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Conservative thinkers push back on ‘systemic racism’ narrative

The protests, and frequent riots, over the death of George Floyd have reinvigorated liberals’ allegations, popular under President Barack Obama, that America is afflicted by intractable “systemic racism” — particularly its law enforcement agencies.

In recent days, some conservative thinkers have begun combatting this narrative.

For instance, Heather Mac Donald, one of the foremost authorities on policing, makes the impolite, and impolitic, argument that criminals are responsible for the carnage in the black community. 

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday, she pointed out, per 2018 data, that blacks “made up 53 percent of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60 percent of robberies, though they are 13 percent of the population,” adding that “police shootings are not the reason that blacks die of homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined; criminal violence is.”

She also noted an August 2019 National Academy of Sciences report on the matter of police bias: “The researchers found that the more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that a member of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer. There is ‘no significant evidence of antiblack disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police,’ they concluded.”

Writing Wednesday at National Review Online, Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, called institutional racism a “canard.”

“In about 75 percent of police shootings, the decedent is not black. Of course, that is not what you would grasp from consuming media,” he wrote.

McCarthy blasted the “slanderous narrative that police are hunting down black men,” partly by pointing out, like Mac Donald, that black-on-black crime is devastating cities — and the countering that with claims of police violence makes little sense when considering a rising number of black Americans are becoming law enforcement officers.

“Police do not go looking for people to shoot. In shooting situations, police are confronting crime suspects, the majority of whom are armed,” McCarthy maintained. “The most dangerous threat to the African-American community in America is not cops. It is liberals. The United States is not institutionally racist. The political system, the criminal-justice system, and academe overflow with political progressives. The notion that they would tolerate racism in their institutions would be laughable if sensible people were encouraged to think about it rather than mindlessly accept it. … The false narrative of racist police, which pressures law enforcement to back off from the communities most victimized by crime, is now destroying entire cities.”

One problem, as The Washington Times reported this week, is that researchers lack sound data that would prove actual bias, and thus what data exists often tell a conflicting story.

“It has been six years since the Ferguson riots put a microscope on relations between police and black communities, and despite dozens of studies on the matter, researchers say they are no closer to a consensus on the role that bias and racism play,” the Times report. “It turns out there is not good enough data to be able to draw firm conclusions, leaving a chaotic landscape of competing conclusions.”

One point of contention is whether cops target blacks or whites more frequently. 

On Twitter, Matt Walsh, a columnist and podcast host at Daily Wire, takes a different tack by highlighting instances of when cops kill white people.

One example is Tony Timpa, who died in police custody in August 2016. The Dallas Morning News reported last July, when body-cam footage of his fatal encounter with police became public, that Timpa had called 911 and told an operator he was fearful and needed help because he was off his medications for schizophrenia and depression. By the time cops arrived a nearby security guard had handcuffed Timpa.

Officers had claimed Timpa was aggressive and combative as they detained him. Yet when the department filed a report to the state attorney general’s office about his death, cops answered “no” to questions about whether he had attacked them, brandished a weapon, threatened them, resisted arrest, or tried to flee.

“Tony Timpa wailed and pleaded for help more than 30 times as Dallas police officers pinned his shoulders, knees and neck to the ground. ‘You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!’” the Morning News reported of his final moments.

“After Timpa fell unconscious, the officers who had him in handcuffs assumed he was asleep and didn’t confirm that he was breathing or feel for a pulse. As precious minutes passed, the officers laughed and joked about waking Timpa up for school and making him waffles for breakfast.”

On May 30, Walsh tweeted, “Tony Timpa was suffocated by police during an arrest. … As he lay dead, they cracked jokes. There were no riots. Little coverage. You’ve never heard his name because he’s white.”

That day Walsh also tweeted body-cam video of police killing Daniel Shaver in Mesa, Ariz. Shaver had reportedly flashed a gun in a hotel room window. It turned out he had an air rifle, which he used for work as a pest control tech. 

Confronted by police, Shaver — unarmed, intoxicated and white — surrendered and laid down in a hotel hallway while police trained weapons on him. Then, officers claimed, he made a furtive move. As The Washington Post noted in posting the video of his death, Shaver was “crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life before he was shot and killed.”

The officer, who also was white, was eventually charged with second-degree murder, but later acquitted at trial. 

Walsh maintained that there were “many more” cases like these. But, he tweeted, activists “always ignore all victims who are white. What they care about is an ideologically-driven racial narrative.”

Critics lashed out at Walsh on Twitter. Some suggested he was a hypocrite for not raising Timpa or Shaver when their circumstances became known, or a race-baiter for tweeting about whites being killed.   

Within the context of George Floyd, some critics maintained the current demonstrations are about police brutality in general.

If that’s the case, fine. Stopping police brutality and holding officers accountable for it, no matter who is brutalized and especially when a suspect dies in their custody, should be everyone’s concern and goal. 

But as these conservatives point out, that’s not what we see. The evidence is scant that the national media have more than a superficial interest in white suspects killed by police, and so, perhaps by design, America is left with a one-sided narrative about police violence that fails to stand up under strict, intellectual — as opposed to emotional — scrutiny.

PHOTO: Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

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