There have been two primary conservative responses to the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. One response has been to counter BLM with showing support for the police, Blue Lives Matter. The other response has been to focus on black-on-black crime, especially violent crime with the intent of demonstrating the problems of black culture. While both responses have gained credibility as arguments in the general population, they have angered many in the black community.
Why should we as conservatives care? They don’t support our principles, don’t vote for our candidates, and likely won’t do either in the near future. But that is exactly why we should care. We should care because our policies will help their community, but we cannot get them implemented unless we have their support. We should care because we care about them as people. Seeing them as individuals worth caring about, not as a group to write off, is an important conservative principle. If that is not enough (although it should be), crass political calculations show that if we can get a bigger fraction of their vote it strengthens our position to elect Republicans. That is not the end goal but rather a nice possible side effect.
So what is wrong with Blue Lives Matter? On the surface it looks good. I cannot argue with the fact that the vast majority of police are good decent people. Yes, there is some racists and racism in some police departments, but it is well blown out of proportion by the BLM movement. The police put their lives literally on the line every day for people of every race. But we also need to remember the reason for the existence of police. They do not drive through dangerous neighborhoods for their own benefit as some medieval knight checking his peasants. They are there to protect the decent, law-abiding people who dwell there. They work for those people. Let us not forget that even in crime-ridden areas, the majority of people are decent and law-abiding. That also includes crime-ridden black neighborhoods. This fact shows the problem with Blue Lives Matter. It puts the emphasis on only the police and ignores the people they are there to protect. It divides police from law-abiding citizens. Who can blame the good people of these neighborhoods from thinking, “What am I, chopped liver?”
The conservative response of focusing on black-on-black crime comes a lot closer to being effective. For example, in 2015 there were 258 blacks killed by the police while there were almost 6000 blacks killed by other blacks (http://www.dailywire.com/news/7441/7-statistics-you-need-know-about-black-black-crime-aaron-bandler). No, it doesn’t matter that blacks kill blacks in the same proportion that whites kill whites. What is important are the raw numbers of blacks killed by each of the two main sources, police verses black criminals. As we shall see, if you want blacks from being killed, it is best to put resources into reducing that second source, criminals.
Unfortunately, even this argument suffers a similar problem to Blue Lives Matter. It is subtle but it comes out if you read a number of these articles and listen to people talking about black on black crime. There is more emphasis on black criminals than on black victims. It is easy to overlook victims because if you want to solve a problem you concentrate on the cause: black criminals and the high rates of crime in black neighborhoods. What is causing this higher crime? Many point to a black culture that undermines moral values. There are also problems created by a sky-high out-of-wedlock birth rate among blacks. While all of this may be true, again we are ignoring the decent, law-abiding victims of these crimes. Even worse, we end up lumping the criminals and victims together under the general heading, “black”.
To win over blacks to our arguments, to solve the problem of black victims (even if they do not immediately vote Republican or even ever vote Republican), we need to argue from the black-on-black crime numbers but move the emphasis from criminals to victims.
Let’s say you run a hospital. You keep a lot of different medicines and other supplies in stock to treat all the ailments of the people who come through your doors. But you notice there is more of one type of ailment than the others. It is simple wisdom then to keep a larger stock of medicine and supplies for that ailment. In other words, you need to allocate your resources to have the best outcome.
This is also true in dealing with blacks being killed by police verses criminals. There will be a bigger impact if we focus on victims of criminals. There are more of them. It is a bigger problem. These resources are not just dollars. It is not just about how much we spend and where. The resources are also about focus and time. For example, we have only so many police who have only so much time in a day. The more time they spend in training, the less time they have patrolling the streets. There needs to be a reasonable balance to get the best result. We don’t eliminate training, especially not training to reduce racism, but the goal is still a reasonable balance.
The heart of the problem of the Black Lives Matters movement is that they see everything in terms of racism and the problem with police. Even if they succeed they will only reduce the number of black deaths by a very small amount, on the order of 250 for 2015. Even most of those are justified killings, police defending themselves to a very real danger so the number (while not zero) is much smaller than that. Worse, BLM has forced the misallocation of resources. Again these are not necessarily monetary resources, but resources like police/neighborhood relationships and mental focus. BLM is not making things better, they are making the situation of black victims worse. They are creating more black victims while doing nothing, short term or long term, about blacks killed by police – justified or not.