Decoding the Rules of Baltimore

sharpton_baltimore_mayor_5-3-15-1 NBC's Al Sharpton shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she prepares to speak at a summit to address issues surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and its aftermath at New Shiloh Baptist Church, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Note the "No Justice, No Peace" slogan behind them. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

No one knows what exactly happened to the deceased Freddie Gray, except that it should not have happened. Between what is outlined in the indictments and what will be proven in court is an unknown abyss. But the more dramatic the short-term exuberance over the sweeping indictments, the more likely the long-term fury when the charges are likely to be substantially reduced or unproven in court.

Almost everyone blames the subsequent Baltimore rioting on some –ism -- endemic racism, economic inequality, the lack of jobs, the legacy of slavery, systematic police brutality and insensitivity, the pathologies of the black underclass, the destruction of the black family and on and on. However, most of America, rich and poor, black, white and other, liberal and conservative can more or less chart the conditions that explain a Ferguson or Baltimore -- and remain quiet about it. At this point, I don’t think much will change until action follows rhetoric and someone like Barack Obama symbolically puts his kids in the public schools rather than at Sidwell Friends, or some of the loud MSNBC team choose to live, in desegregated style, in the Baltimore inner city, or Apple and Google grandees mentor East Palo Alto gangbangers, or an Al Gore recruits inner-city youth on his green staffs, or a Warren Buffett leads a national effort on the part of plutocrats to invest money in Detroit or Oakland shopping centers. And as long as the proverbial black community has self-appointed adjudicators of racial redress that blame pathologies on cosmic racism rather than demand introspection -- of the likes of the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright, in a way quite unlike the Asian, Jewish, ethnic, and Latino communities -- things will not change much. Is there a Cuban or Chinese or Korean national reverend who takes it upon himself to agitate and negotiate collective grievances?

Until then, let us review the Baltimore Rules:

1) Statistics are irrelevant. Emotion rules and no one cares about larger statistical challenges. Blacks make up almost 13% of the population and commit 52% of the nation’s murders. Based on their statistical representation in the U.S. population, African-Americans on average are eight times more likely to inflict a violent crime and six times more likely to suffer a criminal act than is the general population. This fact is irrelevant; it is not the numbers per se that frame black homicide, but the conditions under which they occur that seem to matter. “Black lives matter” supposedly translates into the fact that blacks might be able to pressure police (of all races) from taking 200 black lives a year during arrests, but can do little if anything about stopping 6,000 black murders at the hands of other blacks. Darren Wilson serves as an easy poster boy for the public enemy, but a Crip gangbanger is a quite different candidate for group-hate.

In quite rare, but highly charged interracial murders, African-Americans are almost twice as likely to kill whites as whites are blacks. This, too, is irrelevant for a variety of reasons. Historically blacks suffered from the racism of a white majority, not whites from a black minority. Whites are hardly likely to protest about this imbalance given the rarity of interracial crime and the rarity of whites rioting on the basis of racial grievances. Most liberal professionals understand privately how to navigate travel in the inner city and how publicly to decry just such insidious stereotyping and profiling. Few of the 14% of murdered white crime victims who were killed by blacks are the elite and thus the problem remains minor.

Black youths (over 13% of the nation’s youth population) make up 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58.5% of those for homicide and 67% for robbery. Blacks commit hate crimes against other races at rates proportionally far higher than do whites, based on their respective populations. These imbalances probably suggest why police brutality may be higher during black than white arrests, but it is also irrelevant. As a nation we expect police to be professional 100% of the time during arrests and to be indifferent to the fact that less than 13% of the population is committing well over half the nation’s violent crime, higher in the inner city. A suspect may have a prior arrest record of over 20 felonies, but if he were treated any differently from someone who has never been arrested, then the police are at fault. Such perfection is as it should be, but then again few know much about the average day of a police person in the inner city. For now, disproportionally high black crime rates mean far more black arrests and more opportunities for something like what happened in Baltimore.