In less than 40 minutes, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald on Thursday presented compelling empirical evidence rebutting the Black Lives Matter’s “systemic police racism” narrative that has gripped the nation.
Mac Donald, who has testified to Congress, regularly engages in civil debate with anyone who contests her claims. But YouTube decided her voice should not be heard, deleting a video of her presentation, “The Truth About Crime, Race & Policing in America.”
The host of the event, the Center for the American Experiment, pushed back, and YouTube restored the video but slapped an age restriction on it.
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“I have no idea what there could be in Heather’s presentation that is more unsuitable for consumption by teenagers than most of YouTube’s content,” wrote John Hinderaker, the president of the think tank and a contributor to the popular Powerline blog. “Maybe we will contest this at some point, but for now we may as well celebrate victory.”
But Hindraker said he still has received no explanation for why the video was banned in the first place, or “flagged for review,” as YouTube put it.
It’s clear, however, that Mac Donald’s thorough, fact-based refutation is a threat to the establishment institutions that have become fully invested in the Black Lives Matter narrative that “policing in the U.S. is lethally racist.”
That is flat out false, contends Mac Donald, who presented three types of evidence that rebut Black Lives Matters’ claims about police: the raw numbers, individual cases such as George Floyd’s, and academic research.
“A police officer is up to 30 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer,” she said, citing analyses by mainstream researchers of available data.
In 2015, under President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, a Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects. In 2016, the Washington Post reported a Washington State University study finding that police officers are three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.
Black leaders and scholars, such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Shelby Steele, who reject the claim that America is “systemically racist” point to the breakdown of families that has accompanied the rise in dependence on welfare since the 1960s. Boys are growing up fatherless, a major indicator of crime and poverty, with more than 70% of blacks now born out of wedlock.
Civil-rights era activist Bob Woodson offers a forum for voices such as Steele’s to counter the narrative of the New York Times “1619 Project” called the “1776 Unites Campaign.” And his Washington, D.C.-based Woodson Center helps support “more than 2,881 neighborhood leaders in 40 states who are tackling issues ranging from homelessness, addiction, to joblessness, youth violence and the need for education and training.”
Framing the death of a black man
Mac Donald noted Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey – after asking last September for more police officers amid rising crime in the downtown business district – helped establish the narrative of George Floyd’s death by immediately declaring that whatever the investigation revealed, “being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
“Mayor Frey’s interpretation of Mr. Floyd’s horrifying end, that it was a function of his race, instantly became universal,” she said.
That idea was coupled with the claim that Floyd’s death was representative of “an epidemic of racially biased police killings of black men.”
“Together these two claims triggered an explosion of violence in Minneapolis and across the country, destroying thousands of livelihoods, turning city streets into war zones and ripping apart the very foundation of law and order,” said Mac Donald, the author of “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.”
“Gang shootings and homicides have spiked nationwide as a demoralized police force pulls back from discretionary stops and arrests.”
She noted the nation has “been here before,” following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, which fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. [BLM was launched in response to the jury acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013 in the death of Trayvon Martin. BLM’s founders call Zimmerman and the officer involved in the death of Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, “murderers.” However, Zimmerman’s acquittal was confirmed by an investigation supported by open records that uncovered witness tampering and perjury. Wilson’s acquittal was confirmed by Barack Obama’s Justice Department, led by Eric Holder. The DOJ found the iconic “hands up don’t shoot” claim was contradicted by reliable accounts and likely was fabricated. Last week, a third, “secret,” in-depth investigation by a St. Louis County prosecutor reluctantly concluded it could not disprove the self-defense claim.]
What Mac Donald dubbed the “Ferguson Effect” followed. As police backed off from discretionary enforcement, an additional 2,000 blacks lost their lives in 2015-16 compared to the previous period.
The “Minneapolis Effect” is far worse, she said, making the “Ferguson Effect” looking like “child’s play.”
In the weeks following Floyd’s death on Memorial Day, for example, homicides rose 100% in Minneapolis, 200% in Seattle, 240% in Atlanta and 182% in Chicago. In New York City, shootings have more than doubled so far in 2020 compared to last year.
Since Floyd’s death, at least 25 children under age 18 have been fatally shot, nearly all black.
She noted the Black Lives Matter narrative that “policing in the U.S. is lethally racist has been amplified by every mainstream institution in the country.”
“A lot is riding, therefore, on whether that narrative about the police is correct. Not just thousands of lives but the very possibility of a civilized society,” she observed.
What we are now witnessing is the “dismantling of essential criminal justice practices in the name of fighting alleged law-enforcement bias.”
See Heather Mac Donald’s presentation:
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has adopted that narrative in his campaign.
She noted Biden’s reaction to Floyd’s death: “Imagine if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter, left the house, you feared for their safety … that is the norm for black people in this nation — they don’t have to imagine it.”
But the data and studies by mainstream researchers show that is not true.
“The idea that the police are wantonly killing black men is a creation of a politicized press and an elite establishment dedicated to the idea that racism is America’s defining trait,” Mac Donald said.
The raw numbers show that every year police fatally shoot about 1,000 people, the vast majority of whom are threatening the officer or bystanders with deadly force.
About 50% are white and 25% are black, and because blacks are about 13% of the population, Black Lives Matters sees bias.
But that is the wrong benchmark, she insisted, arguing police activity must be measured against crime, not population ratios.
“Every news story in mainstream media will compare police activity to a population benchmark, because it’s the only way to back the BLM narrative,” she said.
But officers are deployed to places where people are most victimized, and that is minority neighborhoods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, blacks, ages 10 to 43, die at a homicide rate 13 times the rate of whites.
Bureau of Justice statistics show that in the 75 largest counties, blacks are 15% of the population but make up about 60% of all murder and robbery defendants.
And, nationwide, blacks commit homicides at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, Mac Donald noted. In Chicago, 80% of shootings are committed by blacks, although they are less than a third of the population. Whites commit 2%, but are less than a third.
“The biggest determinant of officer behavior is civilian behavior,” she said, emphasizing blacks actually are shot less by the police than their crime rates would predict.
The data show the percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims who are killed by a police officer is three times higher than the percentage of black homicide victims who are killed by a cop.
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day was immediately cast as a “part that stands in for a whole” of police violence.
But with the same reasoning, Mac Donald argued, “we could just as easily pick out white cases and conclude police are biased against white men.”
In 2016, for example, a 32-year-old schizophrenic white man, Tony Timpa, called Dallas police to report he was off his medications and needed help. Three officers, while joking about his mental illness, kept him on the ground for 13 minutes as he pleaded for help more than 30 times, saying, “You’re killing me.”
Because Timpa was white, his death got no attention; it didn’t fit the BLM narrative.
She pointed to the Washington Post database of police shootings showing that in 2019, there were nine unarmed black victims of police shootings and 19 unarmed white victims.
The Washington Post defines unarmed “generously,” she said, to include suspects beating an officer with his own gun or fleeing a car stop with a loaded semiautomatic in their car.
Nevertheless, .1%, or one tenth of one percent, of all black homicide victims were unarmed and killed by police. About 7,400 blacks were killed in 2018.
Mac Donald said that after she publicized the Post’s findings in early June, the paper went back and recategorized as incidents of fatal police shootings as it possibly could.
“No new information spurred this reclassification, the database had been closed for six months,” she noted.
Despite its best efforts, she said, the Post came up with only six more victims previously deemed armed, bringing the total to 15, which is .2% of all black homicide victims.
“The claim that the death of George Floyd was the result of racism rather than bad tactics and a generalized callousness is pure supposition with no supporting evidence,” she said.
A 2019 study published by the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America concluded there is no racial disparity in police shootings once violent crime is taken into account.
As WND reported, the authors retracted that study earlier this month because Mac Donald had cited it verbatim in congressional testimony and in several articles.
“Are you seeing a pattern here?” she asked in her presentation Thursday.
She said she received a personal email from the authors asking her to cease and desist from citing it, even though the authors stand by their findings.
As it turns out, however, the authors “forgot” to retract a 2018 article that reached the same conclusion, that violent crime, not race, determines police shootings.
The researchers found blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police. But the authors recognized population isn’t the proper benchmark, it’s crime.
When you compare fatal police shootings to homicides and arrests, Mac Donald pointed out, the likelihood of being shot, in the authors’ words, “flips completely.”
Whites are about three times more likely to be fatally shot than blacks, once their homicide rates are taken into account, the authors found.
Others have reached the same conclusion, she noted, including Harvard economist Roland Fryer.
Officers in the 10 large cities and counties were more likely to shoot a suspect without first being attacked if the suspect was white than if the suspect was black, Fryer found.
An analysis by the Center for Policing Equity also concluded whites were “disadvantaged” compared to blacks when it comes to lethal force.
“So a robust body of empirical work disproves the racism charge,” Mac Donald said.
She addressed counter-evidence, including studies concluding officers are more likely to use nonlethal force with blacks, such as an officer placing his hands on a suspect or drawing his weapon without using it.
Fryer came to that conclusion. But Mac Donald argued his study made questionable assumptions, such as that suspects were perfectly compliant, based on the fact the officer had not checked off a box in his report regarding suspect behavior.
But the absence of a check mark is not the same thing as perfect compliance, she said, as Fryar acknowledged to her in an email.
Other studies show blacks are four times more likely to resist officer orders than whites, which, she reasoned, would produce any disparities in officers’ use of nonlethal force.
A 2005 paper by criminologists at the California State University randomly sampled 400 police reports from a Southern California police department. They examined 200 cases in which the suspect resisted and 200 in which the suspect complied.
The found resistance was more likely in high crime areas, with race being a predictor of resistance, mostly by suspects with criminal histories.
“With the current tidal wave of hatred crashing down upon the police, further delegitimizing their authority, suspect resistance will go up,” she warned.
“That resistance will increase the chance of officer use of force, which if videotaped, and stripped of the civilian behavior that preceded it, will trigger new waves of civil violence.”
She also addressed the issue raised by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and others, who say they have been stopped by police because they are black.
Mac Donald described it as “a crime tax paid uniquely and tragically by law-abiding blacks.”
But the higher chance that blacks will be stopped, she said, stems from the fact that one-third of all black men have been convicted of a felony.
“With that large a proportion of criminal offenders in the larger population, the chances are higher that an innocent black male will share some characteristic – make of car, say, or physical traits – with a suspect who is being sought by the police,” she said.
“The solution to it is not to demonize the police, it is to lower black crime rates.”
She also addressed the claim made by LeBron James and others that the lives of blacks are at risk in their daily interactions, even beyond police confrontations, because of white supremacy.
James, after the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia by two white men, wrote: “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!”
Blacks, however, commit 85.5% of interracial violence, Mac Donald pointed out.
‘We could descend into civil war’
It was a 50% rise in Minneapolis of flash mobs in the downtown business district, wilding, knockout games and brutal armed robberies that prompted Frey to call last September for more police officers.
“That was then,” she said. “Now he’s joined the move to replace police officers with social workers.”
Meanwhile, newspapers intentionally don’t mention race in news coverage, “a practice at odds with the public good,” she said, and they are no longer publishing mugshots, contending they give the public a mistaken impression of who commits most street crimes.
“Actually, she said, it’s “an accurate sense of urban violence.”
The irony, she said, is that this “squeamishness” by society “about even acknowledging the reality of black crime is not consistent with an alleged regime of white supremacy.”
The narrative about police-civilian violence is also the reverse of the truth.
Black males make up 40% of cop killers while comprising only 6% of the population. A police officer is 15 to 30 times more likely, depending on the year, to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male to be killed by a police officer.
Yet the criminal justice system is “being undone to avoid disparate impact on blacks.”
Officials are reclassifying felonies as misdemeanors to decrease the number of blacks sent to prison. Prosecutors are declining to prosecute low-level offenses. Bail is being eliminated, gang databases purged, and uncover police units that get guns off the street shut down. Analytical systems have been abandoned, and universities are severing ties with police
Consequently, officers are “demoralized and despairing,” with retirements up nearly 75% in the NYPD since the riots following the death of George Floyd.
“In no other profession are you condemned as a racist by the country’s elites from the day you step on the job, a judgment that you cannot clear yourself of,” she said.
Yet people in minority neighborhoods are pleading for police, recognizing that street disorder is the breeding ground of violent crime.
“If it continues,” Mac Donald warned, “we could descend into civil war. It is essential, therefore, to counter the lies about police with the truth, and we must hope that reason still has a place in public discourse.”