For almost a week, BLM and like-minded activists marched in the streets of Rochester, N.Y., protesting the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of police.
BLM zealots even harassed diners and overturned tables at two restaurants located next to the apartment building in which I live, creating a social media firestorm. Events in Rochester have even attracted the notice of none other than President Donald Trump.
We Rochesterians are not used to playing a starring role in the national news cycle.
The curious thing? Daniel Prude died months ago, and under circumstances that hardly suggest that racial animus played any role in his demise. He was a mentally deranged man on drugs, whom the police had to restrain, as best they could. And restrain him they did, based on the policies and procedures of the RPD — at the new height of concern over COVID-19 infection.
Unfortunately, based on a variety of circumstances, some of them completely outside the control of the police officers who detained him, Prude later died. This makes the recent decision of the police chief and his entire command staff to retire baffling and unfortunate, since it will only reinforce the (false) perception that the RPD was culpable in Mr. Prude’s death.
The facts be damned, however — the media and the anti-police outrage industry can turn almost any questionable incident caught on camera into an instant scandal. In fact, as we see in this case, a police “killing” need not even be fresh to excite “anti-racist” fervor. Nor must it be demonstrably racist, as events this summer have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The unfortunate truth is, however, that it is not just left-wing zealots who are being sucked into this maelstrom of anti-police rage and racial fear-mongering. It is also many well-meaning, compassionate Americans who are laboring under the misconception that there is a sudden epidemic in America of police slayings of innocent black men.
What is abundantly clear is that the loss of blacks lives, per se, is not what is driving public attitudes and media coverage. There is zero evidence that the summer of 2020 has seen any more police-involved killings of black men than would be normal in a country of 330 million people. Meanwhile, not that anyone is even bothering to check, police killings of white suspects (which are always more numerous) increased.
In fact, what we know for certain is that police departments, especially in big cities, have undertaken unprecedented efforts to improve training, reduce the potential for violent confrontations with suspects and with the public, and recruit new officers from historically disadvantaged communities. As a result, police forces, including the RPD, are more restrained in the use of force, and more representative of and respectful towards communities of color, than they have ever been.
What’s more, BLM’s, and the media’s, raging obsession with police “slayings” of black men is an absurdity, if one’s concern is, as the name of the movement implies, the preservation of black life. BLM shows no inclination to protest or draw attention to other scourges which routinely claim far more black lives.
In terms of violence, domestic disputes and drug gangs are infinitely more likely to take black lives than the excessive use of force by the police. Statistically, this is beyond questioning.
Rochester, New York has a murder rate three times higher than the national average. In Rochester, just this year, dozens have been murdered, most in circumstances related to family violence or gang activity. Over the July 4th weekend, no less than 13 people were shot in Rochester — a city of just 200,000 people. But has BLM organized marches on the homes of notorious domestic abusers or on drug dens?
Certainly not. They would not waste their time with deaths, and with causes, so trivial — in their eyes.
We must also keep in mind that far more black lives are taken by natural causes, including heart disease, cancer and the coronavirus, than by police violence. Most of these health threats impact communities of color and poor neighborhoods disproportionately. Do these dangers — statistically, far more menacing than the police — excite BLM’s fury? Not in the least.
Moreover, the problems that people of color encounter are by no means restricted to dangers which end lives. Poverty, under-performing schools, shuttered factories and businesses, drug and alcohol abuse and broken homes, to name just a few blights on many communities of color, are every bit as serious in terms of their ability to erode quality of life.
These are all phenomena, I hasten to add, that are fostered, to one degree or another, by misguided public policies supported by the same kind of left-wing radicals and neo-Marxists, who find a happy home in the BLM movement. They are also problems that find the most fertile ground of all in deep blue, Democratic-led urban centers like Rochester.
The only conclusion we are left with is that BLM, and those who march with it and lend it their support, no matter how well-meaning, are not motivated first and foremost by the preservation of life, black or otherwise. Instead, they are obsessed with the exploitation of death — in this case, the deaths of black men at the hands of the police.
Theirs, in other words, is a cause propelled not by caring, but by animus — animus towards law enforcement, certainly, and often animus towards white people, who are seen as being at the root of America’s “original sin”: racism.
What is ultimately notable about Black Lives Matter, therefore, is how little black lives matter to those who wave its banners and shout its slogans.
We should call BLM what it is, based on the pattern of its beliefs and behaviors: it is a hate group determined to malign the police, white people and America itself.
It cares not a whit whether, in a particular instance, the police, white people or America have done anything wrong.
It is the cause of hate, in and of itself, that sustains the movement.
(Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred.)