Black Murder Victims: A National Tragedy

Driving home last night I listened to much of Chris Plante's radio show on WMAL 630 AM about Sean Taylor and the black murder victim crisis. It was a great and engaging show, the type that I hope I occasionally had when I was a radio host on XM.

From Plante's show, according to the WMAL site: Chris wants to also know why no "so-called" black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are talking about or taking action in this area. "Why am I talking about this and not Al."

CJL's answer: Sharpton and Jackson DO talk about talk about black-on-black crime, and it hasn't been a recent thing. For example, in 1984, the Associated Press distributed an article titled, "Jackson calls for end to black-on-black crime." According to that 1984 AP dispatch: "I want blacks who kill and maim other blacks ... to go to jail," Jackson told about 250 people at the headquarters of Operation PUSH, the civil rights organization he founded."The blood keeps flowing," Jackson said, alluding to a series of recent gang-related killings and other street crimes, one of which ended in the death of high school basketball star Ben Wilson.

In 1994, Jackson led a major conference of black leaders focused on black-on-black crime. I haven't followed Jackson's actions in detail, but I'm sure he has given other speeches and done things he could point out to show he has acted to reduce black-on-black violence. He has done other things, such as personally led kids to schools to encourage them to stay in school. Again, I'm not presenting this as an exhaustive list.

I don't say this as an advocate of Jackson's. I say it because Jackson's critics who say that black leaders don't talk about black-on-black crime are wrong. Jackson has led demonstrations, delivered speeches, and rhymed many a time in denouncing black-on-black crime. I suspect that it is much deeper than what Jackson's critics suggest, and it is much more terrifying than the idea that Jackson and others ignore black-on-black crime.

In short: Jesse Jackson doesn't know what to do about black-on-black crime. He may talk about afterschool programs, highlighting achievement, fully funding No Child Left Behind, black role models, diversity, multiculturalism, having black history month year around, community policing, affirmative action, health care, workers' rights, ending police brutality, the minimum wage, etc., but when you get right down to it, Jackson, Sharpton, and others really don't know what to do to prevent black-on-black crime.

Many of Jackson's critics seem to believe the hype that if he would just try a little harder and focus on black-on-black crime, he could do something about it. If only that were true...

That isn't meant to be criticism of Jackson, that's just the way it goes. I'm reminded of something that Thomas Sowell wrote in Knowledge and Decisions about expertise, and I'm paraphrasing and putting my own spin on it: 'If you are a farmer, and we say that you can milk a cow, that means that if we send you to a barn with a bucket, you can come back with some milk from a cow. On the other hand, if we say you are an expert on crime, we can't send you out to Detroit, and expect you to come back with less crime in the city.'

There's a difference about expertise in doing something and expertise in talking eloquently about something. This is the right moment for me to point out that Jesse Jackson speaks passionately about lots of issues. Another example of this is Michael Eric Dyson. He apparently responded to criticism from Juan Williams that he was just criticizing Cosby, and decided to lead a march against violence in Philly. Before the weekend was over, four more people were killed in Philly, including a five-year-old black girl sitting in her mother's car. Dyson may have some ideas about black-on-black crime, but he can't come back with less crime in Philly.

Another place that I part company with Jackson's critics is that as much as I may criticize him, I bet that if he knew how to come back with less black-on-black crime, he would do it! As great as MLK was, he didn't do that! Jackson shakes down corporate America, yes, but the money would be flowing to him even faster if he could go city-to-city to reduce crime and make it safe for businesses to do business...

More from WMAL's site: A Few Statistics: The 8,000 number for one year is higher than the amount of casualties in six years of combat between Iraq and Afghanistan.

Based on the normal figures, 66 African-Americans have died since Sean Taylor's death. That is an amount that is more in two days than the total amount of people who died last month in Iraq.

Locally as well, about 9 out of 10 murder victims in DC this year are black.

CJL: I have also focused on this issue. I had come across a statistic showing there were more black men killed by other blacks in a typical year than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq so far. When I had a radio show on XM, my co-host Eliot Morgan and I had a semi-regular feature titled, "The Black Race Can't Afford You No More." We would focus on some black criminals who had harmed other black people. The main point we were trying to make: If you are black, and have engaged in criminal activity, you should know in advance that you can't call on black people unrelated to you to defend you.

On WMAL last night, Chris Plante asked a great question: Why isn't the homicides of so many black people a national crisis? As cited in the statistics above, Plante pointed out that more black people die every year than have died FIGHTING IN A WAR ZONE in Iraq. Yet, we've got the Democrat Party, which gets about 90 percent of the black vote, fiddling around with a bunch of nonsense issues.

Of course, I'm sure there are several reasons that Jesse Jackson and Sharpton prefer to engage in street theater, and some were mentioned on Plante's show. One thing I did not hear mentioned is something discussed in a slightly different context by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy: Black people are tired of hearing bad news about black people.

In the mid-1980s I came across a column by Milloy (who is left of center). He was discussing the reactions of other blacks to his writings. His time of development was during the civil rights movement when leaders, activists, and reporters would highlight problems among blacks to press for change. When he became a reporter and later a columnist, he followed that strategy.

By the 1980s, however, some of his readers were complaining that he was being too negative. So he shifted gears and started telling positive stories about blacks. Later, Milloy checked in with his readers, and he was surprised that they weren't impressed by the positive stories. The reason? They weren't just looking for good news about black people--they also wanted bad news about white people. They wanted to hear more about white drug dealers, criminals, wife-beaters, etc.

I found this to be true when I was hosting a black-issues radio show. A common complaint from black callers was that bad news about blacks wasn't presented in context, that there wasn't "balance" in coverage.

By focusing too much on black-on-black crime, without context, without wrapping the medicine inside candy, Jackson, Sharpton and other activists would be seen as being no better than conservatives.


linked by Booker Rising, the Chris Plante Show