However inexcusable every act of police brutality is, there is a larger reality behind the issue of policing, crime, and race that remains a taboo topic.
We are in the midst of a swirling controversy, here in the United States, around the growing trend for professional athletes – particularly, but not exclusively, football players – and others to “take a knee” (kneel) during the National Anthem, as a protest against alleged police violence against “people of color,” particularly African-Americans.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of Americans see this as a mark of disrespect, if not flat-out assault, against the the anthem, the flag, and by extension, the “Republic for which it stands” (in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance). I am inclined to agree, although I take a somewhat more nuanced stance than some in that I can see that some of the protesters are well-meaning, and behaving with a reasonable degree of respect despite kneeling.
Nonetheless, I have some real issues with this practice, on at least two levels. First, the flag is or should be a non-political sign of the nation itself, our ideals and values at their best, as well as our history and heritage – which, while not without fault, has been by and large a positive one for our people, and for the world. We do not have a monarch, to serve as a supra-political unifying figure; for us in the United States, our flag – and other forms of iconography related to it, including the Anthem – serves that role.
Protesting the flag, including the National Anthem, is a de facto protest against our nation as a whole, not just political views, leaders, or perspectives on social issues with which one may legitimately disagree. And the very fact that one cannot be arrested and imprisoned, or worse, for disrespecting the flag or other national icons seems, to me, to be a very good reason to treat them with even greater respect!
But secondly, it’s not just that disrespecting our flag, and by extension our nation, is intrinsically wrong-headed – it’s that the premise behind it is wrong, too. This is, perhaps, the real issue, and it is one which is rarely discussed… the 900-lb gorilla in the room, as it were. And the fact is, there is not a war against blacks by the police, as those protesting imply (or sometimes flat-out state); in fact, quite the contrary is true.
“Twelve percent of all white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by police officers, compared to four percent of all black homicide victims. If we’re going to have a “Lives Matter” anti-police movement, it would be more appropriately named ‘White and Hispanic Lives Matter.’”
“Every year, approximately 6,000 blacks are murdered. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the national population. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. In Los Angeles, blacks between the ages of 20 and 24 die at a rate 20 to 30 times the national mean.
“Who is killing them? Not the police, and not white civilians, but other blacks. The astronomical black death-by-homicide rate is a function of the black crime rate. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Blacks of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.
“The police could end all lethal uses of force tomorrow and it would have at most a trivial effect on the black death-by-homicide rate.”
The folks “taking a knee” to protest the killing of blacks by police officers should instead be protesting the astronomically high rate of black-on-black violence, and more broadly, the disproportionately high rate of violent crimes committed by blacks. As this article also points out, police respond aggressively, not out of racism, but to protect law-abiding citizens in high-crime areas:
“The geographic disparities are also huge. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, the per capita shooting rate is 81 times higher than in nearby Bay Ridge, Brooklyn—the first neighborhood predominantly black, the second neighborhood predominantly white and Asian.
“As a result, police presence and use of proactive tactics are much higher in Brownsville than in Bay Ridge. Every time there is a shooting, the police will flood the area looking to make stops in order to avert a retaliatory shooting. They are in Brownsville not because of racism, but because they want to provide protection to its many law-abiding residents who deserve safety.”
The whole article is excellent – well-written, and well-researched. It makes clear that those “taking a knee” – although many may be well-meaning, I will grant them that – are deeply misguided in their assumptions, as well as their approach.