Police do not disproportionately kill unarmed Black men. According to Heather MacDonald, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “The police fatally shot nine unarmed Blacks and 19 unarmed Whites in 2019 according to a Washington Post database.” That number, while tragic, is down from 2015 when 38 unarmed Blacks were killed by police compared to 32 Whites. (“Unarmed” included examples where the victim had a gun in his car but not on his person).
Overall, police fatally shot 1,004 people in 2019. A quarter were African Americans, MacDonald writes. Since Blacks are 14% of America’s population that ratio might seem excessive until one notes that 53% of homicides are committed by African Americans.
Politically, the increasing stridency and vigor of protests against the police is leading the Democrats to consider a range of proposals to hobble the police. Pelosi’s crew in Congress wants to drop the shield that protects police from liability for civil suits and strip them of military equipment used by SWAT teams.
Outside of Congress, protesters are calling for defunding police and diverting their appropriations to community, antipoverty, educational, and youth groups. Others are calling for reparations paid to Blacks by the government to compensate them for the residual effects of slavery.
These and other radical proposals put Biden in a real bind. If he supports them, he opens himself to a devastating counterattack from Trump. But if he refuses to go along, he will sap enthusiasm for his candidacy from African American and White liberal/radical voters.
Already, there is an enthusiasm gap among Biden supporters. Only about half of African American voters report having a “strongly favorable” opinion of Biden. About 40% said they were only somewhat favorable and 10% were unfavorable toward the Democratic candidate.
Black turnout is a major problem for the Biden campaign. In 2012, African Americans cast 14% of the vote nationally. But only 12% of the 2016 electorate was black. Since African Americans voted 93% for Obama and 88% for Hillary, the decrease in turnout comes right off the Democratic vote share.
Biden will not endear himself to Black voters by waffling on the reform proposals of groups like Black Lives Matter. As African American Congressmen struggle to keep up with their constituents, increasing their demands at each opportunity, they will pose a greater danger to Biden. Having to run in an electorate that will be 70% white, he must modulate his positions, a stance guaranteed to drain the enthusiasm from his Black support.
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