This won’t be the first time this space has reminded our readers of the sage observation by Eric Hoffer that “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
Hoffer’s observation is, of course, correct. But it turns out that while he was accurate, he was also incomplete in his analysis.
Take, for example, the state of the civil rights cause, which was a very laudable political movement reaching its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s under the leadership of one of our country’s most notable moral figures in Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King certainly wasn’t perfect. But he accomplished, in a relatively short period before his death in 1968, a staggering amount of positive social change. The movement he led wiped away virtually all forms of legally established institutional racism, thanks to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and follow-on legislation, and changed American culture such that just a few years later it was no longer acceptable for whites in polite company even to employ racist humor.
You’d search far and wide to find someone more impactful on the life of a nation over the past century than that man and the movement he led.
Why was King, and the coalition of people walking with him, so successful? The answer isn’t complicated. With a few exceptions the 1960s civil rights movement was made up of law-abiding middle class people (in values, if not uniformly in economic status) who espoused ideas thoroughly identifiable by middle class Americans not attached to the movement. King embraced the Declaration of Independence and the Enlightenment principles of America’s founding; like the great Frederick Douglass before him, he asked only that the benefits of those principles be extended to black Americans in the places they were not. He made an argument that no American in good faith could reject.
And he won. He won so completely that the movement he led was in the process of leaving him behind when he was killed in ’68. Those who came after King turned the cause from a movement to a business, as the second wave of civil rights legislation created affirmative action and minority set-aside government contracts meant to redress the economic effects of Jim Crow and other discriminatory practices.
And shortly thereafter that business became a racket, dominated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who make their living extorting corporate America for its purported lingering racism. It’s worked out quite well for them — for Sharpton to roll up some $5 million in tax liability no one seems to think it’s necessary for him to pay, he must make a decent living. And if nothing else Jackson stumbled upon an Anheuser Busch distributorship for his sons out of his attempts at racial agitation against the brewing company.
Jackson and Sharpton have largely sundered whatever goodwill the civil rights movement had with the broader American public, but the goodwill toward the black community King built persists. Proof of this is sitting in the White House in the person of Barack Obama; after seven and a half years of the most destructive and incompetent presidency in modern times, Obama’s approval rating remains in the high 40s. There is no explanation of this beyond that the 87 percent of the American public who are not African-American are reluctant to tell strangers over the phone they dislike the nation’s first black president. This despite 70 percent of the American people believing the country is on the wrong track and a similar, if not higher, number expressing disdain for the performance of the federal government Obama leads.
So the civil rights movement has become a racket with the Jacksons and Sharptons of the world. But is that sufficient to describe the next generation? One would think not.
After all, rackets are little more than the pilfering of someone else’s wealth through nefarious or otherwise shady means. But that’s not an apt description of the Black Lives Matter crowd. They’re not just interested in your money. They want power, and lots of it, and they don’t even pretend to offer allegiance to the country’s core values in return.
One value Black Lives Matter clearly disparages is America’s life-long search for truth — and our insistence that truth be the centerpiece of our justice system. These are not seekers of it; if they were, the motto “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” — based as it was, on an abject lie told by a criminal — would never have been employed after the violent giant Mike Brown was killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer the former had physically assaulted. Nor would Black Lives Matter’s entire premise be the “epidemic” of police shootings of black males. There is no such epidemic; in fact, statistically the police are less dangerous to blacks than to whites. (It should be noted that justice, a word bandied about in goodly proportion by Black Lives Matter agitators, is most often defined as “a conviction” of police officers involved in shooting black suspects — which would make BLM look a little more like a lynch mob than the successor to Dr. King’s coalition attempting to apply due process to the extralegal South with its ropes and trees and white hoods.)
That the police are not statistically more dangerous to blacks than other racial groups is not the judgment of your author, it’s the finding of Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr., who just this week released a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research on the subject. Though Fryer’s research does indicate a higher police propensity for non-lethal force used on black and Hispanic suspects than with respect to whites, when it comes to shootings, “In stark contrast to non-lethal uses of force, we find no racial differences in officer-involved shootings on either the extensive or intensive margins.”
Fryer happens to be black.
Fryer’s research reaches much the same conclusion as that found by the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald in her new book The War on Cops. Mac Donald presents a staggering amount of data on police shootings to debunk the narrative of the Black Lives Matter crowd on police shootings of black innocents. An excerpt of a precis MacDonald offered prior to the book’s release in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year:
For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.
The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 — the most recent year for which such data are available — compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.
Police officers — of all races — are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.
Some may find evidence of police bias in the fact that blacks make up 26% of the police-shooting victims, compared with their 13% representation in the national population. But as residents of poor black neighborhoods know too well, violent crimes are disproportionately committed by blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks were charged with 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, though they made up roughly 15% of the population there.
And who are the people leading the Black Lives Matter movement? Well, one leader is the comical Shaun King, a white man posing as black until he was found out as a fraud. Then there is Jonathan Butler, an affluenza-infected son of a railroad executive who parlayed a half-assed hunger strike into a cause célèbre, destroying the marketability of a University of Missouri education and springing himself onto the rubber-chicken circuit as a paid speaker. Another is DeRay Mckesson, a Twitter impresario and cable news bomb-thrower who parlayed rabble-rousing in Ferguson and other areas stricken with racial strife into a $165,000-per-year gig as a community organizer for Baltimore’s bloated and poor-performing public schools. Mckesson, who lives in an 8,000 square foot house owned by board members of George Soros’ Open Society Institute, made his way to Baton Rouge last weekend for the Alton Sterling protests and promptly got himself arrested for attempting to lead a mob onto an interstate highway packed with 18-wheelers.
After being sprung from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Mckesson cut loose with a torrent of tweets that, sadly, don’t quite measure up to King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail. Among his observations — the orange juice served at the jail was “grainy,” the lights were always on, his charges weren’t dropped, and some of the sheriff’s deputies were snarky toward the protesters who had been arrested. Released on Sunday afternoon after his arrest on Saturday night, Mckesson then attempted to lead a mob onto another interstate onramp, where he was rebuffed by police again — though it seems he was spared another evening of persistent fluorescent light and another morning of OJ not pleasing to his palate.
Mckesson’s week improved after his failure to block one of America’s busiest commercial corridors; by Wednesday he was feted for three hours at the White House.
Such is the descent of the civil rights cause — from a man of remarkable, though perhaps imperfect, character in King whose message was that of truth, justice, love and peace, to a collection of liars, fools and spoiled children. The march on the Selma Bridge wasn’t intended to shut down traffic, it was an attempt to go from one place to another — and those arrested there went willingly, as they knew the price of civil disobedience and showed their strength in the resolve to pay it. Today Selma’s legacy is tarnished by a collection of special snowflakes who bitch and whinge about a night in jail after attempting to shut down interstate highways — and why? To protest the statistically insignificant and usually defensible police shootings of the Mike Browns of the world as they resist arrest?
Black Lives Matter is less than a racket. It’s an unofficial lobby for street criminals. Somewhere, Dr. King is looking down upon these people with something less than admiration.