As rioters rushed through the streets of Baltimore, torching police vehicles, looting local stores, and attacking police officers and reporters alike, some intrepid leftists justified the activity.
Marc Lamont Hill stated on MSNBC, “There shouldn’t be calm tonight. I think there can be resistance to oppression, and when resistance occurs, you can’t circumscribe resistance.” He added that the riots should be called “uprisings. The city is not burning because of those protesters. The city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray.” Sally Kohn of CNN tweeted, “Looting is a real shame. But FAR MORE shameful is pattern of police violence against black community! Perspective, people. #BaltimoreRising.”
Baltimore’s riots have prompted a state of emergency in the city, as well as the calling of the National Guard. But the riots should also demonstrate conclusively that leftist myths about what drives race riots are just that: myths. It turns out that all the excuses given for the riots in Ferguson simply do not apply to the situation in Baltimore.
The “White Police” Myth. As rioters tore up Ferguson last year in the aftermath of the justifiable shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, media members rushed to explain that the disproportionate whiteness of the police force was to blame. Media outlet after media outlet after media outlet after media outlet blamed the unrest on the failure of the police department to reflect the community. But as of 2010, “Half of the sworn command staff are minorities,” according to the Baltimore Sun. And in Baltimore County, 55 percent of new applicants to the police department are minority, a number the police department has been attempting to boost. Racially reflecting the community, in other words, doesn’t seem to be helping.
The “Evil Police Chief” Myth. In Ferguson, the media targeted as its chosen villain Chief Thomas Jackson, who is white. After the Department of Justice found that the Ferguson Police Department had serious racial problems thanks in part to its disproportionate whiteness, Jackson stepped down. Media found Jackson particularly galling because Jackson released footage of Michael Brown strong-arm robbing a convenience store minutes before his confrontation with Wilson. It is difficult to blame the riots in Baltimore on similar circumstances. The police chief, Anthony Batts, who is black, said in February that crime should be addressed “through social justice as a whole,” and added that “Leadership should be focused not just on crime-fighting, but tackling racism.” He then stated, “When I go to Baltimore, on the East Coast, I’m dealing with 1950s-level black-and-white racism.”
The “Evil Mayor” Myth. As Ferguson burned, media focused in on Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, a white man. They suggested that Knowles didn’t understand his own community thanks to his race, exacerbating racial tensions. He’s currently at risk of recall. The same is not true in Baltimore, where Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake runs the show. Rawlings-Blake, who is black, said a month ago, “To this day, if I go out with a mixed crowd, people are automatically suspicious, questioning: ‘How do you know this person?’ We have a long way to go…Baltimore, like many other cities, still faces the challenges of racism.” As the riots spun out of control, she infamously commented, “It’s a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.” That didn’t stop the riots.
The “Disproportionate White Power Structure Myth.” The nation watched the recent local elections in Ferguson, Missouri, of the City Council with baited breath. That’s because the media suggested that the power structure in Ferguson, being disproportionately white, had somehow contributed to shadowy racism within the city. The Washington Post complained, “while Ferguson is 67 percent black, five of the six council members and the mayor are all white.” Not so in Baltimore, where the nine of the 15 council members are black. The mayor is black. The police chief is black. Baltimore burns anyway.
The “Not Enough Government” Myth. In Ferguson, the media and governmental actors suggested that lack of governmental intervention led to the riots. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an open letter in December 2014 suggesting just that:
We should take away from Ferguson that we need a conversation to rebuild those relationships, throughout the country, and that need is urgent. It needs to involve everyone – our young people, our parents, our schools, our faith communities, our government officials, and the police. It needs to happen now.
Lack of government is not the problem in Baltimore. Every single member of the Baltimore City Council is a Democrat. All 15 of them. The mayor is a Democrat. Baltimore has not had a Republican mayor since 1967. The tax rates in Baltimore are astronomical; the city carries the fourth highest tax rate of any city in the nation. The poverty rate within the city is nearly 25 percent. Households in Baltimore earn approximately 56 percent of the overall state average. Crime rates, of course, are out of control.
Modern race riots do not occur because of the supposed white superstructure or a legacy of governmental underservice. They occur because valueless rioters act in valueless ways. Baltimore is evidence that glossing over lack of values with leftist pabulum about social justice doesn’t stop cities from burning.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.