- NATO, Russia, and bias (values vs. empirics) Rachel Epstein, Duck of Minerva
- Leftists loathe libertarians at DC think tank Daniel Lippman, Politico
- Free speech, committees, and Georgetown law Jason Brennan, 200-Proof Liberals
- Biden and his anti-socialist stimulus legislation Thomas Knapp, WLGC
- Contemplating nullification in the U.S. federation NEO, nebraskaenergyobserver
- Cancel Neera Tanden Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth
- Magical thinking and economic growth Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
- The Bird Juan Cárdenas, Southwest Review
- On cosmopolitan humility and the arrogance of states (pdf) Luis Cabrera, ISPP
- The highway to serfdom (pdf) Gus DiZerega, Cosmos + Taxis
- Russia’s greatest river Farah Abdessamad, ARB
- A marketplace and a temple (h/t Michalis) Michael Kulikowski, LRB
- “politics are now entirely a consumer-branding exercise” Antonio Garcia-Martinez, TPR
On Thursday, Parler was the most popular app in the United States. By Monday, three of the four Silicon Valley monopolies united to destroy it.
With virtual unanimity, leading U.S. liberals celebrated this use of Silicon Valley monopoly power to shut down Parler, just as they overwhelmingly cheered the prior two extraordinary assertions of tech power to control U.S. political discourse: censorship of The New York Post’s reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the banning of the U.S. President from major platforms. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a single national liberal-left politician even expressing concerns about any of this, let alone opposing it.
Not only did leading left-wing politicians not object but some of them were the ones who pleaded with Silicon Valley to use their power this way. After the internet-policing site Sleeping Giants flagged several Parler posts that called for violence, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked: “What are @Apple and @GooglePlay doing about this?”
The rest is here. Do read it. (H/t Mark from Placerville)
I haven’t jumped into American domestic politics for a long, long time. It’s nice to see that Glenn Greenwald is still the same ol’ Glenn Greenwald. I saw on Twitter awhile back that some Leftists were savaging him because he refused to take their side on something or other.
The tribal trend is one that is here to stay, I think, at least for the duration of my lifetime. In the old days, in the United States, politics was more polarized. Whole families based part of their identity on a political party. What we are seeing is a return to the norm after 80 years of postwar boom (and bust), when being an American trumped being a Democrat/Republican. Coming to terms with a bug in the democratic system (polarization), is going to be difficult for a lot of Americans.
The problem is not just ignorance with polarization, either. Before the postwar boom, America’s federal government did a lot less than it does now. Our polarized society, which again is a normal feature of democracies that don’t win world wars, is fighting for resources that are now wielded largely by one entity rather than by hundreds of local entities. There are plusses and minuses to this. The federal government is more professional about such things, and graft is harder to commit, but this also means that there will be more losers (for those federal goodies).
In the past, violent riots were the product of racist and Nativist animosities that were not dealt with effectively by local authorities. Basically, black Americans and immigrants were not able to get any public goods from local and “state” governments unless they literally fought for a place at the table. Today, and for the foreseeable future, the animosities are going to be federal in scope rather than local, so violence will not be a product of racist or Nativist abuse. Violent riots will probably flare up more often than they once did, too, but they won’t be as deadly as the racist or Nativist riots of old.
I hope I’m wrong, but I rarely am.
Mr Trump is practically gone and he is not coming back. (For one thing, he will be too old in 2024. For another thing, see below.) The political conditions that got such an un-preposterous candidate elected in 2016 however, those conditions, don’t look like they are going away. (I hope I am wrong.) A large fraction of Americans will continue to be ignored from an economic standpoint, as well as insulted daily by their better. Four years of insults thrown at people like me and the hysterical outpouring of contempt by liberal media elites on the last days of the Trump administration are not making me go away. Instead, they will cement my opposition to their vision of the world and to their caste behavior. I would bet dollars on the penny that a high proportion of the 74 million+ who voted for Mr Trump in 2020 feels the same. (That’s assuming that’s the number who voted for him; I am not sure of it at all. It could be more. Currently, with the information available, I vote 60/40 that the election was not – not – stolen.)
I never liked Trump, the man, for all the obvious reasons although I admired his steadfastness because it’s so rare among politicians. In the past two years, I can’t say I liked any of his policies, though I liked his judicial appointments. It’s just that who else could I vote for in 2016? Hillary? You are kidding, right? And in 2020, after President Trump was subjected to four years (and more) of unceasing gross abuse and of persecution guided by a totalitarian spirit, would it not have been dishonorable to vote for anyone but him? (Libertarians: STFU!)
Believe it or not, if Sen. Sanders and his 1950 ideas had not been eliminated again in 2020, again through the machinations of the Dem. National Committee, I would have had a serious talk with myself. At least, Sanders is not personally corrupt, and with a Republican Senate, we would have had a semi-paralyzed government that would have been OK with me.
One week after the event of 1/6/21, maybe “the breach” of the Capitol, many media figures continue to speak of a “coup.” Even the Wall Street Journal has joined in. That’s downright grotesque. I don’t doubt that entering the Capitol in a disorderly fashion and, for many, (not all; see the videos) uninvited, is illegal as well as unseemly. I am in favor of the suspects being found and prosecuted, for trespassing, or something. This will have the merit of throwing some light on the political affiliation(s) of the window breakers. I still see no reason to abandon the possibility that some, maybe (maybe) in the vanguard, were Antifa or BLM professional revolutionaries. Repeating myself: Trump supporters have never behaved in that manner before. I am guessing the investigations and the prosecutions are going to be less than vigorous precisely because the new administration will not want to know or to have the details be known of the criminals’ identity. If I am wrong, and all the brutal participants were Trump supporters, we will know it very quickly. The media will be supine either way.
It’s absurd and obscenely overwrought to call the breaching of the Capitol on January 6th (by whomever), a “coup” because there was never any chance that it would result in transferring control of the federal government to anyone. Develop the scenario: Both chambers are filled with protesters (of whatever ilk); protesters occupy both presiding chairs, and they hold in their hands both House and Senate gavels. What next? Federal agencies start taking their orders from them; the FBI reports to work as usual but only to those the protesters appoint? Then, perhaps, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs interrupts the sketchy guy who is taking a selfie while sitting in the VP chair. He says he wants to hand him the nuclear controls football. (Ask Nancy Pelosi, herself perpetrator of a coup, though a small one.) If you think any of this is credible, well, think about it, think about yourself, think again. And get a hold!
That the Capitol riot was a political act is true in one way and one way only, a minor way. It derailed the electoral vote counting that had been widely described as “ceremonial.” Happened after (after) the Vice-President had declared loud and clear that he did not have the authority to change the votes. The counting resumed after only a few hours. There is no scenario, zero, under which the riot would have altered the choice of the next president. If there had been, the breach would have been a sort of coup, a weak one.
On 1/9/21, an announcer, I think it was on NPR, I hope it was on NPR, qualified the events as a “deadly” something or other. He, and media in general, including Fox News, I am afraid, forgot to go into the details. In point of fact, five people died during the protest and part-riot of 1/6/21. One was a Capitol policeman who was hit with a fire extinguisher. As I write, there is no official allegation about who did it. There is no information about the political affiliation, if any, of the culprit(s). For sure, protesters caused none of three next deaths which were due to medical emergencies, including a heart attack. The fifth casualty was a protester, who was probably inside the Capitol illegally, and who was shot to death by a policeman. She was definitely a Trump supporter. She was unarmed. Many people who are busy with their lives will think that Trump supporters had massacred five people because of the mendacity of the language used on air. Disgraceful, disgusting reporting; but we are getting used to it.
Today and yesterday, I witnessed a mass movement I think I have not seen in my life though it rings some historical bells. Pundits, lawmakers, and other members of their caste are elbowing one another out of the way to be next to make extremist pronouncements on the 1/6/21 events. Why, a journalist on Fox News, no less, a pretty blond lady wearing a slightly off the shoulder dress referred to a “domestic terror attack.” With a handful of courageous exceptions, all lawmakers I have seen appearing in the media have adopted extreme vocabulary to describe what remained a small riot, if it was a riot at all. I mean that it was a small riot as compared to what happened in several American cities in the past year. The hypocrisy is colossal in people who kept their mouths mostly shut for a hundred nights or more of burning of buildings, of police cars, of at least one police precinct (with people in it), and of massive looting.
It’s hard to explain how the media and the political face of America became unrecognizable in such a short time. Two hypotheses. First, many of the lawmakers who were in the Capitol at the time of the breach came to fear for their personal safety. Four years of describing Trump supporters as Nazis and worse must have left a trace and multiplied their alarm. Except for the handful of Congressmen and women who served in the military and who saw actual combat, our lawmakers have nothing in their lives to prepare them for physical danger. They mostly live cocooned lives; the police forces that protect them have not been disbanded. (What do you know?) I think they converted the abject fear they felt for a short while into righteous indignation. Indignation is more self-respecting than fear for one’s skin.
My second hypothesis to explain the repellent verbal behavior: The shameful noises I heard in the media are the manifestation of a rat race to abandon a sinking ship. Jobs are at stake, careers are at stake, cushy lifestyles are at stake. “After Pres. Trump is gone, as he surely will be soon,” the lawmakers are thinking, “there will be a day of reckoning, and a purge. I have to establish right away a vivid, clear, unforgettable record of my hatred to try and avoid the purge. No language is too strong to achieve this end.” That’s true even for Republican politicians because, they too have careers. Trump cabinet members resigned for the same reason, I think when they could have simply declared, “I don’t approve of…. but I am staying to serve the people to the end.”
Along with an outburst of extremist public language, there came a tsunami of censorship by social media, quite a few cases of people getting fired merely for having been seen at the peaceful demonstration (all legal though repulsive), and even a breach of contract by a major publisher against a US Senator based solely on his political discourse (to be resolved in court). And then, there are the enemy lists aired by the likes of CNN, for the sole purpose of ruining the careers of those who served loyally in the Trump administration.
President-elect Bidden called for “unity.” Well, I have never, ever seen so much unity between a large fraction of the political class – soon an absolute majority in government – the big media, and large corporations. I have never seen it but I have read about it. Such a union constituted the political form called “corporatism.” It was the practical infrastructure of fascism.
As if political correctness had only been its training wheels, the vehicle of political censorship is speeding up. The active policing of political speech can’t be far behind. It won’t even require a revision of the federal constitution so long as private companies such as Twitter and Facebook do the dirty work. Soon, Americans will watch what they are saying in public. I fear that national police agencies will be turned to a new purpose. (The FBI, already proved its faithlessness four years ago, anyway.) Perhaps, there will be little collective cynicism involved. It’s not difficult to adopt liberalism, a self-indulgent creed. And what we understand here (wrongly) to be “socialism” only entails an endless Christmas morning. So, why not? The diabolical Mr Trump will soon be remembered as having incited some misguided, uneducated, unpolished (deplorable) Americans to massacre their legitimately elected representatives.
Incidentally, in spite of a near consensus on the matter, I have not seen or heard anything from Pres. Trump that amounts to incitement to do anything (anything) illegal. There are those who will retort that inviting his angry supporters to protest was tantamount to incitement to violence. The logic of this is clear: Only crowds that are not angry should be invited to protest. Read this again. Does it make any sense? Make a note that the constitutional propriety of Mr Trump’s belief that the election had been stolen is irrelevant here. One does not have to be constitutionally correct to have the right to protest.
Night has fallen over America. We are becoming a totalitarian society with a speed I could not have foreseen. Of course four years of unrelenting plotting to remove the properly elected president under false pretenses paved the way. Those years trained citizens to accept the unacceptable, to be intellectually docile. Suddenly I don’t feel safe. I am going to think over my participation in the social media both because of widespread censorship and because it now seems dangerous. As far as censorship is concerned I tried an alternative to Facebook, “Parler,” but it did not work for me. Besides, it seems that the big corporations, including Amazon and Apple, are ganging up to shut it down. The cloud of totalitarianism gathered so fast over our heads that all my bets are off about the kinds of risks I am now willing to take. I will still consider alternatives to Facebook but they will have to be very user-friendly, and reasonably populated. (If I want to express myself in the wilderness, I can always talk to my wife.) For the foreseeable future, I will still be easy to find in the blogosphere.
Best of luck to all my Facebook friends, including to those who need to learn to think more clearly, including those whose panties are currently in a twist.
- Was liberal imperialism ethical? Kenan Malik, Guardian
- The world is trapped in America’s culture war Helen Lewis, Atlantic
- That was some election! Scott Sumner, Money Illusion
- California’s far Left governor sends his kids to private school Politico
La nomination de Kamal Harris comme candidate du Parti Democrate (“D” majuscule) à la vice-presidence avec Joe Biden a donne lieu à beaucoup de sornettes dans les media francais, et francophones, comme on pouvait s’y attendre. Bien sur tout ceci importe car il y a de bonnes chance que Kamala se retrouve présidente, peut-être même très vite.
Etant donnés l’âge de Biden et son état de sénilité, il n’est pas impossible qu’elle devienne tôt Président des EU par remplacement constitutionel. Ceci, à moins que ceux-la mêmes qui ont choisi Kamala comme V.P. à rideaux tirés changent de cheval et inventent aussi un stratagème constitutionel pour mettre en oeuvre le remplacement du vieux Biden. Il y a même certains (dont je ne suis pas) qui parient que Biden ne sera jamais le candidat Democrate venu le temps des élections, qu’il sera remplacé par Kamala avant les élections.
D’abord, des clarifications sur l’ascendance familiale de Kamlal Harris qui ne sont pas superflues vu que le Parti Democrate est enfoncé jusqu’au cou dans la politique communautariste. Elle est la fille de deux immigrants. Sa mère était une Indienne de haute caste du sud de l’Inde. Son père vient de la Jamaique. Selon lui-même, il descend à la fois d’esclaves et de propriétaires d’esclaves. (Il s’agit d’une situation commune, aux EU, comme dans les Antilles anglaises. On saurait qu’elle est commune aussi dans les Antille françaises si on se donnait la peine de chercher un peu.)
Les EU sont un des ces pays possèdant une bourgeoisie issue directement de l’immigration. (J’en fait moi-même partie, sur un plan assez mineur, à vrai dire.) On n’est pas obligé d’entrer dans la société américaine par le bas. Aujourd’hui même, des milliers de citoyens de l’Inde arrivent nantis de bons diplômes. Ils acquièrent un enseignement supplémentaire sur place. Ceux qui s’arrangent pour rester se retrouvent quelquefois millionaires en dix ans. Il se marient le plus souvent entre eux, ce qui accélère encore l’ascenceur économique de leur mobilité sociale. En tous cas, le père de Kamala était professeur d’économie a Stanford et sa mère, chercheuse à l’université de Californie/ Berkeley, possèdait aussi un doctorat. La petite Kamala n’a donc pas été élevéee dans le dénuement. Grandissant dans la très éclairée région immédiate de San Francisco , dans les années 70/80, elle n’a surement pas beaucoup d’expérience personelle du racisme non plus .
Le fait qu’elle se présente comme un candidate Noire pose problème à beaucoup de francophones. C’est que la classification raciale aux EU est avant tout une question sociologique plutot que génétique. Depuis longtemps, elle dépent en partie des choix identitaires que font les personnes elles-mêmes. Personne ne châtie ceux qui se presentent comme blancs même s’ils ont 50% de sang africain sub-saharien. De même, il faudrait un état de fraude charactérisée pour que des porte-paroles Noirs dénoncent la négritude de n’importe qui possèdant un grand-père ou un arrière-grand-père Noir, ou même un seul arrière-arrière-grand-père. Il vaut quand meme mieux, cependant, posséder des traits visibles d’origine africaine sub-saharienne, sur la tête ou les lèvres, si la teinte de peau fait défaut.
Le père de Kamala, né à la Jamaique, possède sans aucun doute des ancêtres Africains . Et il semble que très tôt, Kamala ait fait le choix de devenir membre de l’élite politique Noire de la région de San Francisco. Elle aura delibérément opté pour l’afroamericanité. Elle a donc fait ses premières études universitaires à Howard University à des milliers de kilomètres de chez elle. Howard est difficile a expliquer. C’est une université fondée et financée directement par le gouvernement fédéral apres la Guerre Civile pour donner un débouché universitaire spécifiquement aux Noirs, dont les esclaves affranchis de l’époque. Incidemment, cette origine ne signifie nullement que Howard pratique la ségrégation raciale. Les blancs y sont facilement admis; ils l’ont toujours été.
En faisant ce choix, Kamal a expressément endossé une identité publique d’Africaine-Americaine et elle s’est plongée dans une culture ethnique qu’elle connaissait peut-être mal, ou même, pas du tout. Plus tard, Kamala a fait son droit a l’Universite de Californie/Berkeley, une école bien estimée régionalement, et aussi connue sur le plan national, et surtout, surtout, la pépinière presque’obligatoire du personnel politique de la Californie-Nord (qui comporte entre autres, San Francisco, et Silicone Valley). Comme on le sait, la grande majorité des politiciens américains possède une formation juridique.
Apres avoir echoué une première fois a l’examen qui ouvre l’inscription au Barreau, elle a réussi et elle est immédiatement entrée en politique, de manière tout ce qu’il ya de plus conventionnelle. Elle s’est arrangée pour être recrutée comme assistant-procureur de base; puis elle a été élue procureur en chef dans la circonscription de San Francisco en 2004.
Les mauvaises langues prétendent que le fait qu’elle ait été la maîtresse de Willie Brown, de 37 ans son ainé, n’aura pas nuit à sa capacité d’obtenir le support des notables Démocrates de la région. Willie Brown est l’ancien président de l’assemblée legislative de l’Etat de Californie et aussi, ancien maire de San Francisco. C’est un politicien professionel habile, un Démocrate un peut filou (mais pas trop), bien aimé de tous dans ces deux rôles (y compris de moi-même qui l’ai rencontré une fois). Mr Brown est Noir. A propos, à mon avis, les mauvaises langues ont bien raison.
Kamala est devenue procureur général du grand état de Californie en 2014 dans une élection peu disputée puisque le Parti Républicain, (mon propre parti) y est moribond depuis plusieurs années. Ce nouveau poste lui a procuré instantanément et automatiquement une notoriété qui lui manquait au niveau de l’ensemble de l’état de Californie (pop. 39 millions). En 2016, elle était élue la seconde des deux Senateurs de Californie au parlement fédéral donc, l’une de cent Senateurs nationaux. Elle avait triomphé contre un fauteuil vide car, aussi incroyable que cela paraisse, aucun Républicain ne s’était présenté contre elle! Après trois ans et demi au Senat, Kamal ne s’est illustrée par…rien. Elle y a bien fait son petit boulot au jour-le-jour mais n’est à l’origine, meme partielle, d’aucune législation importante.
Dans ses plusieurs carrières de procureur, Kamela Harris avait plus brillé par ses discours, et par ses vannes, et par ses initiative politiques que par ses chiffres de rendement conventionnels. Dans ses divers postes de procureur, elle a produit un faible taux de condamnations, l’aune de performance normale de ce métier. Elle a pourtan la réputation de s’attaquer a des proies faciles. Ainsi, par exemple, elle a mis a l’ombre des centaines de personnes coupables d’avoir …fumé de la cannabis (pas traffiqué de la cannabis). Ceci, à une époque où tout le monde savait très bien que la Californie était sur le point de légaliser cette pratique fort commune. Et puis, en fin de compte, qui donc est assez vulnérable pour se faire prendre et se retrouver sans défense devant ce chef d’accusation mineur, légalement valide mais pratiquement et moralement bidon? Les jeunes Noirs de sexe masculin, bien sur. Kamal a été entendue plaisantant sur la possibilité de jetter en prison les parents d’enfants récidivistes d’école buissonière. (Je ne sais pas si elle l’a fait.) Kamala Harris a aussi plusieurs fois demontré en public sa mechanceté hors du commun. Elle l’a fait, en particulier, à l’égard de Joe Biden à l’occasion de la primaire présidentielle Démocrate auquelle elle avait brièvement participé (et dont elle s’était retirée rapidement faute d’avoir suscité assez d’enthousiasme).
Q’apporte donc Kamala à la campaigne de Biden? Le plus important est ce qu’elle n’apporte pas. Elle n’apporte surtout pas le vote Noir, acquis depuis longtemps à Biden. D’ailleurs, les électeurs Noirs qui apprécient Kamala sont relativement peu nombreux selon un sondage récent. Elle n’apporte pas non plus le grand état de Californie (ou je vis), perdu d’avance par Trump et par les Républicains en général. On peut donc se demander: pourquoi Kamala?
Kamala Harris est-elle une femme d’extrême-gauche?
Kamala Harris est-elle un femme de gauche?
Kamal Harris est-elle une centriste?
Possède t’elle du talent pour la collecte de fonds?
Oui, oui, absolument.
Kamal Harris est une femme vigoureuse, d’apparence agréeable, toujours bien attifée, coiffée et maquillée (important pour l’électorat féminin), une femme qui s’exprime bien sur tout, et aussi sur rien, un femme politiquement correcte (doublement correcte) sur le plan ethnique, enfin, a peu près, (comme Barak Obama, d’ailleurs). En même temps, c’est une femme capable de mordre férocement
Kamala est un vase à la fois très présentable et vide qu’on remplira du contenu idoine le moment venu, un bon choix sur le plan de la flexibilité, idéologique et autre. Elle sera bien utile a ses capi quoiqu’il arrive dans les mois qui viennent à un Parti Démocrate aujourd’hui en pleine dérive. En effet, personne ne sait trop comment se recomposera le coctèle de son électorat centriste traditionnel (y compris, le gros de l’électorat Noir), de sa forte minorité Sanderista, style- ancien PSU , et de sa frange d’émeutiers enragés dont personne ne connait vraiment ni le nombre ni l’influence, même approximativement.
The Justice System; Police Brutality
I will mostly bypass now the important issue of possible systemic racism in the in administration of justice itself. I mean charging, convicting and sentencing, which may or may not each involve a systematic (systematic) racial component. Here again, I think the relevant research exists and it has not caught my attention. (But, I have to wonder why.) It’s possible that black suspects are more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted and sentenced more heavily that whites suspected of similar trespasses.
If I were to look actively into the matter, however, I would explore the possibility that black suspects are less likely to be charged and convicted than whites, and also receive lighter sentences for equivalent crimes. This hunch is based on the recognition that most black crime is probably black on black. In this scenario lies a possible form of systemic discrimination because it treats crimes against black citizens as less severe or less significant than crimes against whites.
Finally, if I were initiating a research project about this today, I would pay special attention to the formal obstacles, including union rules, that may interfere with the prosecution of police officers suspected of lawbreaking, including homicide. If these obstacles were shown to be erected especially to impede action against white officers, I would consider them instances of systemic racism. If they were not, I would still pay attention because black men (specifically) are more likely than whites to die at the hands of police. Over a lifetime, according to a study recently published in the serious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than are white men in the course of their lifetime. (Frank Edwards, Hedwig Lee, and Michael Esposito “Risk of Being Killed by Police Use of Force in the United States, by Age, Race, Ethnicity and Sex” 2019.) The denial of justice implicit in the reluctance to prosecute law breaking members of the police could (could) be an important form of systemic racism.
Racism in Policing
First, a reminder: As I stated above, I believe there exists a high degree of police brutality in America. But, it’s not my topic here. The only questions on my mind now are these: What’s the racial component? Is it “systemic”? If there is no racial component, it’s not likely systemic racism is at work. If there is racism and it’s personal, there is no reason to call is “systemic” racism except falsely and presumptuously to sound scientific.
In May-June 2020, protesters echoed the media (or vice-versa) to give the impression that police shootings of black Americans of holocaust dimensions was taking place. The view seemed to have been widely shared based on (the same) media reports, including interviews of protesters. Some quantitative frameworking is in order here.
Frequency of homicide in general, of African Americans, particularly Homicide is in fact a fairly rare cause of death in America contrary to a widespread impression. In 2018, 14,000 Americans died of homicide. (Number of murder victims in the United States in 2018, by race/ethnicity and gender.) Applied to the whole American population, that’s a death rate so small many phone calculators can hardly handle it. Of 1,000 people who did die in the United States in 2018, only about five died of any kind of homicide. Contrary to a widespread impression, being killed by anyone, for any reason is rare today. This probability has been in decline for fifty years. The decline may be owed to demographics – an aging population – or to more effective policing, or to both. This is all to put any classification of homicides in perspective.
Of these rare homicide deaths, a little over half were of African Americans in 2018. But African Americans make up only about 13 to 16% of the population, maximum (“The Black Alone Population of the US: 2019.” – US Bureau of the Census). Like everyone else, black Americans seldom die of homicide but they die of it disproportionately, about three times more than average.
Who is Killing Black Americans?
There were 8836 homicides in 2016 where race of both first victim and perpetrator were known (This is a smaller number than used above because it’s less inclusive. No big drop in homicides is denoted here) About half were killings of blacks by blacks; about 18 % were killings of whites also by blacks. Whites killed about 80% of white victims. Black victims of white killers accounted for 4% of all homicide victims, and less than 10% of all black victims. Of course, the latter number must include all black victims of white police officers, including legally legitimate homicides. (I am assuming that black victims of black police officers are a small enough number to be ignored here for the moment.) This gives us a first outer limit of police killings of African Americans.
A widespread narrative exists nevertheless that claims an unceasing massacre of black citizens by white policemen. A close relative of the victim George Floyd thus declared on PBS radio on 6/17/20, that there is an “open season killing of black people…” It seems that he meant police killing of black people.
The reality is different. However unpopular in some quarters, however contrary to the visual pseudo-reality on our screens, the answer to the question “Who is killing black Americans?” is: “black Americans.” In 2016, about 90% of black homicide victims where race was known were killed by blacks. If there is a wholesale massacre of African American citizens on our streets, it’s akin to a collective self- massacre. It dwarfs all police killings of African Americans, of course. Anecdotal evidence seldom contradicts this assertion. Thus, black columnist Jason Riley reported in the WSJ of 6/10/20 that there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year (of all by all) of which only three involved police. That last figure did not distinguish between unjustified killings and legally otherwise justified killings.
Such small numbers do not detract from the idea that any police killing of civilians is especially disturbing and worrisome. There is a special reason to be concerned when those who carry the legitimate state monopoly of violence kill those they are sworn to protect. But, again, my topic is not police brutality but systemic racism. In this specific connection, the comparative rarity of police killings does not properly address the possibility that police disproportionately, or preferentially kill African Americans. I deal with this issue below. (Figures from the last four paragraphs except if otherwise specified are from: Easy Access to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports: 1980-2016.)
Are blacks more likely to be shot dead during a police encounter than whites?
The evidence, including a systematic survey by a black Harvard economist as well as a one-city Justice Department study is that police are no more likely to shoot black suspects than white suspects. (Both cited by Heather MacDonald in the WSJ of 6/3/20; those are not controversial studies. For a more recent account, see: Fryer, Roland G. Jr: “What the Data Say About Police.” WSJ, 6/23/20 ) This narrative is contrary to current popular wisdom – or un-wisdom – but it’s the best evidence we have. Everything else is fiction or downright bad reasoning. (“Police hate blacks. Those who kill blacks do so because they hate them. Police must kill blacks more than they kill others.”) Note that it would take only one good study to overturn the assertion that police are not more likely to kill blacks than they are to kill whites. The absence of such a study is evidence of sorts given the interest this question raises in much of the population and in academia. Some argue however that this apparent equality of deadly treatment is the result of a sort of numerical visual illusion. I take up this matter below.
A Public Torture-Killing
What directly prompted this essay (actually, several years in gestation) is a barbarous act that took place on May 25th 2020 in Minneapolis, that was thoroughly filmed by bystanders, and that triggered several weeks of peaceful protest nation-wide, but also of arson, of looting, and of other acts of rioting. Here is a brief account of the event.
A white police officer, wantonly and unnecessarily smothers with his knee over eight minutes a black suspect who is already handcuffed. Three other officers – including two members of racial minorities – stand by or lend a hand. The victim is a man with one conviction elsewhere for a violent crime. He has illegal drugs in his system when he is stopped by the police. (The family-ordered autopsy did not negate this information.)
The officer has accumulated seventeen or eighteen misconduct investigations, one of which gave rise to a notice of suspension. (I don’t know whether he was actually suspended.) One non-police source well situated to know describes him as habitually using questionable force (choke-holds) He has been married to an Asian woman. (“George Floyd’s Life and His Killer’s” by Jennifer Levitz, Erin Allworth, and Tawnell d. Hobbs – WSJ 6/22/20.)
The murdering officer’s supervisor is the black chief of police of the city. The chief’s own supervisor is the mayor of the city, a white leftist Democrat. The state governor is a Democrat.
Although, the employer denies they did, it’s difficult to believe that the police officer and the victim did not know each other because they both worked security part-time for the same nightclub for several years. (What often takes place in and outside nightclubs unavoidably rises to my mind, of course.) I am asserting here that it’s not obvious to me that the crime is racially motivated, just because the perpetrator is white and the victim black. It may well be but the fact has to be established separately.
Within days, the officer who did the killing is arrested and charged with second degree murder. The other three officers are also arrested shortly and charged as something like being accessories to the alleged crime. The state prosecutor is a black deputy state attorney general. The federal Justice Department is conducting its own investigation that may result in separate charges and in separate convictions.
Federally mandated rules are such a that in both state juries and in an eventual federal jury, racial representation will reflect the relevant city’s racial composition. For my overseas readers who are addicted to 1960s American movies about racism in America, it means that there is zero chance that the officers will be tried by all-white juries, either state or federal, zero.
Two weeks later, a white Atlanta police officer shoots in the back a black suspect originally stopped for drunkenness who is both fleeing and pointing a weapon at him. This event adds fuel to the nation-wide fire of popular indignation, of course.
There were immediately protest demonstration against the first killing in Minneapolis that quickly spread to the whole country. A leading rallying cry in all was a demand for “justice.” This can be interpreted in different ways. Since the police officers involved were quickly charged and arrested, it must not be justice for George Floyd, the Minneapolis victim, specifically, that was demanded because everything our justice system allows was done promptly. What else can anyone want, Chinese Communist justice? (Charged in the morning, tried in the afternoon, executed the same evening.)
A partial but solid answer to the question, “justice for whom?” is that many claim that Mr Floyd’s death is a symbol, also a sample, of widespread societal violence against African Americans in general. The underlying implication is that in many cases – unlike in the killing of Mr Floyd – this violence is inflicted by parties unknown and probably unknowable (hence, the “systemic” qualifier) but specifically on the basis of race. This is like treating this horrible incident as the tip of an iceberg. Such treatment of course calls for an answer to the question: How big is the rest of the iceberg?
I need to detour here to remind the reader of what this essay is not about. It’s not about police brutality but about the possible victimization of African Americans by all, including the police. The USA has a serious problem of police brutality. I don’t mean the federal government, I mean states, counties and cities. So, in this country and proportionately, about ten times more people are killed by police every year than in France, for example. And, the French police is not especially pacific (as compared to the exemplary English police, for instance), and it frequently faces well armed gangsters, as well as terrorists. (An in-depth investigation of unpunished French police brutality aired by Envoyé Spécial on TV5 5/25/20 indicates that a parlous situation exists in France in that respect.)
Incidentally, most of the police practice reforms proposed by Pres. Trump in June 2020 make sense to me although I don’t understand how any of this is constitutionally any of the federal government’s business. I would wish in addition for an experimental temporary moratorium on the police use of choke-holds and a partial elimination of the qualified immunity police enjoy in most places in the US. In brief, I think that even when police brutality is self-evident -as I think is the case with the Floyd killing – a racial dimension must be demonstrated separately. I will show below with figures how necessary this injunction is.
The Vanishing of Personalized Racism
Not long ago, in my lifetime, racism in America consisted of tangible actions against members of a given physically recognizable group motivated by their belonging to that group. The actions could be individual, such as slurs proffered by a stranger in the street, or variously collective like a company’s deliberate refusal to hire members of a race, or the informal exclusion of members of a race by labor unions, or democratically produced legislation barring members of a race from specified public places, or even from some occupations. One major expression of racism was the separation of children in different and unequal schools according to race.
All these situations have one thing in common: someone, or an identifiable corporate entity is doing the racist act they describe. (I am leaving out racist feelings and racist attitudes and ideas on purpose both because I believe they matter little in the end and because I can deal with only one controversy at a time. Yes, there are attitudinal racists in the USA.) This fact, the identifiable presence of racially motivated actors as consequences for remediation of racism: Any doer of a racist action may possibly be caused to desist, through punishment, intimidation, or even education. The doers of racism in all these cases constitute clear targets for attempted social change.
The USA spent much of the second half of the 20th century eradicating the familiar forms of racism I exemplify above. Then, and in the absence of the traditional and familiar causal evidence, ideologists devised the concept of “systemic” racism. I think it means racism without racists. The absence of a defined evildoer and the replacement of conventionally defined racism by “systemic racism” was bound to produce a bifurcated response. On the one hand, some would shrug and think that if there is no evildoer, there is probably no evil. On the other hand, others will equally say, evil is pervasive; it can’t be pinned down precisely because it’s everywhere. It seems to me that the second position requires a suspension of critical judgment. This suspension in turn is well served by poorly defined emotions, such as diffuse collective guilt, and by wholesale ignorance of facts. I mean deliberate, strategic ignorance as well as honest ignorance.