As the House Judiciary Committee began virtual public hearings on police reform, and VPIRG, the Vermont ACLU and other groups hop on the “defund the police” parade in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s worth taking a moment to explore some issues from the perspective of the Black Community.
Defund the police.
While it is popular on mostly white college campuses to rally for defunding the police, the African American Mayors Association has a very different view. According to the Washington Post, McKinley Price, mayor of Newport News, Virginia, and president of the AAMA, said, “We do not call for abolishing or defunding police departments. Rather, encouraging cities to adopt budgets that are going to reflect their own values. How they can do things differently, but definitely not ‘defunding.’”
Another AAMA Every city is different, Sylvester Turner, mayor of Houston, Texas, said,
“In Houston, we need more police officers, not less.”
To be sure, these mayors are in favor of reforms to how policing is carried out, but the notion that Black communities, especially those dealing with higher levels of crime, want fewer – or zero – police on the streets is untrue. The opposite is the case.
One might say that advocating for “defund the police,” as expressed by largely white activists living in largely white communities experiencing low levels of crime, is what some might call an exercise in “white privilege.”
It’s no secret that the public school system leaves Black children behind to a much greater degree than it does white children. Many urban schools in Black communities are totally dysfunctional and have been for generations, yet children remain trapped in them to languish by law. Even in Vermont the gaps in outcome between students of color and their white peers are large and persistent.
So, it’s no surprise that a poll of Democrats done by The Harvard School of Graduate Education found:
“School choice divides the Democratic Party along racial and ethnic lines. African American Democrats support targeted school vouchers, universal vouchers, and charter schools at 70%, 60%, and 55%, respectively. Among Hispanic Democrats, support for the three policies is at 67%, 60%, and 47%. On the other hand, just 40% of non-Hispanic White Democrats support targeted vouchers, 46% support universal vouchers, and 33% support charter schools.”
So, again, white liberals who can afford to live in more affluent neighborhoods, supporting a public school system that functions well enough for their own children but systematically fails Black children at alarming rates are, as one might say, exercising their white privilege.
Another interesting issue on this front is gun control. The largest growing demographic of gun ownership and membership in firearms organizations is Black Americans.
According to an article in Politico, “Philip Smith, president of the National African American Gun Owners’ Association, said his organization’s annual membership has increased by much as 2,000 new members per day — a figure he used to see annually.”
The article goes on to quote Smith as saying, “The days are over of African Americans sitting around singing Kumbaya and hoping and praying that somebody will come and save them. We’re gonna save ourselves. And any politician that wants our vote moving forward, they better be on the side of our thinking otherwise, you’re not gonna get our vote. We’re not gonna be sheep anymore.”
Smith’s comments fit with from the historically racist origins of gun control laws. But, here again, we see white liberals living in more affluent neighborhoods with trusted police forces and little crime telling Black citizens living in more dangerous communities without effective or trusted policing that they shouldn’t be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves, their families, and their property. Yeah…. Better check that white privilege!
It’s one thing to say Black lives matter. But what about Black opinions?
Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.