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Part 3 of my series on Race, Crime, and Policing
William K. Black, July 31, 2016 Bloomington, MN
This is my third installment in my series of columns about race, crime, and policing. I chose as my initial example of dangerous blood libels a New York Times contributor’s op ed. I use also a NYT editorial about blood libels involving crime and race that demonstrates the editorial board’s hypocrisy and analytical failures.
The New York Times Spreads a Blood Libel Against LEOs and Whites
On July 11, 2016, the editorial board of the New York Times denounced a man for propagating “racial myths,” through a “garbled, fictional statistic,” “false equivalencies,” “defam[ation],” and “race-baiting.” There were only three problems with the editorial. First, the man they were denouncing made his unscripted remarks on an interview program, while the New York Times invited one of their editorial contributors to write an op ed dated July 7, 2016 that exemplified the characteristics that the editorial denounced. The writer of the op ed presented no data, so he did not present a fictional statistic. The racial myths, race-baiting, and false equivalencies of the op ed were so much worse than the talk show participant that his defamation degenerated into blood libels against LEOs and whites as a race.
People responding to an unscripted interview make off-the-cuff comments. They cannot stop and look up the data to get the exact statistics. Op eds in the NYT are written with great care and reviewed by the paper’s fact-checkers prior to publication. The author of the op ed, an academic sociologist, knew how to find the exact data and supporting citations to support the claims in his op ed, but failed to do so. Claims made in NYT op eds should be held to a substantially higher standard than remarks made in response to an unscripted interview. The NYT editorial board, however, expressed no criticism of the NYT op ed spreading the blood libels against LEOs that can get officers murdered.
The sociologist Michael Eric Dyson published his op ed in the New York Times’ online paper that was posted after the police killings of young black males in Louisiana and Minnesota and shortly before the ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas. He could not have suffered worse timing, for that act of terror illustrated how wrong and how dangerous the claims he made in his op ed were.
This column lays out Dyson’s claims and explains his terrible timing. I show how the events in Dallas exposed the falsehoods he spread about whites as a race and the blood libels he made against LEOs in particular. Those events and Dyson’s race-baiting and blood libels also demonstrate the hypocrisy of the NYT’s editorial board.
Dyson’s Racial Claims and Blood Libels of LEOs
Dyson knew that his op ed would be controversial. As he anticipated, I believe that logic and reality establish that his thesis is “preposterous and insulting.” I explain why it is insulting to an entire race and it is a blood libel to roughly one million workers – LEOs. I focus on the assertions Dyson makes in his op ed as to why a tiny portion of LEOs, without justification, shoot young black males. Dyson claims these killings occur because:
- The white race is conducting a “war on blackness.” Whites wage that “war” to ensure that the world’s “bounty” “should be yours first, and foremost.”
- Blacks are so morally superior to whites that their “gift” to whites is that blacks “cannot hate you.”
- Blacks live in terror because LEOs are like raptors that eagerly seek to murder unwary blacks (“swoop down on us to snatch our lives from us”). LEOs serve as the white race’s shock troops in their “war on blackness.”
- Whites act “the same” as Muslims who refuse to condemn ISIS when it trumpets its pride in its latest, deliberate terrorist atrocities because whites refuse to “condemn” LEOs upon learning that they have shot young black males. In context, his claim is that whites who refuse to “condemn” LEOs until a jury determines that the LEOs actions were unlawful or even improper are “the same” as Muslims who refuse to condemn ISIS for cheering the news that it has murdered, sometimes through torture, hundreds of men, women, and children because of their religion.
- LEOs, including black and Latino LEOs, are willing to murder young black males because whites control the police departments and select and teach LEOs to adopt the “white” “culture” that accords no value to black lives.
I explain in more detail in my next installment why Dyson’s assertions are blood libels. The critical problem is not LEOs, not a “war on blackness,” and not the fiction that LEOs do not believe that black lives matter. In this installment I focus on how the murders of LEOs in Dallas exemplify why Dyson’s attacks on LEOs were a blood libel.
Spreading blood libels is always indefensible, but it is also particularly dangerous to stoke racial hate and lies in the United States. The type of people who ambush LEOs are often suffering severe psychological problems. This was true in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and New York City. It is all too easy for blood libels to provide them with the pretext to see their murders of LEOs as noble.
Dyson’s key metaphor – LEOs, at the behest of the white race, are the shock troops in our “war on blackness” – isn’t simply a libel. The logical duty of courageous young black men who are not pacifists, if they believe Dyson’s blood libels, is to launch a preemptive war to kill LEOs before they can kill young black men. None of us can know whether Dyson’s blood libels will prove persuasive to other psychologically unstable young men and cause them to launch “preemptive” attacks to murder LEOs. The murderers of LEOs in Dallas and Baton Rouge are dead, so we will never know whether Dyson’s blood libels played any role in encouraging their attacks. We can know that Dyson’s race-baiting and propagation of blood libels against LEOs is deadly dangerous to LEOs, young black men, and our Nation. Dyson’s actions in spreading his blood libels are particularly appalling and reprehensible because he is a sociologist and knows better.
Dyson’s Terrible Timing: The Dallas Ambush
Dyson’s timing was unfortunate. His crude racial stereotypes of the purported depravity of white Americans as a racial group and his specific blood libels of LEOs constitute the kind of demonization that gets LEOs targeted for murder based on their public service and race. The Dallas ambush was motivated, according to Micah Johnson, the killer, by his racial animus against whites of all ages and genders combined with a special hate for LEOs. Mr. Johnson had every reason to believe the Dallas LEOs he ambushed were innocent of any crime or wrongdoing against blacks. The Dallas LEOs are known for their diversity, their support for the safety and rights of black protesters. The large number of LEOs released demonstrates that the leadership of the Dallas Police Department takes any concerns about its officers’ mistreatment of any member of the community very seriously and fixes the problem.
David O. Brown, the DPD chief, is a black male who rose through the department’s ranks and has personal, tragic experiences with a legitimate police shooting of his own son, who murdered a LEO and a civilian while on a combination of PCP, alcohol, and marijuana. Davis’ brother was killed by a drug dealer. Davis’ former DPD partner was killed in the line-of-duty. Brown is a national leader in training LEOs to de-escalate conflicts. I will return in future installments to this critical subject of how police can escalate or de-escalate conflicts. Street crime is down in Dallas during Chief Brown’s tenure as are civilian complaints of excessive force by his LEOs.
The Dallas Ambush Put the Lie to Dyson’s Blood Libels
As Dyson predicted, criminologists and the public knew it was “preposterous” for him to claim that LEOs and whites were engaged in a “war against blackness.” Dallas proved that point for many years before Mr. Johnson’s staged his ambush. But Mr. Johnson’s ambush underlined how far beyond “preposterous” Dyson’s blood libel was against LEOs.
Mr. Johnson lived in a Dallas suburb and knew that he was choosing targets for his executions from a subset of LEOs that was exceptionally unlikely to have abused blacks (or anyone). This deliberate slaughter of the innocents is characteristic of what hate of entire groups produces.
Mr. Johnson also picked the time and place of his ambush to catch the LEOs when they were most vulnerable and he had all the tactical advantages – precisely because the Dallas LEOs were deliberately demonstrating that black lives mattered enormously to them. As Mr. Johnson knew would be the case, the Dallas LEOs were characteristically and deliberately not wearing their Kevlar and were not heavily armed because they did not want to militarize their interaction with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters and wanted to aid the protesters in presenting their views safely rather than creating a confrontation. The Dallas LEOs were not focused on their own safety. Mr. Johnson choose to attack the Dallas LEOs when they were most vulnerable in order to maximize the number of LEOs he could maim and murder.
Dyson claimed in his screed against whites and LEOs that the key to understanding LEOs is that “the best-armed man will always win.” Dyson’s claim is wrong, as any criminologist, LEO, or soldier could explain, but he had the misfortune of the Dallas LEOs proving him wrong the day after his screed was posted. The Dallas LEOs ran to the sound of the guns when they knew that their attacker (they thought it was multiple attackers) had them horrendously out-gunned (with a semi-automatic assault rifle), was in a vastly superior tactical position holding the high ground with both cover and concealment, and was likely wearing body armor (he was).
The Dallas LEOs also ran, often without their tactical vests, to their fallen comrades and the civilian casualties and uninjured protesters even though they knew that doing so was taking them into a kill zone. Dallas LEOs ran and exposed themselves to the sniper’s lethal fire to protect the protesters, who seconds earlier had often been chanting a blood libel denouncing LEOs. The diverse but mostly black protesters uniformly praised the performance of the diverse Dallas LEOs before and after Mr. Johnson began firing.
No one “wins” in a terrorist attack like this. Mr. Johnson knew he would die. But it was the Dallas LEOs who showed that courage and compassion and grit can, at a terrible price, hold down a terrorist’s body count even though the LEOs were at a severe tactical disadvantage.
Of course, when one shoots a high number of rounds very quickly from a semi-automatic assault rifle into a street with hundreds of civilians one tends to hit people that are not deliberate targets. Mr. Johnson seriously wounded at least one black civilian, Shetamia Taylor a mother courageously shielding her sons from the fusillade.
Shetamia Taylor broke down in tears during a press conference at Baylor Medical Center on Sunday as she recounted the terrifying sequence of events that unfurled during the Black Lives Matter protest last Thursday.
From a wheelchair, the 37-year-old described in alarming detail how her family was preparing to leave the rally when the shooting began. As she tried to run away, a bullet struck her in the leg.
Taylor tackled her 15-year-old son, Andrew, to the ground and covered him with her body. A police officer then risked his own life to jump on top of and shield the pair.
“There was another one (officer) at our feet, and there was another one at our head,” said Taylor. “They stayed there with us. I saw another officer get shot right there in front of me.”
“Thank you for being heroes,” Taylor said. “I’m thankful for the police because they had no regard for their life and protected us.”
“They stayed there with us, they surrounded my son, and I’m so thankful for that because all I could do was lay on top of him and pray,” she said, adding she was “so sorry” that five officers lost their lives.
In a sad but telling irony, videos show that the ambush began just as protesters were chanting, with their hands raised in the gesture of surrender, “Don’t shoot; hands up.” This was supposed to indicate that a white LEO had deliberately and unlawfully executed Michael Brown, a young black man, in Ferguson, MO while he stood with his hands raised to indicate his surrender and telling the officer “don’t shoot.” But that claim is a long-disproven lie and a blood libel against the officer who shot Mr. Brown. BLM supporters’ choice of a long-disproven lie and blood libel as their signature chant that purports to symbolize the supposed eagerness of LEOs to murder blacks is one of the reasons that so many LEOs do not believe that blue lives do matter to many BLM supporters.
What Would the Dallas LEOs Have Done if Dyson’s Blood Libel Against them were true?
There were hundreds of Dallas LEOs present during and immediately after Mr. Johnson began his ambush. The LEOs were armed. They were near many hundreds of protestors, most of them black; who had been peaceful but viciously insulting in their blood libel chants against the police. Texas is an “open carry” state, and some of the people at the protest were visibly armed. The Dallas LEOs did not know where the sniper was located, how many snipers were present, or whether there were shooters posing as protesters. People were running in all directions, screaming, and dropping bags that could have held bombs. Every LEO’s body was pouring epinephrine into his or her system, their hearts were racing, and many of them saw their comrades falling dead or screaming with pain. Hundreds of LEOs must have been enraged and fearful. The police radio channels must have been clogged, confused, and filled with heart-breaking reports of “officer down.”
If the Dallas LEOs were engaged in “war on blackness” they had the perfect opportunity to kill scores of blacks. Even if the Dallas LEOs had no desire to engage in a “war on blackness” the circumstances were ideal for mistaken shootings of black protestors by panicked Dallas LEOs. Of the hundreds of Dallas LEOs present and responding to the gunfire, there had to be a material number with racial prejudices. Studies show that large numbers of us, when (unknowingly) tested with a video game will tend to shoot more quickly and more often if the civilian in the game is black. That form of subtle bias may well exist in many of the hundreds of Dallas LEOs responding to the ambush. As far as we know at this juncture, however, the Dallas LEOs did not shoot anyone in response to the ambush.
Those video tests tee up one of the most important paradoxes about LEOs. There is the murderous racism of the LEOs who were members of the Klan that helped kidnap and murder the three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Mississippi. There is the racist who murdered Ms. Viola Liuzzo, a white Detroiter, because she was helping blacks who were trying to register to vote in Alabama.
There is unconscious racial prejudice that can be exposed through the video tests I mentioned. The two forms of prejudice should not be conflated. LEOs who hold material prejudices against blacks routinely put their lives at risk to protect blacks they have never met. That is typical, not rare today. It was not typical at other times and places when virulent racism was the norm. There is no police department today in which killing an unarmed black man enhances a LEO’s career or gains the respect of his or her peers.
Mr. Johnson told the Dallas LEOs who were negotiating with him that he sought to kill as many LEOs as possible – and sought to kill white LEOs in particular. The Dallas negotiators knew he was black. Stop and consider the significance of the fact that the Dallas LEOs negotiated with him for hours in order to attempt to avoid killing him in light of Dyson’s claim that LEOs are the shock troops in the white race’s “war on blackness” in America. No one could have made any legitimate complaint had the Dallas LEOs simply called on SWAT to assault his position and kill Mr. Johnson.
The Dallas LEOs had just witnessed the mass assassination of their comrades as part of they learned from the murderer was a deliberate, racialized act of terror. They were justifiably enraged at Mr. Johnson. One of the consequences of an epinephrine surge is that it increases the chance that anyone faced with a lethal threat will act hyper-aggressively to end the threat. Mr. Johnson periodically, during these negotiations, attempted to shoot additional LEOs. Mr. Johnson taunted them and did everything he could to enrage the Dallas LEOs and cause them to forget their training. Mr. Johnson would have loved to so enrage the Dallas LEOs that they actually engaged in a war of blackness. Instead, the Dallas LEOs appear to have exercised exceptional fire discipline in the circumstances. Some “war on blackness.”
Dyson’s misfortune is that the behavior of the Dallas LEOs during the protests and during and after Mr. Johnson’s massacre of the LEOs from ambush falsifies his blood libels. At every juncture the Dallas LEOs showed the opposite behavior and attitudes of that Dyson ascribed to them in his blood libels. We can all wait in vain for the Dyson apology, and in any event it is too late for five Dallas LEOs and the Baton Rouge LEOs to read any apologies from Dyson.
Dyson’s Blood Libels Describe Mr. Johnson, Not the Dallas LEOs
Dyson’s blood libels are vile lies about the whites and the LEOs that he attacks, but accurate descriptions of the murderer of the five Dallas LEOs. Mr. Johnson deliberately set out to commit mass murder through an ambush.
Mr. Johnson deliberately targeted white LEOs because of all-consuming racial hate of whites. He put zero value on the lives of white LEOs, indeed, he reveled in their murder even after he watched them die at his hands from ambush, and he openly flaunted his desire to maximize the number of white LEOs he killed and maimed. It was not simply that “blue lives” did not matter to Mr. Johnson, it was that “blue deaths” meant far more to him than his own life. His desire to maximize blue deaths became all consuming. His delight increased the more innocent, white LEOs he shot.
It is a terrible flaw that we tend to ignore those who did not die of their wounds when we discuss mass murders such as Dallas. The wounds caused by a high velocity rifles frequently cause severe, permanent disabilities and a lifetime of pain.
Mr. Johnson had no moral constraints when it came to shooting female LEOs. His only regret would have been his failure to achieve his goal of murdering Officer Misty McBride despite shooting her twice. Officer McBride’s ten-year-old daughter’s pain on her mother’s death would have pleased Mr. Johnson. As Mr. Johnson’s sister had urged the day before he implemented his plan to murder large numbers of LEOs, “these cops need to get a taste of the life we now fear.”
Mr. Johnson murdered a Hispanic LEO. Officer Patrick Zamparria survived three tours in Iraq only to be assassinated in an ambush by a terrorist in Dallas who hated whites and LEOs. We will never know whether Officer Zamparria was deliberately targeted by Mr. Johnson or whether Mr. Johnson knew he was Hispanic. Mr. Johnson shot and wounded another Dallas LEO, Officer Jorge Barrientos.
In my next installment I move beyond the events in Dallas to explain why Dyson’s blood libels are false and why they exemplify the abuses that the NYT editorial board claimed to despise in former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s statements on an interview program. I am a strong critic of Mr. Giuliani and will criticize his remarks, but it is a disgrace that the NYT editorial board gave Dyson a pass on his far more egregious blood libels.