There are three things you need to know about the unrest associated with the killing of George Floyd.
First, almost all major cities these days are governed by Democrats, usually liberal Democrats. Second, black Americans have suffered because of the public policies these cities have adopted. Third, the reason why city governments adopt policies harmful to black families is not because they are racists; it’s because they are liberal.
In city after city, all too often black families are forced to send their children to the worst schools; they are forced to live in the worst housing; they receive the worst city services (including policing); and they are subject to the worst environmental harms. The politicians who run these cities are Democrats. Many of them are black themselves.
Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, is an example. The city’s mayor is a Democrat and the only member of the City Council that is not a Democrat is a member of the Green Party. Most of them take pride in being liberal. Yet the economic gulf between black and white families is higher there than nearly anywhere else in America. Problems with the police department are not new. Civilians have lodged more than 2,600 complaints against Minneapolis police officers since 2012. Only 12 have resulted in disciplinary action, and the penalties in those cases were mild.
In general, the more liberal the city, the worse things are. According to The New York Times, the New York City school system is among the most segregated in the country; and nationwide, liberal states tend to have the most segregated schools. In many California cities, poor families can often be found living on the streets. In fact, blue state California has almost half the homeless population of the country.
In 1990, 57 percent of blacks lived in metropolitan areas and 95 percent of blacks in the Northeast, Midwest, and West did so, according to Census data. But as family incomes rose and more black families entered the middle class, they moved to the suburbs. It was there that the mayor and city council were more likely to be Republican, and black children were more likely to attend school with the children of conservative Republican parents. Today, there are more African Americans living in the suburbs than living in cities.
Those who remain in the inner cities, however, are often too poor to escape. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger says, "essentially little has changed in the neighborhoods at the center of those long-ago urban riots,” 55 years ago. "By current telling, they are about as poor, as crime-ridden, as under-educated and in poor health as they were when LBJ said he would change them” with his Great Society programs.
Why do politicians who call themselves “liberal” adopt policies harmful to poor black families who are subject to their governance? Because they preside over a political system in which special interests deliver votes to politicians who do them favors. These favors almost always consist of increasing the income of the special interests at the expense of everyone else. Special interest politics is dog-eat-dog politics. Politicians who survive in it are those who are willing to take from Peter to give to Paul if Paul has more votes than Peter.
[Conservative politicians might succumb to the same temptations. But they don’t brag about it. Normally, they don’t openly promise to rob the public for the benefit of a special interest. They almost never agree that it’s okay to take from Peter and give to Paul in return for Paul’s vote. The conservative view is that government should be limited and its actions should promote the general welfare.]
It would be a huge mistake to think that Democratic-run city governments are filled with racists. They aren’t racists. But they do what they have to do to get elected and maintain power. Why don’t they fire bad cops? They would lose the support of the police union. Why don’t they fire bad teachers? They would lose the backing of the teachers’ union. Why don’t they create low-income housing in neighborhoods that have good schools or give poor children vouchers so they can attend those schools? They would lose financial support from rich liberals who don’t want to send their children to school with the children of the poor.
It’s just that simple.
Now let’s turn to the news media. If you read the editorial pages of the New York Times, you would never learn any of this.
Under a heading that reads, “Trump Takes Us To the Brink” Paul Krugman explains the George Floyd incident by writing that “Republicans have … spent decades exploiting racial hostility to win elections” and “many police officers and their unions remain staunch Trump supporters, and they have been pretty clear about why: They feel that Trump will back them even, or perhaps especially, if they engage in abusive behavior toward racial minorities.”
Got that? It’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s Donald Trump’s fault. How’s that for an alternate universe?
The mainstream media is not much better, implying that racism runs rampant among the nation’s police officers. In fact, in the most complete study of its kind ever produced, Harvard University economist Roland Fryer writes:
“We didn’t find evidence for anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparity in police use of force across all shootings, and, if anything, found anti-White disparities when controlling for race-specific crime.”
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald says that “a police officer is 18½ times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.”
I bet you didn’t read that fact in any mainstream newspaper.
Finally, there is the puzzle of selective outrage. Tyler Cowen notes that 40 percent of the COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and writes:
"You might think that those 40,000-plus deaths would be a major national scandal. But so far the response has been subdued…there are no riots in response, no social movement to 'clean up the nursing homes.'
"…of those 40,000 deaths, surely a considerable number of African-American…This could be an issue for Black Lives Matter, but somehow it isn’t."