Why Black Lives Matter has been bad for black people

BLM’s mythmaking about racist policing has unwittingly contributed to a violent crimewave.

Wilfred Reilly

Topics Politics USA

What sort of person – what sort of monster – could deny that Black Lives Matter?

The Black Lives Matter movement dominated upper-middle class discourse in the US between 2015 and 2017, and made international figures of activists like Shaun King and DeRay McKesson, before disappearing from the headlines over the past year or two. It is generally thought of in a positive light even today. BLM activists made stark and unforgettable points: Cherno Biko said that police ‘murder’ an innocent black man every 28 hours. They backed this up by pointing to a litany of what were often described as racially motivated police shootings: Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and more.

The movement was responsible for many major American police departments adopting mandatory body cameras, and for a return in some areas to less intrusive strategies of ‘community policing’. Good and noble work, surely?

Not so fast. I, like other centre-right social scientists, including Heather MacDonald, began empirically to investigate the #BLM movement over the past few years. To an overwhelming extent, I found that the movement’s core claims were wildly exaggerated or simply false.

American law-enforcement officers actually kill very few people of any kind on an annual basis, and black people are not overrepresented among police shooting victims once a basic adjustment for group crime rates is made. Many or most of the shooting victims lionised by Black Lives Matter were not heroes, but rather street criminals killed during violent scuffles with police. And, finally, the police pull-back cheered by BLM and its allies has produced a ‘Ferguson Effect’ that caused US murders to jump by more than 1,500 in a single year.

The first point is the most important. The US, and the other Western countries, are not full of murderous killer cops (‘psychopaths with badges’) executing completely innocent people of colour. As I note in my new book Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, about 1,200 Americans of all races were killed by police during the representative year of 2015, around the time Black Lives Matter began. Only 258 of these people, or 21.5 per cent of the total, were African American. According to my calculations, the total number of unarmed black folks killed specifically by white cops was 17.

Several scholars have pointed out that the percentage of people killed by police who happen to be black – 22 per cent in this case – is higher than the overall percentage of blacks in US society, which is 12 to 13 per cent. Fair enough. But even this difference disappears if we adjust for the higher black crime rate. It is this that largely predicts encounters with police. The black crime rate was 2.4 times the white crime rate, according to the latest Bureau of Justice Statistics report. Short take: there is no police war on black people.

In this context, the specific high-profile incidents popularised by BLM take on a new gloss. Rather than examples of near-murder, of black men being gunned down with no provocation or reason, many are revealed to be tragic but mundane incidents where criminals were killed while struggling with the police. We now know that ‘the gentle giant’ Michael Brown, most often pictured in a high-school graduation gown, was a linebacker-sized legal adult who committed a brutal strong-arm robbery just before being shot while apparently fighting with a uniformed police officer for his gun.

Similarly, the Alton Sterling case, perhaps the defining BLM matter to take place in the American South, turned out to involve a career criminal and convicted paedophile who was shot while carrying a loaded gun. Police were called to the scene specifically to respond to a report that Sterling was threatening another minority man with his gun.

Even those #BLM cases which indisputably were regrettable tragedies, and there certainly were some, seem rarely, if ever, to have been motivated by racism. In the Philando Castile situation, for example, a popular and professional school-district employee was killed while attempting to pull out a fully legal firearm in a safe way. Awful stuff. The Hispanic police officer who killed Mr Castile had mistakenly identified him as the perpetrator of a recent armed robbery in the area. Just as the overall narrative of police ‘genocide’ collapses under close investigation, so do most of the individual cases that comprise it.

However, history shows us that widespread belief in things which are not actually real can exert significant influence on human affairs. This was certainly the case with the Black Lives Matters narrative. Due almost entirely to officers’ fears of being labelled racist or trigger-happy, law-enforcement officers in multiple major cities began to police less aggressively.

In my hometown of Chicago, which was probably not atypical, police stops dropped by an astounding 90 per cent between 2015 and 2016: from 157,346 during the first quarter of 2015 to 20,908 during the same period of 2016. Unsurprisingly, gun violence and other major crimes skyrocketed in Chicago and nationally too, a phenomenon referred to by law-enforcement officials as the ‘Ferguson Effect’.

The effect is quantifiable. FBI data indicates that US murders increased by a remarkable 1,530 between 2015 and 2016, surging from 15,883 to 17,413. This increase came on top of an earlier jump from 14,164 murders in 2014, the year of the Michael Brown shooting, to 15,883 in 2015. While Hispanic and white ethnic communities were hit hard by this unexpected crimewave, its impact was greatest among black Americans.

Heather MacDonald has noted that ‘nearly 900’ more black people were murdered in 2016 than in 2015, on top of an 800-plus victim increase between 2014 and 2015. As a direct result, the 7,900-odd blacks killed in 2016 were 1,305 more than the white people killed (which includes Hispanics), despite the white population being itself quite violent and five times as large as the black population. Notably and unfortunately, this new normal for crime seems to have stabilised among all races: the January 2017-January 2018 reporting year saw 17,294 murders, barely 100 less than 2016.

The intentions of most BLM activists, surely, were of the best. However, facts do and must matter when we judge political movements. In reality, Black Lives Matter was to a striking degree based upon false claims, supported by dubious anecdotes, and actually responsible for an upsurge in violent crime. It is hard to avoid a brutal but accurate one-sentence epitaph: Black Lives Matter got a lot of young brothers killed.

Wilfred Reilly is author of Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, published by Regnery.

Picture by: Getty.

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Dee Carter

27th April 2020 at 1:33 am

Everyone in this comment section is missing the point of the Black Lives Matter movement, blaming it on “leftists” and saying “that’s why I ignored it in the first place.” Black Lives matter is not a movement just limited to police shootings and killings, that is just where it started. The movement is about police brutality, intimidation, and abuse of power against black people in the first place. Here are some more cases you should look at: the case of Charles Kinsey (where police shot an unarmed black therapist despite him being on the ground with his hands up), Botham Jean (where a man was shot and killed in his own house by an officer who “thought it was her own”), or Dajerria Becton ( a 15 year old girl who was singled out and slammed to the ground by a police officer despite her actually walking away from the incident like he earlier instructed). These are just a very few of way too many cases of police officers abusing their powers. And the issue all comes back to systematic racism and colorism that has been in America for 400 years, since even before we became a country. Black people have no faith in the police because the police and law enforcement has not shown that they can adequately protect black people. And the idea that the issue is something that can just be ignored or is something made up is just an example of the white privileged that white people have, since it is a choice for them to just ignore the issue and put it off as a negative movement, while to black people, this issue is a reality that we have to deal with. And about the issue where black crime rate is higher so it makes sense that black people die at a higher rate, did you ever stop to think about why the black crime rate is higher? Studies have shown that black people are nearly 4 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite both races using the drug at roughly the same rates. And once black people are arrested, they receive nearly a 20 percent prison term increase if convicted of a crime as opposed to a white person who commits the same exact crime. As I said, the issue is far deeper than just police killing black people. Also, you brought up the fact that black people actually kill more black people than white people do. Well the facts are that ALL RACES kill their own races more as opposed to cross race crime. The movement focuses less on black on black crime as opposed to police on black crime because much of the black on black crime is drug and gang war related and no one really expects gang to care about others’ lives, but the POLICE on the other hand are sworn to PROTECT and SERVE their community, but instead they are using their power to harass, beat, and kill the people they swore to protect. Criminals and drug dealers didn’t swear to protect anyone, the police did, which is why there is a much higher expectation for police officers as opposed to someone else. My favorite anology to try to explain the point of black lives matter is this: Tom is at a dinner table with everyone else. Everyone around him gets served their food, except for Tom. After waiting a long time for his food that never came, Tom stands up and says “Tom needs food”. Everyone else replies to him “Everyone needs food”. The fact that everyone needs food is not a lie or a point of conflict, the issue is that everyone else HAS there food while saying that, EXCEPT for Tom, who is still WITHOUT his food. I could say much more on this topic as to how the tension in America actually dates back to racially charged laws put in place after slavery ended to further limit and oppress black people, but instead, I’ll leave this link to this very well written website that explains the black lives matter movement that I’d hope anyone wishing to comment on the topic whether they agree or disagree with the movement will read: https://theconversation.com/the-backlash-against-black-lives-matter-is-just-more-evidence-of-injustice-85587

David Margison

4th February 2020 at 11:15 pm

“Black Lives Matter” went nowhere in Britain because we know they matter! There was nothing to protest. As Usual Lenny Henry jumped on the bandwagon looking for a virtue signaling cause. We have discrimination laws to protect minorities. That isn’t a typo, wr really do have discrimination laws. Check out the West Midlands (Birmingham) fire brigade recruitment criteria, white males have to achieve a ten percent higher pass mark than women and ethnic minorities to get in. Oh and the physical test difficulty level has had to be lowered to get them to pass. So legal discrimination is alive and well and as usual it’s against white males. Don’t believe? Check it out on google. It’s happening all over, possitive discrimination is discrimination

Steve Roberts

4th February 2020 at 6:08 pm

“Black Lives Matter got a lot of young brothers killed.” the author explains why ,this is a tragedy.
And its a serious warning as to where irrational Identity politics can lead, Maybe Reilly is sincere when he writes “The intentions of most BLM activists, surely, were of the best.” Maybe maybe not, but politics has social consequences, in this case deathly ones.
Many of the BLM advocates and activists were younger post grad types, indoctrinated since kindergarten with this intersectionality nonsense that has no bounds, no limits. Encouraged and taught by an older generation to whom much of it is academic theorising and yet the real social world ,beyond the confines of the one they mostly inhabit, is a very different place, academic theories hits social reality, it is not a game , a debate, politics very much has consequences.
How many of these activists had any real understanding of ordinary black lives in real world experiences as adults with responsibilities and tough lives to lead.
They were playing with peoples lives, with little thought or understanding of possible consequences, sheltered lives are not the best background to make and activate possible profound social changes, its serious stuff, to lead and propagate ideas is a responsibility, these BLM people need to accept their part in it now and learn the lessons of life.

David Margison

4th February 2020 at 11:37 pm

Good job, well written

pereyi5066 pereyi5066

4th February 2020 at 1:53 pm


pereyi5066 pereyi5066

4th February 2020 at 1:51 pm


steven brook

4th February 2020 at 12:05 pm

Surely it’s time to put down our White man’s burden if for no other reason than it is patronising.

jessica christon

4th February 2020 at 10:05 am

I never took BLM seriously; Black on Black murder is by far the major cause of Black lives lost from city to city. The ‘racism is to blame for everything’ narrative became toxic to Black America a long time ago; it destroyed them by blinding them to the real problems withing their communities – Black on Black murder and violence, mental illness, sexual abuse and incest, single motherhood and fatherlessness, low educational achievement, welfare dependency – and thats just a start but there’s no mainstream conversation about any of these things and their over prevalence among Blacks in America.

It’s impossible to overstate the damage that has been done to Black America by left liberal ideas, and BLM was just another demonstration of how far they can ignore the reality of the situation. So forget BLM and any other ‘pro black’ movement that focuses on racism and victimhood – they need to get their own house in order first.

Puddy Cat

4th February 2020 at 9:57 am

There seems to be evidence that vociferous campaigns and factual inaccuracies may actually drive people to ‘armed resistance’. The liberal tendency do us all a disservice by building emotional conceptions that suit their political presumptions. But while their dudgeon is merely verbiage ‘bullet point’ farming can represent itself as bias and the confirmation of apocryphal accelerants.

It would seem that the cause of people of colour in the U.S. leans towards confrontation even in this age of liberal ascendancy. The focus on getting one’s own back seems rife. The more cosseted the support sentiments towards movements such as BLM are all it does is to promote the activities of dissident elements. In any case, we have to remember that while America may not be the natural homeland of those of colour many hundreds of thousands dies in a Civil War to affirm their presence there and it is surely the their primary consideration to put that fact before the exceptional treatment that some may have encountered or heard of; to take-up the opportunities that life offers to each of us in its various and unaccountable ways.

Jim Lawrie

4th February 2020 at 9:54 am

This article is old hat. The c.1000 extra blacks killed by each other every 12 months was apparent years ago. The total figure is now closer to 10,000. I looked at this way back, and cannot be bothered doing the leg work for a lazy academic.

“While Hispanic and white ethnic communities were hit hard by this unexpected crimewave … ”
This statement does not hold up;

1. It was not unexpected.
2. Whites and Hispanics are seperate groups. You lump them together to even up the figures between black and white. Put black Hispanic in with blacks for the true figure among blacks. Isolate the figure for non black Hispanics.
3. Then you can see the impact on white communities was minimal.

“The intentions of most BLM activists, surely, were of the best.” No. Surreptitious insertion of the word surely does not transform wishful myth into fact. Their agenda driven dishonesty was obvious from the off as they hounded anyone who pointed out what disagreed with their dogma

“As a direct result, the 7,900-odd blacks killed in 2016 were 1,305 more than the white people killed (which includes Hispanics), despite the white population being itself quite violent and five times as large as the black population” That paragraph is shot full of assertion and dishonest use of statistics. Even if the stats as used were true, it tells us that blacks are at least 6 times as murderous as the “quite violent” white population. Bur overall FBI stats show that they are in fact 11 times as murderous as whites, and that figure rises when they are not heavily policed.
Also how come it is “7,900-odd blacks” but exactly “1,305” whites? How many of those whites were killed by blacks and vice-versa? It is not legitimate to refer to Whites and Hispanics as seperate groups and then attach the total crime figures for both to Whites alone.

This whole, dreadful article has been checked and questioned by no-one. It proclaims itself ready to boldly state fact, but turns out to be apologism glossing over the embarrassing truth about the black propensity for violence.

Matt Ryan

4th February 2020 at 9:36 am

Isn’t it the white man fitting up the black man that leads to “The black crime rate was 2.4 times the white crime rate”? I mean, the non-black stabbing statistics in London are worse than the black statistics aren’t they (even adjusted for population)?

David Margison

4th February 2020 at 11:21 pm

Are you making a joke? Knife crime is predominantly a black on black crime, it’s a fact, watch the news.

Alex Porter

4th February 2020 at 9:06 am

Let us not forget that one representative of BLM stated that the phrase:’ All lives matter was inherently racist’.

Martin Luerssen

4th February 2020 at 9:05 am

It is very telling, that “cops are racist” proponents normally only tell a part of the story. One could also argue, that (in germany) the police is a militant feminist organisation driven by misandry, because much more men are killed by police then women. Of course that’s utter b***s***.
The reason of course, is that men tend to commit more violent crimes, tend to be more often armed and tend to resist more violently.
So, maybe these are also the determining factors, when “racist” police kill black people?
Well, let’s look at the numbers: in the USA, per Million citizens about 2.6 more blacks are killed by police than whites. However…. blacks commit violent crimes about 4 times more often than whites (predominantly, like whites, inside their ethnic group). Crucially when one looks at cops killed by ethnic group, about 44% of cops killed are killed by white, 37% by blacks people. If one takes into account the percentage of the population, this means that in any encounter between a cop and a black person, he has 5-6 times higher risk getting killed, than in an encounter with a white person. Compared with a 2.6 higher risk of the black person to get “killed by cop” than a white person.
So, if anything the numbers would indicate anti-white racism.

And btw…. if the reason would be racism, wouldn’t the ratio between blacks and whites killed by cops in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans etc. with black majorities be massively different from the overall numbers ? Well, they aren’t. Because the reason is not racism.

Ven Oods

4th February 2020 at 8:50 am

This article isn’t going to go down well in Islington, I predict.
The arguments rather mirror those of the UK, where even Trevor Philips now admits that the roll-back on stop-and-search resulted in more deaths among the blacks whose lives matter.

Alley Kat

4th February 2020 at 6:35 pm

Ven, Trevors damascene conversion has left me astounded! Maybe he’s “grown up”, maybe now he’s not on the identity gravy train…who knows but I never thought I’d see the day.

Mark Houghton

4th February 2020 at 7:58 am

“To an overwhelming extent, I found that the movement’s core claims were wildly exaggerated or simply false.” – come, come. Surely you must understand that ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ are just tools that white people use to oppress minorities

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