had it been alcohol–he would have been dui. he also had a bag of it on his person.. note– no toxicity reports furnished unless asked for. any rioter, arsonist or looter should have any and all welfare benefits removed for life. was it not the law at one time when people obeyed the law that looters would be shot on sight?. why must the working class of law abiding citizens continue to support and incubate this lawless, criminal group ?

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