The war on cops, ideological and sometimes lethal, may be expanding into a broader race war, in which only one side fights. The thugs who torched businesses and police cars, assaulted cops, and shot at firemen in northwestern Milwaukee on Saturday night went after “white bitches,” among other targets. (The riots were inspired by the fatal police shooting of Sylville K. Smith, a black man. Smith, who had an extensive arrest record, including for a shooting, fled from officers after a traffic stop while carrying a stolen handgun; he refused commands to drop the gun. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has activated the state’s National Guard and declared a state of emergency, but violence continued into Sunday night, with four officers injured, three squad cars damaged, and multiple businesses burned down.) The Black Lives Matter-inspired assassin who murdered five police officers in Dallas in July 2016 said that he wanted to kill white people, as well as white cops. The vitriol that officers working in urban areas now encounter on a daily basis is inflected with racism.
And if the war on cops escalates into more frequent attacks on whites and their perceived interests, the elite establishment will bear much of the blame. For the last two years, President Barack Obama has seized every opportunity to advise blacks that they are the victims of a racist criminal justice system. We should not be surprised when that belief, so constantly inflamed, erupts into violence. Even in his remarks at the memorial service for the five murdered Dallas cops, Obama had the gall to trot out his usual racial vendetta against the police, even though he was fully on notice that cops were being killed because of it:
When African-Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black, you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer—“yes, sir,” “no, sir”—but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy—when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.
Obama’s indictment ignored, as usual, the astronomically higher rates of black crime that fully explain racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, Obama hasn’t uttered a word in condemnation of the lawless behavior in Milwaukee, two days into the events.
Hillary Clinton has been just as quick to enflame black hatred of cops and, by inevitable extension, of “white” society. She said during a January 2016 Democratic presidential debate that it was “reality” that police officers see black lives as “cheap,” adding that “there needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system.” (In fact, there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police; tens of thousands of black lives have been saved thanks to data-driven, proactive policing.) The July 2016 cop assassinations had no more deterrent effect on Clinton’s determination to keep anti-cop tensions at a boil than they did on President Obama. Speaking at the NAACP after the Baton Rouge assassinations, which followed the Dallas massacre, Clinton said that “we cannot rest until we root out implicit bias and stop the killings of African-Americans.” Showing herself to be as statistically challenged as Obama, she continued: “Let’s admit it, there is clear evidence that African-Americans are disproportionately killed in police incidents compared to any other group.” (Blacks are actually killed at a lower rate than their crime rates would predict. And at least four studies this year have shown that police officers are less likely to shoot blacks than whites, whether armed or unarmed.)
Last week, the Justice Department emitted yet another mendacious indictment of alleged cop racism, declaring the Baltimore Police Department guilty of a pattern or practice of systemic civil rights abuses. Baltimore officers accost and arrest blacks in Baltimore at higher rates than their proportion in the population, the Justice Department’s civil rights division wrote, carefully avoiding any notice of the crime that brings cops to black neighborhoods. The Justice Department report was ecstatically received in the media, and no doubt word of the confirmed racism of Baltimore police—and by extension, all police—trickled down into northwestern Milwaukee.
These nonstop rhetorical sorties against police officers and the criminal justice system inevitably expand into a broader indictment of the society that the criminal justice system defends. The Black Lives Matter riots of the last two years are inseparable from a hatred of what is perceived to be “white” society and civilization.
And as important as the political stoking of that hatred is the academic race industry that keeps black victimology at a fever pitch. The 2015–2016 school year saw an outbreak of delusional self-pity among black college students across the country. They claimed to be discriminated against by faculty, administrators, fellow students, and academic standards. Never mind that many allegedly disparaged students were attending the colleges in question only because of racial preferences, despite having test scores that would automatically disqualify white or Asian applicants. Never mind that nearly every waking hour of a college administrator is devoted to the cultivation of a separatist racial consciousness among black students and to dreaming up new racial sinecures for faculty and other administrators.
The academic version of Black Lives Matter was not as physically destructive as the Milwaukee riots, but it had as corrosive an effect on civilizational norms. Last fall, a group of black students at Yale surrounded and screamed insults at their college master. (His sin was to be married to a Yale professor who had sent out an email suggesting that Yale students could select their own Halloween costumes without policing from Yale’s diversity bureaucrats.) One student was caught on video shrieking at the master to “be quiet” and calling him “disgusting.” Other students were just as savage, but their behavior was not recorded. The shrieking girl and her classmates have never been reprimanded for their uncivil behavior. To the contrary, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, penned a sycophantic missive to the Yale “community” after the incident, gushing that he had never been as proud of Yale students as in the last few weeks of protests. Even the college master who had been screamed at by his charges expressed contrition for his failure to understand the oppression experienced by Yale’s coddled minority students.
Yale was hardly the only college to excuse racial attacks on basic manners and decency. Black Dartmouth students stormed into the library spitting on and cursing at white students. The administrators let it pass.
The rioters in Milwaukee have likely not attended Yale or Dartmouth, but they have absorbed the same narrative that originates with university race-mongers and is then adopted by the media and government. Perhaps the narrative’s biggest lie is that white people are the most powerful source of racism today—a lie embraced by elite white society itself. When that society is not twisting itself into knots trying to hire or promote as many blacks as possible, it is in a constant state of anguish trying to track down those deep, if invisible, pockets of white racism that supposedly explain ongoing racial disparities. Black racism, however, is far more pervasive than any vestigial white racism, as anyone who has spent time in inner-city black neighborhoods knows. I have been warned by residents of one Harlem housing project not to venture into a neighboring project because the hatred of whites is even more acute there. A resident of the Taft Houses in East Harlem told me of the abuse she took as a child because her mother was Irish. Black flash mobs and participants in the “knock-out game” are motivated by anti-white animus, though the media strive frantically to ignore both the violence and the emotion generating it. Blacks are the primary source of interracial violence. In 2012, blacks committed 560,600 acts of violence against whites, and whites committed 99,403 acts of violence against blacks, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey provided to the author by a Bureau of Justice Statistics statistician. Blacks, in other words, committed 85 percent of the interracial crimes between blacks and whites, even though they are less than 13 percent of the population. It would be naïve to think that some of that black-on-white violence does not have a racial tinge to it.
And the academic discourse of white privilege, microaggressions, institutional racism, and “intersectionality” promotes its own effete version of anti-white animus, eagerly promoted by white professors and administrators.
The exculpations of the Milwaukee riots started up immediately. “Do we continue—continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education, that creates these byproducts that we see this evening?” Milwaukee alderman Khalif Rainey asked portentously. “The black people of Milwaukee are tired. They’re tired of living under this oppression.” The website Vox informed its readers: “Historians and experts say these types of violent outbursts are typically rooted in longstanding anger toward a system that has in many ways failed them. . . . Compounded with the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, people were clearly furious—and lashed out.”
The rioters were not so furious about the five blacks who were fatally shot in Milwaukee by other blacks in the 24 hours prior to Sylville Smith’s shooting or about the overwhelmingly black victims of Milwaukee’s 73 percent surge in homicides in 2015, the result of what I have called the Ferguson effect.
The Milwaukee riots were low on the topic totem pole of Sunday morning talk shows and have almost disappeared from sight on cable news channels on Monday. Racial violence is becoming normalized, like Islamic terrorism. More attention was devoted to the Baltimore Justice Department report and to Donald Trump’s war on the press than to the breakout of anarchy in a major American city. The shootings of cops on Sunday—a police officer in Eastman, Georgia, killed following a traffic stop; a police officer north of Atlanta shot on Sunday morning after responding to a call—also got little media notice. (Did race play a role in those shootings? The media is not interested in the question. The suspected killer of Eastman officer Tim Smith, Royheem Delshawn Deeds, is black; Smith was white. Had Smith killed Deeds, the media would have been all over the story. Yet the relationship between victim and killer in the Smith death is far more typical of fatal encounters between blacks and police officers. Police officers are 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.) Fatal shootings of cops this year are up 68 percent through August 15 compared with the same period last year. Chicago cops now operate under a death sentence, with the pact among Chicago gangbangers to take out a cop in retaliation for the Paul O’Neal shooting.
If we continue to look the other way at racial violence and the hatred that fuels it, we may find ourselves in a state of anarchy. The Milwaukee rioters chanted “black power,” a clear evocation of the 1960s. This time, however, the “establishment” is only a rhetorical target. In point of fact, it is an enabler and coconspirator.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops.