Because Black Lives Matter, Save Them Instead of Sacrificing Them to Blind Ideology

As I noted in an earlier post, no normal person disagrees with the proposition that black lives matter.  So the obvious question is:  What can we do to preserve and enhance them?

This is not a hard question, because we’ve been preserving and enhancing black lives for an entire generation.  We didn’t do it by tearing down statues, defacing monuments, chucking bricks through store windows or setting up lawless “autonomous zones.”  Liberals know perfectly well how we did it, but don’t want to admit it because that would confound The Received Woke Wisdom.  Jason Riley of the WSJ spills the beans, however.

Riley’s column is a must read.  Here are two key paragraphs:

The criminologist Barry Latzer has noted that the homicide rate for black men fell by 18% in the 1940s and another 22% in the 1950s. It’s probably not a coincidence that black poverty declined by 40 percentage points over the same period, and black incomes grew at faster rates that white incomes. Safer neighborhoods help facilitate upward economic mobility, which is something that the “defund the police” crowd might keep in mind.

In the second half of the 20th century, these trends reversed. In the 1960s, violent crime rates doubled, and they continued to increase sharply until the early 1990s, when better policing and more incarceration helped bring crime under control. In his 2007 book, “The Great American Crime Decline,” Franklin Zimring describes violent crime as a “regressive tax whereby the poor pay much more” and observes that “because both victims and offenders are concentrated among the same disadvantaged populations, a major crime decline might produce a double benefit—fewer victims as well as fewer offenders arrested and punished for serious crimes.” Between 1990 and 2016 the overall homicide rate fell by 34%, and among black men it fell by 40%. Had the black homicide rate remained at 1990 levels through that period, tens of thousands of black men wouldn’t be alive today.

Yes, it’s all true.  We know how to preserve black lives because, until very recently, we’ve been doing just that. It’s worth repeating that the murder rate plaguing black men fell by forty percentage points in the generation that began in 1990.  Over time, that translates, as Riley says, to tens of thousands of black lives that mattered enough for us to change what we’d been doing before then.

What did we change?  Put another way, what happened to bring down the violent crime rate so far  —  a reduction that disproportionately benefited blacks, they being disproportionately the victims of murder (roughly half the murder victims in the United States are black, yet blacks are only 12 to 13 percent of the population).

The answer is multifaceted but it’s no mystery, although sometimes liberals like to pretend it is.

Part of the answer does not take root in government policy:  The Baby Boom population bulge aged out of its most crime-prone years, and there was a substantial increase in private security and surveillance.  Those are significant pieces of the puzzle.  But the other pieces are very much centered in the sober policies developed in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations and carried forward in the Clinton, Bush 43, and (for a time) Obama administrations:  More police; computer-assisted policing that concentrated on the most crime-plagued areas; aggressive and pro-active policing; increased use of incarceration, and (relatedly) statutory mandatory minimum sentencing and sentencing guidelines to rein in the wildly disparate and naive sentencing practices of the Sixties and Seventies.

It worked.  Take a look at the crime statistics from 1960-1980 and compare them to those from 1990-2010.  To an observer looking from 20,000 feet, it would certainly appear that, in the former period  —  when rehab and the medical model of crime were all the rage, and sentencing judges had nearly unbridled discretion to showcase their “compassion”  —  black lives didn’t matter so much.  The number of black (and other) murder victims exploded.  In the latter period, however  —  often derided by the Left as “tuff on crime”  —  the number of black (and other) murder victims fell dramatically.

Since black lives matter, which do we want?  To do what we know works, or go back 50 years to what we know fails?