In a series of recent highly publicized and criticized appearances, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has criticized Black Lives Matter (BLM) for not caring about murders of African Americans unless they are committed by police. Over the weekend on Fox News' Fox & Friends and CBS's Face the Nation, he discussed how the vast majority of homicides of blacks are committed by criminals of the same race and that his policing changes in New York saved "more black lives" than BLM ever has.
Here's Giuliani appearing this morning on Fox News, reiterating the same basic points:
As a matter of fact, Giuliani is correct that about 90 percent of blacks are murdered by other blacks. However, the similar figure for white-on-white murders is 83 percent, reflecting the reality that most murders are committed by people who know each other. So "America's mayor" is kind of missing the point when he badgers "blacks" for not focusing more on black-on-black murders. The same point can be made about white-on-white murders.
When it comes to people killed by the police in 2016, males are tremendously overrepresented (95 percent of deaths are of men), and so are blacks and people with signs of mental illness. In fact, the latter two groups account for about 25 percent of deaths despite comprising far-smaller percentages of the population. Yet Giuliani is correct that killings in largely black areas of Chicago, which have surged 62 percent this year so far and are on pace to set recent record totals, seem to elicit less media attention and certainly less outrage than less-numerous shootings by police.
There are many reasons for this, of course, including some ideological blindspots by journalists are more comfortable with all-police-are-racist narratives than calling attention to out-of-control violence in a city headed up by Barack Obama's former chief of staff. But it's also true that police are rightly held to higher standards than the gang-bangers responsible for the overwhelming majority of murders in cities such as Chicago. Cops are trained to serve and protect; as civil servants, we expect more from them than we do regular citizens (whether good or bad, this is also one of the reasons why killing a policeman often receives an enhanced punishment).
And figures such as Giuliani, who was mayor of New York during several high-profile killings and brutalizations of blacks by police, are often extremely divisive in the way they discuss and approach issues of crime, race, and policing. Yes, he presided over a major reducution in murder and violent-crime rates that made life better for black New Yorkers, as well as all other residents. But to assert again and again that "I saved more black lives than Black Lives Matter" is unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with you. There are bright spots, for sure, such as Rand Paul's attempts to reach out to black audiences from the Republican side of the aisle, new interest in how employment-licensing and minimum-wage laws disproportionately hurt African Americans, and a growing coalition of conservatives, liberals, and libertarians interested in sentencing reform.
At least this much is beyond question: Blacks and whites have massively different views regarding whether the United States is color-blind. As Pew Research noted recently, 43 percent of blacks not only don't think we've achieved parity yet, but that we never will. As the graphic to the right shows, almost 40 percent of whites already think we've achieved equal rights. When it comes to dealing with the police, fully 50 percent of whites think black are treated unfairly, while 84 percent of blacks say they are likely to be treated unequally. Throughout a series of situations—such as applying for a mortgage or being treated fairly in the workplace—there are similar gaps in perceptions of fairness.
This is not the sort of difference of opinion that will be resolved easily or with simple reference to whatever "facts" either side can marshal to support its point of view. Indeed, that same Pew survey found that blacks thought Barack Obama had helped racial progress while whites thought he had stymied it.
It is unlikely that conversations about race relations will improve any time soon. As Gallup has noted, confidence in major institutions governing politics, culture, commerce, media, and other aspects of our lives are at or near-historical lows. Over the past 25 years, recurring failures, deceptions, and outright lies by those in power have taken a toll on American attitudes toward government actors at all levels. But the same can be said for economic actors, law enforcement, and the trustworthiness of elites of all stripes. We don't just need a different conversation about race—one that simultaneously acknowledges real progress, personal responsibility on all sides, and systemic effects of public policies—but one that is conducted in an atmosphere of mutual trust and good faith. Those things are in particularly short supply now and very little about the current political climate gives reason for optimism.