Thomas Sowell once noted that few topics so tap the irrational excesses of a person’s intellect as that of race. At the very least, contemporary race-related discussions are almost invariably ridden with irrationality.
The issue of Ferguson, Missouri is but the latest exhibition of this all too pervasive phenomenon.
Yet, to be sure, it isn’t just the usual suspects on the recognizable left—the obvious racialist and socialist ideologues—that have revealed just how dangerously shallow, both intellectually and morally, they can be on this racially-charged front. Some neoconservative and libertarian commentators are also guilty on this score.
First, in order to sound “objective”—and, truth be told, not all that politically incorrect—neoconservative commentators continually caution against judging hastily: Since we weren’t there, they say, we should remain agnostic on the question regarding the guilt or innocence of Officer Darren Wilson (the officer who the black rioters in Ferguson and their apologists in the media say murdered Michael Brown).
In taking this line, however, these same commentators actually legitimize the notion that, in 2014, there are white police officers who routinely patrol the streets in search of young black teenagers to gun down in cold blood.
Give me a break.
We know enough now—if we didn’t know enough when word of this story first broke—that, at
a minimum, there was no murder that took place here.
Second, we’re hearing quite a bit about “the militarization” of the police in Ferguson, and how it is this, and not the riotous conduct of the black citizens of that city and the incendiary rhetoric of their self-avowed “leaders, that is responsible, or largely responsible, for the undermining of civilization that is transpiring there.
National Review writer Kevin Williamson is one person busily advancing this line. Some libertarian writers at Lewrockwell.com are (predictably) doing so as well.
It’s rubbish, but another transparent, and transparently pathetic, attempt to excavate some “root cause” to account for black dysfunction. The idea that the presence of “militarized” police is somehow responsible for the exhibitions of barbarism that have unfolded in Ferguson is of a logical piece with the old, tired mantra that poverty causes crime. But as Walter E. Williams once remarked, while there certainly is a causal relation between poverty and crime, it runs in exactly the opposite direction of that imagined by the conventional wisdom: crime causes poverty.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.