Three Blood Libels About Whites, the Police, and Black Lives Matter

By William K. Black
July 28, 2016     Kansas City, MO

The best way to lose friends and be vilified in America is to talk frankly about race, racism, violent crime, politics, gender, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and prosecuting police officers.  I am writing a series of articles on these subjects.  In the course of this series I employ my “hats” as criminologist and a professor who teaches economics, law, and regulation plus my spousal hat where I draw on my wife and her co-author’s work on employment and marriage.  As criminologists, we are used to upsetting people from all parts of the political spectrum.  The one-sided stories that dominate the discussion of these difficult issues virtually always deliberately exclude unpleasant and analytically critical truths long documented by criminologists.  I hope to show you how my field has found the answers to the challenges of policing in the United States to be complex and often paradoxical.

If you are able to read my entire series of columns on this topic you will find that there is a great deal of good news that criminologists, community leaders, and the police have worked together to produce.  We know how to reduce crime and reduce the unjust and discriminatory use of police actions.  We have proven that ability in many communities that work cooperatively with police leaders committed to achieving both goals.  Better yet, these successes generally make policing less expensive and they produce collateral benefits that go beyond policing.  Many communities are achieving a win-win-win-win.  In later columns I’ll use my other hats to show how non-policing policies such as a federal jobs guarantee program could be added to these policing reforms to produce even bigger wins.

This first column introduces three vile blood libels being spread about policing.  These blood libels are immensely dangerous and damaging to our Nation.  They pose a grave threat that we will not implement the win-win-win-win strategy and instead will move back towards more expensive policing methods and community responses that would increase crime, the abuse of minorities, and other collateral harm.  The people spreading these blood libels seek to produce a “moral panic” that would push policing changes in a lose-lose-lose-lose direction.

Three Blood Libels About Policing, Race, and Crime

War metaphors are the bane of criminology and policing.  The police are not a military force.  They must work with each community to produce a higher quality of life.  “Protect and serve” is the right concept.  Each of the blood libels relies on war metaphors.  BLM leaders propagate two intertwined blood libels about the police and whites as a race.  They claim that the police, regardless of the officer’s race, ethnicity, or gender, are the shock troops of the white race in a war to intentionally murder vast numbers of young black males because whites do not believe that black lives matter.  In my next several columns in this series I will explain why criminologists and sociologists know that these claims are false and explain and analyze BLM’s leaders’ extraordinary positions on police and policing.

Important police officials are spreading the blood libel that BLM is a “terrorist” organization engaged in a “war against the police.”  Later columns in this series explain why these related claims are false.

Some whites have embraced a blood libel that apparently originated with a law enforcement officer (LEO).

Derek Hale, a sergeant for Louisville Metro Corrections was suspended after sharing an abhorrent meme on Facebook featuring a white police officer and the words, “If we really wanted you dead all we’d have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods…and wait.”

This blood libel’s only advantage is that it provides an opportunity to discuss what criminologists have learned about the essential role of community in policing.  More broadly, however, the goal of policing is not simply to reduce crime.  If we reduce crime by harming our communities our policing has failed.  The goal of policing is to help produce the freest and most vibrant communities.  Safety is a wonderful thing if it frees people to live better.  Officer Hale’s blood libel is that left to their own devices without the police, predominately-black communities would collapse into a Götterdämmerung in which blacks would slaughter each other to the point of extinction.  I explain in a later column why Officer Hale’s blood libel is not simply false and racist, but also betrays his failure to understand community, policing, and their interaction.     


3 responses to “Three Blood Libels About Whites, the Police, and Black Lives Matter

  1. “BLM leaders propagate two intertwined blood libels about the police and whites as a race. They claim that the police, regardless of the officer’s race, ethnicity, or gender, are the shock troops of the white race in a war to intentionally murder vast numbers of young black males because whites do not believe that black lives matter. ”

    Can you please provide specific examples and point to specific leaders? BLM is not really a unified movement with centralized leadership. It’s a hashtag that became a slogan that became a banner for a variety of activists working against racism. Some of the people using that banner are employing extreme rhetoric, but the majority are not. I think this kind of characterization undermines the legitimate grievances of the movement.

    I think you also need to look into the origins of the black lives matter slogan. It started with the family of Trayvon Martin demanding answers in the wake of the his murder of a self-styled vigilante. In response, cable news media immediately started characterizing Trayvon as a thug. There was a frenzy of victim blaming from the right-wing racists online that they all had to watch. There was a complete lack of compassion or empathy for their family member who was killed. It had nothing to do with being an anti-cop movement. It was part of a larger cultural dismissal of the value of black people’s lives.

  2. Richard Smith

    Unfortunately, Hale has expressed in public what many police offers feel and talk about in private. One of my secretaries is married to a patrol officer on a major suburban police force, and although anecdotal, there seems to be a fairly wide spread belief among officers that they are better off responding slowly to calls from certain areas, if at all. I don’t know that their superiors are aware of this directly, but to ignore the effects of constant attacks, both verbal and now physical, on police in general, or to support what is clearly inflammatory rhetoric by BLM by doing what a mayor in MA has down by hanging a BLM banner on city hall, is not only counterproductive, it is a monumental act of hubris.

  3. Wade Riddick

    There is a common trend in all the recent examples of political failure, from our inability to achieve any meaningful victory over the forces of ideological nihilism in the Middle East to the anger in American streets exploding over centuries-old discriminatory policing policies finally coming into gaze of the ubiquitous cell phone camera.

    When you have any private industry providing public goods at a profit, the inevitable result is extortion, not public service. If you are a national security contractor, don’t you have a profit motive to make sure the country is damned insecure – you know, to drive up consumption of your “security” services? Think for a moment about this. Who in Washington is working very hard to leave all these security holes in our software and devices? Is that “security” at work?

    Understand now why the national security budget keeps growing?

    Think about the problems inherent in for-profit warfare. Why would a military contractor ever win a war? They won’t make any more profit. Why would they lose? Again, no more gravy train.

    Do you think it’s a mistake that during the era of _Citizens United_’s unlimited bribery of public officials that we’ve had the two longest, most expensive and least determinate wars in our nation’s history?

    It’s by *design*. It’s what happens when you privatize public goods, whether it’s privatized education or privatized prisons. It’s how elites are evading Progressive Era controls and confiscating part of the budget for themselves.

    The Marines used to provide good embassy security – but they can’t give campaign donations and hire subcontractors who are the spouses and cousins of Congressmen. This is the real Benghazi scandal no one will discuss.

    Places in the Middle East like Iraq are now filled with more military contractors than our actual military.

    Do they get rewarded more if they win or if they stretch out the conflict?

    Is is any surprise that in the rent-seeking extortion racket we call medicine that there is no point anywhere in the system where someone is rewarded for providing the cheapest, most effective, safest treatment options to a patient?

    This is by design too. Why would you heal a patient cheaply when your goal is profit? Then you won’t make any more money on them. Is that what they train good MBAs to do?

    Privatized healthcare becomes a sickcare racket.

    Having said that, there are some trends we aren’t allowed to discuss in all the coverage of police shootings.

    1) The justice process has been privatized. From private companies overseeing parole to private companies owning prisons and private companies providing bail bonds, we’ve created corporations with profit incentives to steer more Americans into the teeth of the justice system.

    We’ve cut the budgets of police forces and with the anti-liberty ideas of Libertarians, we’ve created justice for a fee. In many jurisdictions, tax cuts and erosion of the tax base has lead to an increasing reliance on fees and forfeitures to make up the budget shortfall. So while cops have their pay and training cut and their patrols thinned out – making it harder to recruit – they have an incentive to conduct more traffic stops for more petty offenses while they search for more revenue.

    Of course, this burden falls disproportionately on the poor who have the weakest bargaining position and can least afford legal representation when they’re stopped. The curtailment of budgets for public defenders plays perfectly into this trap. This results in more unnecessary encounters with police. I suspect this is what the zero-tolerance policy in New York City was really all about. The privatization of the military also figures into the problem as these manufacturers militarize the police in order to offload surplus military gear to departments.

    Being poor and less politically repesented, blacks are more likely to be victims of a predatory, for-profit justice system. They’re more likely to get stopped by a cop for a ticket (ala Ferguson). They’re more likely to face a predatory, private probation company. They’re more likely to have their local policing budgets cut, forcing the justice system to rely on tickets, fees and forfeitures to close the gap. We’re back to the pre-Runnymede days of tax farming all around.

    Notice how nobody in the press talks about *why* the cops have such an incentive to perform so many traffic stops for blacks? Being poorer, blacks have fewer legal resources to defend themselves. (One of the many inequalities that springs from hiking law school prices and restricting lawyers to only those with degrees instead of any schmuck who can pass the bar exam.)

    No one discusses the privatized “detention” facilities who are ultimately driving the immigration crackdown.

    2) Privatized medicine has put armed schizophrenics on the streets. Illness has many contagious aspects which makes healthcare, like firefighting, a public good. Communicable infections like tuberculosis aren’t the only diseases that spread destruction without treatment. Mental illness in one individual degrades the environment for all of us. The Baton Rouge shooter belonged to an online group of schizophrenics who believed they were being gang-stalked by the government. The Orlando night club shooter researched antipsychotic medicine before his attack.

    Privatization of other essential government services (e.g., leaded drinking water) leads to other crises the police must mop up.

    3) The Second Amendment has racist underpinnings. There has been a deafening silence from the NRA about the rights of black citizens to carry guns and be treated equally in open carry states. This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the Constitution. The Second Amendment was inserted to help Southern *militias* kill Indians and suppress slave rebellions – and the cultural traditions of defending it are still wrapped up in segregationist racial paranoia about the erosion of the apartheid state. This was a means of privatizing the monopoly of violence and transferring part of it to that second, informal state inside America of which we’re still trying to rid ourselves (e.g., the anti-Federalist Federalist society).

    4) Resorting to pluralism over democracy. There’s plenty of talk about black this and white that. There is no discussion of citizenship or the rights it is supposed to confer. We are no longer allowed to talk about our nation as a nation. Voting rights is a great example of this. Why don’t disenfranchised blacks show up at Kris Kobach’s door in Boston Tea Party outfits demanding their taxes back?

    Where is the admission among police commentators that these citizens being shot are innocent taxpayers and their bosses? Where is the discussion that people are entitled to due process?

    I share Professor Black’s abhorrence at hearing various members of the police describe themselves in military terms. The police are *peace officers* and not military officers. They aren’t supposed to invade and occupy territory. They are supposed to defend the rights of citizens. Instead, they’ve turned into a profit center.

    What do you think Mussolini called it when private business owned and operated the government for private profit? He called it fascism – and it’s back, all over the world.

    The constitution says we have a right to petition our government – *not* that government officials can charge us a fee for that right. Those officials are already being paid a salary to deliver our services. Charging us extra both for the supply and for the delivery leads to a restriction of public goods and drives up their price. Nowhere do you see this more clearly than in the privatization of justice in America.