Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Was New York Police Shooting Racially Motivated?

I haven't really followed the media coverage of the New York police shooting incident from a couple of weeks back. Sean Bell, on his wedding day, died in a hail of gunfire as police were staking-out a nightclub for a prostitution bust. Bell was black, and there's been a big racial backlash -- populated by the usual rogue's gallery of civil rights shake-down artists.

In a commentary piece over at City Journal, Heather MacDonald denounces claims that the shooting was racially motivated:

New York’s anti-cop forces have roared back to life, thanks to a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man a week ago. The press is once again fawning over Al Sharpton, Herbert Daughtry, Charles Barron, and sundry other hate-mongers in and out of city government as they accuse the police of widespread mistreatment of blacks and issue barely veiled threats of riots if they do not get “justice.”

The allegation that last weekend’s shooting was racially motivated is preposterous. A group of undercover officers working in a gun- and drug-plagued strip joint in Queens had good reason to believe that a party leaving the club was armed and about to shoot an adversary. When one of the undercovers identified himself as an officer, the car holding the party twice tried to run him down. The officer started firing while yelling to the car’s occupants: “Let me see your hands.” His colleagues, believing they were under attack, fired as well, eventually shooting off 50 rounds and killing the driver, Sean Bell. No gun was found in the car, but witnesses and video footage confirm that a fourth man in the party fled the scene once the altercation began. Bell and the other men with him all had been arrested for illegal possession of guns in the past; one of Bell’s companions that night, Joseph Guzman, had spent considerable time in prison, including for an armed robbery in which he shot at his victim.

Nothing in these facts suggests that racial animus lay behind the incident. (Though this detail should be irrelevant, the undercover team was racially mixed, and the officer who fired the first shot was black.) But even more preposterous than the assertion of such animus is the claim by New York’s self-appointed minority advocates that the well-being of the minority community is what motivates them.
MacDonald then lays out and refutes seven activist demands and charges of racial discrimination and neglect in New York law enforcement's treatment of blacks. Here's what she says about the first demand to "stop the killing":

Since 1993, 11,353 people have been murdered in New York City. The large majority of victims and perpetrators have been black. Not a single one of those black-on-black killings has prompted protest or demonstrations from the city’s black advocates. Sharpton, Barron, et al. are happy to let thousands of black victims get mowed down by thugs without so much as a whispered call for “peace” or “justice”; it’s only when a police officer, trying to protect the public, makes a good faith mistake in a moment of intense pressure that they rise as vindicators of black life. (As for caring about slain police officers, forget about it. Sixteen cops—including several black policemen—have been killed since 1999, not one of whom elicited a public demonstration of condolence from the race hustlers.)

If the city’s black advocates paid even a tiny fraction of the attention they pay to shootings by criminals as they pay to shootings by police, they could change the face of the city. If demonstrators gathered outside the jail cell of every rapist and teen stick-up thug, cameras in tow, to shame them for their attacks on law-abiding minority residents, they could deglamorize the gangsta life. Think you’ll find Sharpton or Barron patrolling with the police in dark housing project stairways, trying to protect residents from predators? Not a chance. Among the crimes committed in minority communities since last week’s police shooting of Sean Bell there has been a 26-year-old man fatally shot in the Bronx; another man hit by stray bullets; a sandwich shop in Brownsville robbed by thugs who fired a gun; and three elderly men robbed at knifepoint by a parolee in Queens. Those minority victims who survived will have to rely on the police and the courts, not the race “advocates,” for vindication.
MacDonald is one of the country's great conservative commentators on race and ethnic politics today. She writes frequently on illegal immigration, for example, in this piece on "The Immigrant Gang Plague."

See also John McWhorter's excellent New York Sun commentary on the Bell shooting. McWhorter notes that all the black activists see is racism. They discount Bell's history as an unmarried father with a sporadic employment history -- as well as Bell's regular run-ins with the law. In the black community this is normal and unquestionable behavior. Notes McWhorter:

That is, culture is now as much our problem as racism.

The usual suspects chanting "50 Bullets" know this on some level. At assorted forums they mouth concern about our young people settling for less. But only racism truly moves them.

To them, programs that actually help black people, like welfare reform or KIPP Academy schools, are uninteresting, because they do not have cleansing white people's psychology on their agenda.

And at Martin Luther King Day events next month, they will present themselves as continuing King's work, under the impression that the most urgent task for someone committed to that legacy is to count bullets.

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