What if the Floyd and Brookes families had migrated to Ghana? The nation on the West Coast of Africa was the first Sub Sahara British Colony to get its independence. Relatively prosperous, the English speaking nation might be a reasonable destination for Blacks uncomfortable in the US. Unfortunately, fate still plays out in the new location. George Floyd passes a counterfeit bill at an Accra market and gets arrested. The arresting officer in charge has him down and presses a knee on Floyd’s neck till he dies, while other officers standby. There are several onlookers, some recording the incident. The offending policeman appears to be aware of their presence but doesn’t seem to care. Everyone is shocked at a seemingly senseless murder. Why did the policeman do it? Investigators look for clues. It’s determined that the policeman likely knew his victim. The policeman’s wife left him the next morning, Maybe he had a domestic crisis. Did he have a breakdown? Both men worked at the same nightclub. Floyd had multiple drugs in his system. Did any of this play into the officer’s murderous decision? Investigators work to solve the mystery.
Rayshard Brookes was found passed out in the drive-thru lane at an Accra fast food restaurant. The police are called, and they find Rayshard is intoxicated. Everything is peaceful until they arrest him for DUI. Brookes then attacks the policemen, grabbing one of the policemen s taser. He tries to flee but fires the taser at one of the officers. The policeman returns fire, killing Rayshard. All of it is caught on tape. Police investigate to determine if it was a reasonable shooting.
This sounds pretty much like what happened to Floyd and Brookes in Minneapolis and Atlanta. Bad things can happen in Accra or most any other city in the world. Someone in law enforcement suddenly commits an unfathomable act or kills someone resisting arrest. So what makes the same thing happening in Accra rather than the Twin cities or Atlanta different? There is no question of a racial motive by law enforcement. Ghana’s population is almost totally black. They have excessive force issues like any other city in the world, but obviously, it’s not based on race. They investigate each case based on the actual facts, not “institutional Racism.”
Does this mean there is no bigotry based lawlessness in the US? Of course not. I think Ahmaud Arbery’s death will prove to be a result of prejudice. We know it was behind the Charleston church massacre. However, ugliness isn’t confined to just blacks and whites. Lives were lost in the conflict between Jews and Blacks in Crown Heights, NY. Race-based gangs battle each other in and out of our prisons. But there is no basis to believe all deaths of Blacks at the hands of white policemen are racist.
The reason I say this is the problems between police and the residents of less wealthy areas of cities is a problem the world over. Almost every city we visited the world over had dangerous areas tourists were advised to avoid. This is true, regardless of whether it entails more than one race or not. Accra is an almost totally black city that doesn’t shield it from friction between the police and residents. More impoverished areas have more crime. Those crimes tend to be more violent. These areas need more policing to protect those living there. More police mean more encounters. That means more chance of ugly incidents. If the police pull back, the residents suffer. If the police feel you’re throwing them under the bus, few good people will want the job. Finding the proper balance is the “Holy Grail” for police departments across the globe.
The encouraging thing is, at least in the US, the ugly encounters have been falling for quite a while. Actually, they’re one in a million police-public interactions. I know this seems counter-intuitive. The reason these episodes loom, so the load is because the media plays them out of proportion. This is something the press does all the time. Just recently, we had endless reports of children dying from the effects of Covid-19, even though they were minuscule. The truth is it is highly unusual for a child to die from COVID-19. It still caused many to hesitate to reopen our schools. In the present cases, we have made it worse by ascribing the problems to the hot button issue of race.
Making it racial takes the problems down a well-traveled road. A perceived racial incident takes place. Protests ensue, The protests often descend into riots and looting, and stores are burned. Promises of change are made by the politicians in charge. Usually, this includes “police reform.” Assurances of economic improvement and greater diversity are often included. Little if anything really changes, except the area involved rarely recovers to its former vitality.
One reason is the “Ferguson Effect.” When the police are blamed for a “racial incident,” and they feel unsupported by the powers that be, policing becomes much less aggressive. Crime goes up, and the area becomes less attractive. This was named for what followed the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo policeman. Even though the policeman Darren Wilson was exonerated by all investigations, including one by the Obama Justice Department, he quit the force under extreme threats to himself and his family. No one knows whatever happened to him. The rioting and looting that resulted were justified by a false narrative. Black Lives Matter adopted “Hands up Don’t Shoot” mantra even though Brown never said it. Even today, we see protestors uttering it with their hands up. Law enforcement officers across the country are well aware of the dilemma facing them. I predicted all this at the time, and unfortunately, I’ve been proven right.
Strange as it may seem, prior police reforms may have achieved more progress than any other actions taken to improve outcomes for people of color. I know this will set some people’s hair on fire. Still, statistics provided by Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald show substantial improvement police-public encounters. If anyone has data showing unfortunate confrontations are rising in number, I’d like to see them. Even though rising lately, crime, especially in more impoverished areas, has overall fallen steadily. Given the number of contacts, there will always be times when things don’t go well. As in any profession, there will be bad cops. Even with millions of encounters, in a growing population, adverse outcomes are rare rather than all-pervasive.
If only our other solutions to racial disparities had worked out as well. Undertaken after passing landmark the Civil Rights Legislation, Lydon Johnson’s War on Poverty was made to close the gap. The new book by Amity Schlaes, “The Great Society,” details how even with the best intentions, it descended into failure. The author of the Bestseller on Roosevelt’s “New Deal” inability to end the depression, “The Forgotten Man,” shows worthy goals, and a ton of money alone doesn’t work. Racial preferences, quotas, busing, and federal involvement in education proved divisive failures. Public housing policies proved especially harmful. They actually destroyed functioning minority neighborhoods. People cheered when the Pruitt-Igoe high rise slums in St. Louis came down.
When government programs and actions, local and national fail time, and again, one would expect the cry of throw the bums out would be deafening. Yet, blacks have voted overwhelmingly for progressives for decades. Most live in locales run top to bottom by people blacks voted in. Name a city where the people are marching for reform, and the chances are you’ll find it’s controlled by Democrat progressives. If things haven’t gotten better by now, why would you think they will be in the future?
The party of Jefferson and Jackson is now an alliance of Blacks, elitists, and labor unions, primarily in the public sector. This is self-defeating for blacks. The corrupt cops they complain about are protected from being quickly fired by collective bargaining agreements. Republicans mainly oppose the idea of public service unions. Probably worse for disadvantaged communities, these unions protect bad teachers. Without better education, gap closing is proving impossible. Yet, we still see the heartbreak of black mothers consoling their children when they fail to win in a charter school lottery. We know choice improves educational outcomes, yet blacks continually vote in ant-educational choice politicians.
With blacks’ employment and incomes rising healthily right up to the coronavirus epidemic, many “experts” have pointed to the wide difference in white vs. black net worth to illustrate”systemic” racism. At $171,000 vs. $17,150, a 10X white over black advantage is startling. So what do those demanding change actually propose to close the gap?? De-fund the police is popular. Some want totally dumping their police forces, while others just want to take away a big chunk of their funding. With these actions, coupled with much stricter rules on the remaining police, crime likely will rise poorer areas. Tearing down offensive statues is favored by many. Also, making Juneteenth a national holiday has received a lot of play lately. How any of this increases black net worth escapes me.
Reparations are a perennial demand. This entails a massive transfer of wealth to blacks from everyone else. However, unless actually saved and wisely invested, it won’t add a penny to black wealth. Just Spending the money closes the gap by reducing other people’s net worth. Even in the unlikely instance of reparations being legal, nobody really knows how you could possibly implement them.
No Matter who actually said it, Einstein or someone else, it’s true, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Isn’t it past the time to try something new? My next post will lay out a different approach.