(Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Mac Donald’s work at City Journal has canvassed a range of topics, including higher education, immigration, policing and “racial” profiling, homelessness and homeless advocacy, criminal justice reform, and race relations. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and The New Criterion. Mac Donald’s newest book, The War on Cops (2016), warns that raced-based attacks on the criminal justice system, from the White House down, are eroding the authority of law and putting lives at risk.)
Laura Perrins: First, your latest book describes The War on Cops. I noticed this came out just a few months before the assassination by sniper of 5 police officers in Dallas. You must have thought grimly and horrifically, ‘I told you so’? Can you explain?
Heather Mac Donald: Thank you, Laura, for the invitation to appear on The Conservative Woman. Actually, The War on Cops came out a few weeks before the Dallas cop assassinations, the first of two such Black Lives Matter-inspired cop massacres in July 2016 alone. And yes, though I was appalled, I was not surprised.
For two years, Black Lives Matter activists have been proclaiming that we are living through an epidemic of racially-driven police shootings of black men. President Barack Obama, erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the entire mainstream media have relentlessly amplified that message that cops are gunning down blacks out of racial bias.
That message is false. Four studies have come out this year alone that show that if there is a bias in police shootings, it is in favour of blacks. A greater percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims die of police shootings than black homicide victims: Twelve per cent of all whites and Hispanics who die of homicide are killed by an officer, compared to 4 per cent of black homicide victims. Blacks are killed by police at a far lower rate than their rates of violent crime would predict.
But however false the Black Lives Matter narrative is, it is having lethal consequences, and not just for police officers. Cops are backing off of proactive policing in black neighbourhoods and black lives are being lost to drive-by shootings at sometimes record rates. Last year’s national homicide increase was the largest one-year increase in nearly half a century; the additional homicide victims have overwhelmingly been black.
The anti-cop lie is resulting in a dangerous level of hostility being directed at officers in inner city areas. Cops are surrounded by hostile, jeering crowds when they get out of their cars to conduct an investigation; suspects are more likely to resist arrest, which will lead to more officer use of force. Gun murders of cops were up 59 per cent nationally through November 8; in Chicago, where anti-cop hatred is at a fever pitch, gun assaults on officers are up 100 per cent.
LP: What I believe drives you is how the Black Lives Matter false narrative is so dangerous and disastrous for the black residents of urban areas living in poverty. They are the ones who suffer the most from the collapse of policing, and the most desperate for pro-active policing?
HM: You’re absolutely right: hundreds of thousands of law-abiding residents of high crime areas fervently support the police and want more police intervention in public disorder. I have never been to a police-community meeting in a high crime minority area where I have not heard some variant of the following requests: “You arrest the drug dealers and they’re back on the corner the next day. Why can’t you keep them off the street?” “There are hundreds of kids hanging out on the street corner fighting. Whatever happened to truancy and loitering laws?” I spoke to an elderly cancer amputee in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx who told me: “Please Jesus, send more police!” The only time she feels safe to go to her building lobby to get her mail is when the police are there, because it is otherwise colonised by trespassing youth, hanging out and selling drugs. I try to give voice to these good people whom the mainstream media never seem to find.
LP: It is true, that of the black voters who did vote in the election they overwhelming voted for Clinton. But crucially their numbers were down, something that may have cost Clinton the election. Do you think this is partly down to how much black communities have been let down by the Democrats?
HM: I wish there were more awareness among blacks of the uselessness of Democratic urban policies, but I frankly haven’t encountered it. While there is unquestionably strong, unacknowledged support for the police, that does not translate, in the vast majority of cases, into a rejection of traditional Democratic allegiances. If Clinton’s numbers among blacks were down compared to Obama, I think that reflects more the degree of enthusiasm for Obama, rather than any long overdue reckoning with the failed Democratic politics of racial victimology and big government social programmes.
LP: Our readers may not be aware of the collapse in policing in Chicago and the explosion in homicides there – with many victims being children. You record that at least 15 children under the age of 12 were shot in the first 7 months of 2016, including a 3-year-old boy who is now tragically paralysed for life. This is almost unspeakable. Can Trump turn it around? Giuliani turned it around for New York, can he do the same for Chicago?
HM: The most important thing that Trump will do with regard to crime is to turn off the false narrative about law enforcement coming from the White House. The federal government has ordinarily little bearing on crime, which is overwhelmingly a local matter. That is not to say that the federal government cannot muck things up with unjustified federal control of individual police departments for phantom patterns of alleged civil rights violations. And indeed, President Obama has put more local departments under federal control than any previous presidential administration. But even those so-called federal consent decrees are largely local in impact.
You are right to credit Rudolph Giuliani with the wholly unforeseen, record-breaking crime turnaround of New York City. But even if Giuliani were to become US Attorney General, his reach over day-to-day policing in crime hotbeds like Chicago would ordinarily be limited. It will be enough, however, if Trump and his administration can push back hard against the poisonous narrative about a racist criminal justice system.
LP: Briefly to the academy. We discuss the snowflake generation frequently at The Conservative Woman, in fact I had my own theory that perhaps this was the day care generation grown up. After the election of Trump there were stories going around that students did not have to attend classes or hand in assignments on time due to their ‘trauma’ at losing a free and fair democratic election.
How will they survive the next 4 years, should we care? Or will this feed their victim narrative, even though by any metric college students are the privileged few?
HM: Universities are going to get a whole lot crazier in the next four to eight years. Universities are the most important source of narcissistic victimology in Anglo-American culture today. And Trump will give them more cause for self-engrossed, delusional hysteria. While your day care theory is certainly quite plausible, I think we also need to understand the ideological element in the microaggression, safe spaces, and trigger warning phenomena. After all, it is not every group that is granted favoured victim status, with all the attendant trappings of diversity bureaucrats, identity-aggrandising curricula, and sympathetic press coverage of allegedly “unsafe” group status. Straight white males were also raised in day care or by so-called helicopter parents, but they are by and large neither demanding safe spaces nor being accorded them. The moral panic on college campuses over imaginary oppression is less a psychological phenomenon stemming from upbringing, in my view, than a political one aimed at the few remaining norms of meritocracy and high standards left in Western culture.
Since there is so little true learning going on anymore on American campuses outside the hard sciences, it won’t change matters much if Trump-traumatised students simply go into a four-year fetal crouch.
(Image: Johnny Silvercloud)