“When men follow justice, the whole city blooms, the earth bears rich harvests, and children and flocks increase, but to the unjust all nature is hostile, the people waste away from famine and pestilence, and a single man’s sin may bring ruin on a whole city.” — Hesiod
From Rome to Washington, the Successors to the Apostles wasted no time in affirming the popular narrative surrounding George Floyd’s death. They were perfectly ready to believe that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used excessive force against Mr. Floyd because he (like virtually all police officers) is conditioned to regard a black person as a self-evident threat. They were immediately convinced that Officer Chauvin targeted Mr. Floyd for brutalization solely on the basis that he was black. They took it for granted that Mr. Floyd is just one of countless victims of American law enforcement’s “systemic racism,” and that white Americans are also complicit by refusing to denounce said “racism.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement four days after Floyd’s death saying: “We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.” “Racism is not a thing of the past,” the bishops insisted; “It is a real and present danger that must be met head on.”
On June 3, Pope Francis dedicated part of his Angelus address to the matter of George Floyd’s death. “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the Holy Father said. “Today, I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis and in the entire United States in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving family and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn.”
On June 1, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso arrived at a demonstration holding a handwritten sign reading, “Black Lives Matter.” Two days later, he received a call from the Holy Father. “Through me, he’s expressing his unity with everyone who is willing to step out and say this needs to change,” Seitz told reporters. “This should never happen again. Wherever there is a lack of respect for human beings, where there’s a judgment based on the color of their skin, this has to be rooted out.”
Archbishop Wilton Gregory dutifully condemned the Shrine of John Paul II (which is situated in his diocese of Washington, D.C.) for allowing President Donald Trump to visit amidst the anti-police demonstrations. Archbishop Gregory suggested that President Trump’s allegedly racist views—presumably his opposition to open borders, which is openly espoused by dozens of U.S. bishops—“violates our religious principles” as Catholics.
Just this Tuesday, two of Gregory’s auxiliary bishops—Roy Campbell and Mario Dorsonville—took part in a Black Lives Matter protest outside the White House. The event’s organizer was Father Cornelius Ejioju, a Josephite priest. Father Ejioju told Catholic News Service (the USCCB’s media arm) that “America is torn up by pride and racism and injustice. So, we want to use this opportunity to ask God to reconcile us.”
But what if that narrative is wrong? What if there’s no systemic racism in law enforcement? What if high rates of black incarceration have nothing to do with prejudice or bigotry?
For one, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Derek Chauvin used excessive force against George Floyd because he was black. Of course, what Officer Chauvin did was both morally reprehensible and patently illegal. Yet there’s no proof that Mr. Floyd’s death was a hate crime. (There’s no proof that the officers who fatally injured Freddie Gray were motivated by racial animus, either. In fact, three of the six were black.)
As for the charge of “systemic racism” in the law-enforcement profession more broadly, there’s not a shred of evidence that any such prejudice exists. I can do no better than quote Heather Mac Donald’s outstanding June 2 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism”:
The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015. The Post defines “unarmed” broadly to include such cases as a suspect in Newark, New Jersey, who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1 percent of all African-Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, 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.
What motivated Officer Chauvin to use excessive force? Maybe he’s a racist. Maybe he’s a sadist. Or maybe, after 19 years as a cop in one of America’s ten most dangerous cities—after having used lethal force to defend himself in the line of duty, not once, but twice—and after responding to a call that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, only to find the suspect was high on a combination of meth, fentanyl, and THC—he decided not to take any chances and, yes, used more force than was necessary in detaining his suspect.
We don’t know. We may never know. But here are a few things we do know about American law enforcement.
Firstly, police departments across America (especially in major cities) are chronically understaffed, meaning cops routinely work 24-hour shifts. According to researcher Dr. Bryan Silva, law enforcement agencies spend $136 billion every year on fatigue-related medical conditions among their employees. Stress and overwork are a major reason that cops have a much shorter life expectancy (around 66 years) than civilians. The Department of Justice has itself warned that chronic overwork leads to an “increase in performance errors, accidents and injuries, and health problems” in law enforcement officials. So, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Pace Black Lives Matter, the answer to police brutality is not to “defund the police”: it’s to give the police more funding so they can offer competitive salaries and recruit more officers, and thereby prevent overworking and on-the-job stressors.
And yet, even with an expanded budget, that would still be perilously difficult, given the anti-police culture being stoked by groups like BLM and Antifa. Who’d want to be a cop in 2020, knowing that any small mistake could get you thrown in jail, your city burnt to the ground by an angry mob, and your department completely disbanded?
At the behest of BLM leaders, that’s precisely what’s happening in Minneapolis. This past Sunday, nine city councilors (a veto-proof majority) pledged to dismantle the local police force. Likewise, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York aims to cut about $1 billion from the department’s annual budget of $5.6 billion.
Still, they shouldn’t have bothered. Minneapolis police officers are already resigning in droves, and I’m sure the NYPD isn’t far behind.
Meanwhile, two officers were suspended in Buffalo for shoving an elderly protestor in an incident that Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York called “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.” Then, fifty-seven members of the Buffalo police department promptly resigned “in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” according to John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.
America’s police departments are going to begin shrinking faster than ever before. With fewer cops on the beat—and with a growing consciousness that literally millions of Americans hate their guts—the remnant will necessarily be angrier and more frightened than ever. Who knows? It may become impossible to recruit new officers altogether. Our police departments may simply dwindle out of existence.
That may sound like a job well done to Black Lives Matter, but I’m sure many of you have seen the video of the enraged middle-aged white man who nearly ran down protestors in Queens and then threatened them with a bladed weapon. Throughout the video, you can hear the BLM demonstrators crying, “Call the police! Call the police!” Thanks to their comrades, soon there might not be any police to call. This is the very definition of “making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep.”
A scarcity of cops is one obvious threat to law and order in America. High black crime rates are another.
As Jason L. Riley (a black man) wrote in his latest column for The Wall Street Journal,
The political left, with a great deal of assistance from the mainstream media, has convinced many Americans that George Floyd’s death in police custody is an everyday occurrence for black people in this country, and that racism permeates law enforcement. The reality is that… law enforcement has next to nothing to do with black homicides, and the number of interactions between police and low-income blacks is driven by crime rates, not bias. According to the Sun-Times, there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.
So long as blacks are committing more than half of all murders and robberies while making up only 13% of the population, and so long as almost all of their victims are their neighbors, these communities will draw the lion’s share of police attention. Defunding the police, or making it easier to prosecute officers, will only result in more lives lost in those neighborhoods that most need protecting.
The next question, then, is: How do we bring down black crime rates?
For decades, researchers have stressed the link between single motherhood and criminality. Children who grow up without their fathers are more likely to live in poverty, to witness domestic abuse, to suffer abuse themselves, and to wind up in prison when they grow up. Black or white, it doesn’t matter: the single most reliable means of determining whether or not a child will grow up to have a criminal record is whether he was raised by one parent or both.
As it stands, fewer than half of black children live with both parents, compared to three-quarters of whites. One-third live with unmarried mothers, compared to fewer than 10 percent of whites.
This isn’t just a right-wing talking point, either. It’s not a cop out for whites looking to dodge the blame for this “systemic racism.” Radio host Larry Elder (a black man) once asked Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, “Between the presence of white racism and the absence of black fathers, which poses the greatest threat to the black community?” Mr. Mfume’s response: “The absence of black fathers.”
Now here’s a social crisis the Catholic Church could actually help to solve. Roman Catholicism is one of the few religious groups in America which still insists that sexual activity is only appropriate within the context of a monogamous marriage, and which does not permit divorce. The Church also strongly reaffirms the complementary role of men and women, meaning that children really do need both a mother and a father—not a mother only, or a mother and a series of different fathers, or two mothers, or two fathers, etc.
The Church is uniquely suited to supply black communities with the moral order necessary for human flourishing. And yet our bishops choose to skirt this politically incorrect suggestion—that African American criminals are responsible for high crime rates among African Americans—and choose instead to repeat slanderous myths about racist cops roaming our cities looking for black men to murder in cold blood.
It’s easy to see why Black Lives Matter and Antifa are propping up this false narrative of “systemic racism”: they’re anti-cop. They take issue—fundamentally, philosophically—with law enforcement as it exists in America today. And they’re not alone. In a May 30 editorial, “No More Money for the Police,” The New York Times called for the New York Police Department to be replaced by a squad of “rapid response social workers.” (I’m sure Antifa would rather replace the NYPD themselves, Maoist terrorists that they are.)
But why are the bishops playing along? I won’t insult them by supposing they really share BLM’s anti-police ideology. So, are they just dupes? Or are they so desperate for “relevance” that they would blithely endanger innocent lives just for an approving nod from the Social Justice Warriors? Does political correctness really mean so much to them? Does life really mean so little?
May God protect the brave men and women who stand on that thin, blue line between law and tyranny, between order and anarchy. As George Orwell didn’t quite say, we sleep peacefully in our beds at night only because these rough folk stand ready to do violence on our behalf. That’s a very special vocation—and, lately, a thankless one. But it comes with very special graces.
With a few exceptions (far fewer than one might expect), our cops have conducted themselves with honor, dignity, courage, and professionalism throughout this whole ordeal. They deserve our respect, gratitude, and prayers—though they are more likely to receive our scorn and abuse. Yet they’ll still be there, standing on that thin, blue line. That’s what sheepdogs do: they protect their sheep from the wolves.
If only we could say the same about our shepherds, who are too busy agitating for social justice to tend their flock. With Mass restrictions still in place across the country, supposedly to stem the spread of Covid-19, activist bishops and priests are wading into these massive crowds and join left-wing thugs in demonizing the brave men and women of American law enforcement. They would spit in the face of a man who has sworn to give his for their sake. They would sacrifice the innocent to placate the mob. Sound familiar?
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend them in battle.
Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images