Milwaukee and the Value of Black Lives

(Milwaukee residents pray for calm outside of a business burned in the weekend’s riots / Photo: AP)

In Milwaukee on Saturday night, a police officer shot and killed a black man with a gun. The incident was recorded on the officer’s body camera and appears justified.

No matter. Milwaukee is burning. And this latest outbreak of rioting and social unrest speaks to a deep social problem: many black Americans do not trust the police. As Matt Lewis has noted, we must never ignore those incidents of police injustice that feed these perceptions. And as U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) explains, “driving while black” remains a real problem.

Yet we must also recognize two broader realities. First, unprofessional police officers are a tiny minority. Every day, hundreds of thousands of good cops put on their badge and leave their families in order to protect ours. Sometimes they don’t come home. Second, when it comes to shooting deaths of young black men, by a vast margin, other young black men are responsible.

Milwaukee was far from the only city where a young black life was lost to gunfire this weekend. Consider what occurred 100 miles to the south in Chicago.

Between Friday evening and Monday morning, nine black lives — including that of a 17 year-old — were lost to gunfire in the Windy City. Forty-three others, including a 6 year-old girl and a 10 year-old boy, were shot and wounded. Read the strikingly similar stories in the local ABC News report. It speaks to the sick reality that now defines Chicago. Young black men are shooting other young black men who are doing nothing more than sitting or standing in public. Others are being caught in the indifferent crossfire. This is the crisis that Black Lives Matter and much of the Left ignore or actively deprecate. And it is time their Orwellian moral hypocrisy — “all lives are equal, but some lives are more equal than others” — was called out.

If black lives matter, then the ways they are being lost must also matter

If black lives matter, then the ways they are being lost must also matter. And today across America hundreds of thousands of young black lives exist at the whim of a bullet’s trajectory. And the facts are clear. As Heather Mac Donald explains, “Blacks were charged with 62 percent of all robberies, 57 percent of all murders, and 45 percent of all assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, while constituting roughly 15 percent of the population in those counties.” Why the discrepancy? Mac Donald notes another statistic from Chicago: “79 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock in 2003, compared with 15 percent of white children.”

The collapse of the family has disproportionately damaged black children. Too many black fathers abandon their sons and daughters at a young age. And too many black musicians then negatively shape those young lives by promoting hustling over honest work, and slang over literacy. Often abandoned to poor schools, the great futures of too many black children are wasted. And while greater individual responsibility and stronger family are they key concerns here, government also has to play a role in making lives better.

All of us must engage in serious introspection. Today, liberal special interests hinder rather than help the improvement of black lives in restraining economic growth. And while rightly promoting charter schools and voucher programs, too many conservatives accept the immorality of good schools for children in rich localities, and poor schools for children in poor localities.

Yet there is hope. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page argues we can reach common ground. As Page put it recently, “We need to talk about police brutality, job discrimination and shrinking educational opportunities. But we also need to talk about black folks killing each other, belittling the value of education and promoting the N-word in hip-hop media.” There is also precedent for honest policing reform. Consider, for example, how police in London, England have been able to better counter black-on-black shootings: they established a unit overtly dedicated to addressing that criminality.

Ultimately, however, honesty is the first step. Ignoring the pathetic fear of being labeled as racists, we must be willing to face reality. The key threat to innocent young black lives in America is not the police. It is a small but grossly demographic-disproportionate class of young black criminals. And for these individuals, black lives matter very little.

Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist for Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.