I'd like to preface this article by pointing out that police brutality is a very real issue, and that this reality is much clearer for members of ethnic minority communities. Black Americans are more often targets of law enforcement (particularly for traffic and drug violations), and are disproportionately imprisoned compared to their neighbors of other ethnic groups.
That being said, I'd like to address some of the fallacies and fabrications of the Black Lives Matter movement. It's been four years since the BLM movement began as a response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. There is some irony in the fact that a movement often considered “anti-police” was founded because of an act committed by a civilian. Many of the ideals of BLM are easy to agree and empathize with. Police officers are often too quick to use lethal force, and the result is a disproportionate number of unarmed black people being killed. I'd agree in many recent cases (Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, III), the police were absolutely wrong to use lethal force. If BLM only carried the mantle for nonviolent black victims of fatal police brutality, I'd agree wholeheartedly and perhaps even attend their marches. But no, BLM holds up as a martyr Michael Brown, a robber who tried to grab an officer's gun to shoot him with it. The entire “hands up, don't shoot” narrative was proven to be false, yet it was parroted by news anchors and celebrities who tried to make Brown out to be an innocent victim. Meanwhile, many black witnesses to the shooting concurred that the officer “did what needed to be done”. Beyond Michael Brown, BLM rioted in Madison, Wisconsin, after the shooting of Tony Robinson. Robinson had been shot dead after assaulting an officer while under the influence of three illegal/controlled substances. To up the ante, BLM began sharing misleading images on social media, saying that people like Sandra Bland and Walter Scott lost their lives because they had a brake light out or failed to use a turn signal. In Scott's case, he fled the scene of the traffic stop and fought with an officer (while under the influence of cocaine and alcohol). Sandra Bland committed suicide while being detained in jail after not complying and scuffling with an officer. A major issue with BLM is that the movement presumes that black people are NEVER at fault when an encounter with law enforcement ends in their death—indeed, even when that death is a suicide. A liberal friend told me that even when a black man is aiming a loaded gun at a police officer, she could not justify the police officer preemptively shooting the black man. This irrational idea that it's never justifiable to shoot a person with dark skin is one of the most glaring fallacies of the BLM movement. Yes, we are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, as a libertarian publication, we believe that police officers' job is to protect and serve, not to shoot citizens without provocation. However, being a police officer is dangerous, and citizens should comply with all REASONABLE orders given by officers. Escalating the situation by threatening officers with violence is unarguably asking to be shot. It is regrettable that BLM waters down and delegitimizes its message by mentioning innocent victims like Tamir Rice in the same sentence with violent criminals like Michael Brown. And the political and social pressure of BLM allows the families of hoodlums like Brown and Robinson to get multimillion-dollar settlements even after a court has decided that their deaths were justified.
Another huge problem with BLM is that it is, at its core, a movement based on fearmongering. For years, I've understood that my dark-skinned friends were at a higher risk of getting pulled over or profiled by police. The BLM movement has stoked the fear of the police to the point that many black people live in constant fear that leaving the house puts them in imminent danger of being shot by an officer. In stoking these anti-police fears, BLM has escalated tensions between minorities and law enforcement to levels not reached since the 1960s. This division led to the execution-style murders of two NYPD officers in 2014 by a black radical. His actions were considered revenge killings for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. This gave rise to the Blue Lives Matter movement, a pro-police group that channeled outrage from the killing of officers. Black Lives Matter reacted negatively to Blue Lives Matter; the claim was that Blue Lives Matter was irrelevant because violence against police was on the decline while police violence against unarmed black people was on the rise. Flash forward to 2016, and a Black Lives Matter protest culminated with another black radical shooting 14 police officers, killing five of them. So the Black Lives Matter movement (which claims to support equality and fair policing) has inspired the murders of at least seven law enforcement officers. While some BLM leaders have denounced this violence against police officers, there still exists a great deal of anti-police rhetoric and calls for violence from those in the movement.
The BLM movement also features a profound lack of statistical understanding. While millions of black families now fear for their lives due to BLM propaganda, the fact is that it is astronomically unlikely to be killed by police regardless of who you are. On average, police kill a little under a thousand people each year in the United States (1 in 322,000). The Washington Post has compiled a database that shows all killings by police in 2015, 2016 and thus far in 2017. The data show that roughly twice as many whites are killed compared to blacks. However, the white population is about six times the size of the black community, so black Americans are killed at triple the rate of white Americans by police officers. This statistic is cause for alarm, but it is important to know that the vast majority of black people who are killed by police are armed and in the process of committing a crime or posing a direct danger to those around them. The Washington Post database shows that in 2016, less than ten percent of black Americans killed by police were unarmed. Seventeen unarmed black people were killed by police in 2016, and of those, the vast majority of the unarmed victims were trying to fight with the officers or lunge at them. A handful were simply trying to flee the police, but were shot dead. Only a couple people who were compliant were killed. And yes, we should be outraged by these rare incidents. But it is crucial to acknowledge that these are very rare occurrences. A black citizen who complies with lawful police orders is ten times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by police. In the course of a year, a black person has less than 1 in 5,000,000 of being killed by an officer of the law if they follow lawful orders, do not attack officers, and don't try to flee. BLM has perpetuated the myth that law enforcement officers indiscriminately shoot dark-skinned people. There are over a million police officers in the United States and only about a half dozen unjustifiable police shootings of black citizens annually. So, BLM vilifies the police, institutional racism, and profiling for an imaginary epidemic of shooting unarmed blacks, while fewer than one in 200 police officers will ever kill a black citizen in the course of their entire career. Further, less than one in 3,000 officers will unjustifiably shoot a black citizen during the course of their career.
To be clear, BLM raises some very important points. Racial profiling likely leads to the disparity between police killings of black vs. white Americans. The police are significantly more likely to use lethal force during encounters with black citizens than with white ones. Secondarily, police officers are often inadequately trained in dealing with mentally ill individuals (while this affects a number of black citizens, more than four times as many mentally ill white citizens are killed by police than black citizens). I can find common ground with BLM in their fight to end racial profiling, in their defense of the senseless killing of innocent black Americans, and their stance against police brutality. However, I vehemently disagree with their conspiracy theory that America is still under a white supremacist system, where the police only serve as an arm to subjugate people of color. I have personally had more than my share of run-ins with law enforcement, and I can attest that the deck is stacked against poor people, not black people. To equate those two groups is inherently racist. While BLM demonizes the police and attempts to discredit the Blue Lives Matter movement, a police officer is killed almost every week in America. Consider, in the United States there are about 33 black Americans for every one police officer, but every year, three police officers are murdered for every unarmed black person killed by police. What's more alarming is that for every one unarmed black person killed by police, over a hundred black citizens are murdered by other black citizens. BLM's campaign of fear has caused people of color to live anxiously every time they come in contact with law enforcement, but if BLM leaders were statistically conscious, they would recognize that violence within their own community is a far greater threat to black lives than law enforcement. Unjustifiable police shootings are a problem, yes, but manufactured outrage over them seems hollow when little to no outrage is shown at the daily shootings in urban black communities. BLM grossly exaggerates the threat of police brutality and minimizes the very real problem of black-on-black murder. Their assertion is that our white supremacist system thrives on mass incarceration of black males. This shifts the blame squarely onto white shoulders, perpetuating the idea that blacks can do no wrong and that they are only in prison to increase profit in white pockets. Most of us at Electric Liberty will agree, mass incarceration of black men is a huge problem. If we could reverse archaic and prohibitive drug laws and release the hundreds of thousands of men and women of every shade who are in prison for simple drug possession, we would. But the fact is, the vast majority of black men killed by police were not killed because of racism, but because they were pointing a gun or a knife at a police officer and threatening that officer's life. Black Lives Matter raises some important issues about police procedures that can be improved on. Police should wear body cams and reach for their Taser rather than their gun whenever feasible. But BLM has inspired a number of horrific terrorist acts on police officers. The Blue Lives Matter movement does not take away from the Black Lives Matter movement. Trevor Noah very articulately expressed on his show that all reasonable Americans should be pro-black and pro-police. The two movements are not mutually exclusive. At Electric Liberty, our goal is to objectively look at the merits of these movements (which is best done statistically and by comparing rhetoric from each). There is much more to be said about the causes of ethnic disparity in police killings. This is a multi-dimensional problem that BLM unfortunately feels the need to boil down to racism. If you'd like to discuss the factors that lead to the problem or some of the facets that we didn't address, feel free to comment. We'd love to build a dialogue.