At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture


Ferguson and Racial Irrationality on the Right

posted by Jack Kerwick

Thomas Sowell once noted that few topics so tap the irrational excesses of a person’s intellect as that of race.  At the very least, contemporary race-related discussions are almost invariably ridden with irrationality.

The issue of Ferguson, Missouri is but the latest exhibition of this all too pervasive phenomenon.

Yet, to be sure, it isn’t just the usual suspects on the recognizable left—the obvious racialist and socialist ideologues—that have revealed just how dangerously shallow, both intellectually and morally, they can be on this racially-charged front.  Some neoconservative and libertarian commentators are also guilty on this score.

First, in order to sound “objective”—and, truth be told, not all that politically incorrect—neoconservative commentators continually caution against judging hastily: Since we weren’t there, they say, we should remain agnostic on the question regarding the guilt or innocence of Officer Darren Wilson (the officer who the black rioters in Ferguson and their apologists in the media say murdered Michael Brown).

In taking this line, however, these same commentators actually legitimize the notion that, in 2014, there are white police officers who routinely patrol the streets in search of young black teenagers to gun down in cold blood.

Give me a break.

We know enough now—if we didn’t know enough when word of this story first broke—that, at a minimum, there was no murder that took place here.

Second, we’re hearing quite a bit about “the militarization” of the police in Ferguson, and how it is this, and not the riotous conduct of the black citizens of that city and the incendiary rhetoric of their self-avowed “leaders, that is responsible, or largely responsible, for the undermining of civilization that is transpiring there.

National Review writer Kevin Williamson is one person busily advancing this line.  Some libertarian writers at Lewrockwell.com are (predictably) doing so as well.

It’s rubbish, but another transparent, and transparently pathetic, attempt to excavate some “root cause” to account for black dysfunction. The idea that the presence of “militarized” police is somehow responsible for the exhibitions of barbarism that have unfolded in Ferguson is of a logical piece with the old, tired mantra that poverty causes crime.  But as Walter E. Williams once remarked, while there certainly is a causal relation between poverty and crime, it runs in exactly the opposite direction of that imagined by the conventional wisdom: crime causes poverty.

Similarly, the police in Ferguson are “militarized” precisely because of the legions of merciless black rioters with whom they have to contend.

Yet there’s another consideration that gives up the lie that the police in Ferguson have provoked the black violence there: Sixty-seven percent black Ferguson, like heavily populated black areas throughout the country, was ridden with crime and violence long before anyone ever heard of Michael Brown.  Most of this criminality, though, consists of black-on-black attacks.

Is the militarization of the Ferguson police responsible for the obscene rates and grisly nature of the crime that has been everyday life in Ferguson for years?  Is it this that explains why blacks are murdering, raping, beating, and pillaging other blacks?

Is the “militarization” of police in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Camden, Newark, the Bronx, Los Angeles and black cities throughout the nation the cause of the truly scandalous degree of violence and vice that’s become a permanent fixture of daily existence for the residents of these areas?

At long last, let’s be truthful: Police officers in high crime areas—which, today, is virtually synonymous with high black areas—must be armed to the teeth to protect themselves as well as the law-abiding citizens of these areas who are routinely victimized by the predators in their midst.

Rand Paul—who, at one time, I was strongly disposed to support—has recently made shameful comments concerning the shameful goings-on in Ferguson. “Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system,” Paul said, “it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

To judge from this sentence, one could be forgiven for thinking that “the government” arbitrarily arrests, tries, convicts, and sentences (or executes) a wildly disproportionate number of blacks over whites (and Hispanics, and Indians, and Asians, etc.).  Again, what we witness in this piece of unreason is causal confusion run amok: There is a stronger “government” (police) presence in black communities because blacks are wildly overrepresented among criminals.

Or, if you will, “the government”—the police—is doing exactly what it should be doing in “targeting,” not “African-Americans,” but criminals—many, all too many, of whom are black.

Let’s see: For six years, we’ve had a black president, a person, remember, who blacks and whites, Democrats and some Republicans, assured us was going to usher in a post-racial era.  We also have a black Attorney General.  The government at the most powerful levels, in other words, is run by black men.

And yet, according to Rand Paul, it is reasonable for blacks to suspect that their government is targeting them?

Sowell has never been more right: nothing screams “irrational” like contemporary talk over race relations.



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