The possibility that Larry Elder may win California’s recall election against Governor Gavin Newsom is generating acute anxiety in the mainstream media and among the activist Left. Elder’s foes are responding with their favored means of destruction: by playing the race card. Never mind that the nationally syndicated talk show host is black. A series of opinion columns and editorials have accused him of being a white supremacist, or at the very least a shill for other white supremacists. Elect Elder and California will reinstate Jim Crow, state senator Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, has warned.
The media have focused particularly on Elder’s views about crime and policing. The self-described “Sage from South-Central” maintains that criminals, not the police, are the biggest threat in the black community. According to Elder, the false narrative about lethal police racism has only led to more black homicide deaths. “When you reduce the possibility of a bad guy getting caught, getting convicted and getting incarcerated, guess what? Crime goes up,” he said recently at a campaign event in Orange County.
Elder also rejects the charge that white civilians are gunning down blacks, as LeBron James maintained in a tweet during the George Floyd riots: “We are literally hunted everyday, every time we step outside the comfort of our homes.” Elder has a different take. If a “young black man is eight times more likely to be killed by another young black man than [by] a young white man,” Elder told the Orange County Republicans, then “systemic racism is not the problem.”
Such statements are anathema to the establishment Left, deeply invested as it is in the idea that blacks have little agency in the face of ubiquitous white racism. Few subjects are more taboo in elite discourse than the elevated rate of crime among blacks, as it suggests cultural pathologies that—at the very least—complicate the victim narrative. To the Left, black crime is little more than a racist fiction. Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero claims that the crime statistics Elder has cited “over the decades to support his views and policy proposals are misleading, if not outright false, casting Black people as unusually crime-prone.” Black people are not “more inclined toward violent crimes,” nor do blacks “disproportionately victimize whites,” Guerrero wrote, citing Columbia law professor Jeffrey Fagan and other criminal experts. (Fagan was the plaintiff’s expert in a trilogy of lawsuits against the New York Police Department in the 2010s.) Fellow Times columnist Erika Smith sneered that Elder “keeps trotting out statistics that purport to show that Black people are particularly prone to murdering one another.”
Unfortunately for Elder’s critics, the statistics showing vastly disproportionate rates of black crime and victimization come from some of the Left’s favorite sources. CDC data show that in 2015, for example, the homicide victimization rate for blacks aged 10–34 (37.5 per 100,000) was 13 times the rate for whites (2.9 per 100,000). That disparity is undoubtedly much greater now, given the record-breaking increase in homicides since the George Floyd riots—an increase disproportionately affecting blacks.
Those black victims of homicide are not being killed by cops or whites. They are being killed by other blacks. In Los Angeles, blacks this year have committed 46 percent of homicides whose offender is known, even though they are just 9 percent of the Los Angeles population. Whites make up 28 percent of the Los Angeles population but have committed 4 percent of homicides, mostly involving domestic violence. These data, reported by the Los Angeles Times, mean that a black Angeleno is 35 times more likely to commit a homicide than a white Angeleno. Homicide data are the gold standard for crime statistics. Alas for Jeffrey Fagan and the Los Angeles Times’s other experts, the statistical conclusion that blacks are “more inclined toward violent crimes” is indisputable.
What about the claim that blacks don’t “disproportionately victimize whites”? In 2019, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of criminal victimization, blacks committed 127,350 non-lethal violent crimes against whites, while whites committed 17,690 non-lethal violent crimes against blacks. In other words, blacks commit 88 percent of all interracial violence between blacks and whites.
Crime apologists argue that such disproportions are inevitable because there are so many whites in the U.S. But in cities where racial ratios are more commensurate, the amount of white-on-black violence remains negligible.
Occasionally videos and reports of interracial violence—flash mobs, knockout games, and brutal beatings and robberies—become public. If the races were reversed, there would be a national uproar lasting months; but such incidents get scant, if any, mainstream media coverage. They are the reason why the press has all but eliminated reporting on the race of crime suspects.
Such voluntary action is not enough to ensure public cluelessness about the reality of crime, however. Governor Newsom recently signed a law prohibiting California’s police departments from posting mugshots of arrested criminals if their latest crime was “non-violent.” The San Francisco Police Department has stopped posting mugshots of all criminals. Police Chief Bill Scott explained that doing so “creates an illusory correlation for viewers that vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men to engage in criminal behavior.” Actually, mug shots document a real correlation. If the San Francisco Police Department could undercut that correlation by posting mugshots of white muggers, does anyone doubt that it would rush to do so?
Elder’s dismissal of Black Lives Matter claims about systemic police violence is also grounded in fact. Police officers are at greater risk of civilian violence than blacks are at risk of police violence. And a disproportionate source of that danger to cops comes from black criminals.
Fifty police officers have been murdered this year as of August 25. In 2019, there were 697,195 sworn officers in the U.S. That employment count would be lower now, in light of the rush of officer retirements over the last year and a half and the inability of police departments to recruit replacements. Conservatively, using the 2019 number, however, those 50 officers represent a rate of approximately seven officers killed per 100,000 on the job. Four unarmed blacks have been fatally shot by police officers so far in 2021, according to the Washington Post. (“Unarmed” does not mean compliant; the Post’s category includes crime suspects who violently resist arrest, pummel officers after knocking them to the ground, and continue fighting after being tased.) Those four black victims represent .0000085 percent of the nearly 47 million self-identified blacks, or less than one one-hundredth of one person killed by the police per 100,000. A police officer is 875 times as likely to be killed on the job as an unarmed black is to be killed by a police officer.
Historically, blacks have made up over 40 percent of cop killers nationwide—43 percent between 2005 and 2013—though they are, at most, 13 percent of the nation’s population. In New York City, blacks were responsible for 74 percent of the murders of on-duty New York Police Department officers between 1986 and 2020. In 2019, blacks nationally were over 37 percent of all cop killers whose race was known. Conservatively estimating that 40 percent of the cop killers this year have been black, 20 officers would have been killed by a black suspect in 2021, for a rate of nearly three cops per 100,000 officers killed by a black. A police officer is 375 times as likely to be killed by a black suspect as an unarmed black is to be killed by a police officer.
Elder is breaking the taboos about black crime in an effort to save black lives. Police activity must be understood in the context of crime, not simple population ratios, since policing today is data-driven. Cops go where people are most being victimized, and that is in black neighborhoods. The police cannot protect black victims without having a disparate impact on black criminals.
But the lies directed against cops from the highest reaches of government have led the police to back off. The Los Angeles Police Department experienced a 43 percent reduction in arrests in 2020 and a 27 percent reduction in street stops. This year, through August 21, arrests are down another 28 percent, compared with the same period in 2019. Crime responded predictably. Homicides in Los Angeles through August 21 are up 44 percent compared with the pre-George Floyd year of 2019; shots fired are up over 48 percent, and shootings up 44 percent. In Los Angeles County, homicides were up 111 percent this year through late May. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Latino and black victims account for nearly all the recent surge in homicides in Los Angeles.
Assaults on officers also rose in 2020. Since the George Floyd riots, officers in California have been shot at, assaulted with lethal projectiles, firebombed, and run over. In September 2020, long-time felon Deonte Murray walked up to the parked squad car of two Los Angeles County Sherriff’s deputies and shot them both in the head as they sat inside. Bystanders cheered; anticop protesters continued the celebration later at the hospital, as the deputies struggled on life support.
Yet despite this open season on cops, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón declared in December 2020 that officers’ authority may be resisted with impunity and will not be prosecuted—a declaration that strikes at the heart of civilization itself, as Elder understands.
Trying to ensure that blacks get the policing they need in order to stay alive would not seem to be the gesture of a white supremacist, black or white.
If Elder were running as a Democrat, the press would be celebrating the possibility of California’s first black governor. Instead, we hear nothing about “shattering glass ceilings” or “diversifying” the ruling elite. The New York Times ran an entire front-page article on Elder’s candidacy without once mentioning that he was black. (The article did claim in passing that Elder was an affirmative-action admit to Brown University, an unthinkable charge regarding a black liberal.) A column by Paul Krugman two days later was equally colorblind regarding the Elder candidacy. Has the Times renounced identity politics? Only selectively. Adjacent to the August 25 front-page article was a story on New York’s new governor, headlined “Hochul Breaks a Barrier and Pledges a New Era.” The story opened with the observation that “Kathleen C. Hochul became the first woman to ascend to New York’s highest office on Tuesday.” Yet Hochul’s entry into the governor’s mansion in Albany does not even signify anything about gubernatorial voting patterns; she was not elected but slotted in after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. Black governors have been much rarer than female ones. Elder would lead the nation’s largest state and be just the third black governor ever elected in the United States, following Douglas Wilder in Virginia and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.
Elder is indifferent to the silence regarding the “historic” nature of his candidacy.
But the media’s effort to portray his run merely as a resurgence of alleged Trumpian racism depends on a shameful duplicity regarding crime and policing. As long as that duplicity remains in force, in the California governor’s office and elsewhere, the country will continue sliding toward anarchy.
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