In a CNN townhall, Marco Rubio may have raised eyebrows by siding with the common progressive claim that systemic racism in America’s police departments is victimizing black Americans.
During Wednesday’s townhall, a questioner asked Rubio about race relations in the United States. Although the voter’s question made no mention whatsoever of law enforcement or the police, Rubio was quick to use it as an opportunity to question the racial attitudes of American police. Rubio then proceeded to cite accounts of police targeting minorities. “You talk about race relations, it’s a difficult issue in this country,” Rubio said, “And I know a lot if it is centered around law enforcement and police departments.” Rubio explained that when a young black male is repeatedly targeted by American police officers “for no reason, what is he supposed to think?”
Rubio said that he has personally “seen” minorities targeted by American law enforcement: “In this country [there is] a significant number particularly of young African-American males who feel as if they are treated differently than the rest of society. And here’s the bottom line: Whether you agree with them or not–I happen to have seen this happen–but whether you agree or not, if a significant percentage of the American family believes that they are being treated differently than everyone else, we have a problem, and we have to address it as a society and as a country… I do not believe we can fulfill our potential as a nation unless we address that.”
While Rubio made a brief token acknowledgement that the “overwhelming majority” of law enforcement are “incredible,” he immediately began to emphasize systemic racism: “But I also know–but I also know–there are communities in this country where minority communities and the police department have a terrible relationship,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s latest statements come in addition to previous comments he made last year in which he seemed to lend his personal support to the rhetoric of the anti-cop Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that the issue the controversial protesters are fighting is “legitimate” and that the growing “resentment” of law enforcement was understandable. Rubio’s comments prompted Black Lives Matter’s DeRay McKesson to reach out via twitter to Sen. Rubio and request a meeting.
By stark contrast, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has been very vocal in his support for law enforcement: “Police are the most mistreated people in this country… the most mistreated people,” Trump said in a January GOP debate. “The police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood,” Trump reiterated in a February debate. “The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order, and they’re afraid for their jobs, they’re afraid of the mistreatment they get… They can’t act. They can’t act. They’re afraid for losing their pension, their job. They don’t know what to do. And I deal with them all the time. We have to give great respect, far greater than we are right now, to our really fantastic police.” As Breitbart News has reported, Trump’s pro-police statements prompted immediate criticism from supporters of the Black Lives Matter group.
During Wednesday’s town hall, Rubio recounted the personal experience of someone he apparently knows as evidence of the alleged systemic racism in some of America’s law enforcement.
I personally know someone who happens to be a police officer and a young African-American male who told me that he’s been pulled over seven, eight times in the last few years and never gets a ticket. What is he supposed to think? He gets pulled over, for no reason, never gets a ticket. No one has any explanation for why he’s being pulled over. What is he supposed to think?
However, in a 2014 column, Ann Coulter analyzed the evidence and addressed the “canard about blacks being disproportionately targeted in traffic stops.”
A study from the Public Services Research Institute in Maryland found that racial profiling did not play a role in the traffic stops. Citing the study, Coulter writes: “Blacks constituted 25 percent of all speeders and they were about 23 percent of drivers stopped for speeding. Controlling for age and gender, blacks sped at about twice the rate of whites. The racial disparity was even greater for drivers exceeding 90 mph.”
Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald has similarly documented that the reason there is a greater police presence in black neighborhoods is because there are higher crime rates in those neighborhoods: “In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S.—almost all killed by black civilians—resulting in a death risk in inner cities that is ten times higher for blacks than for whites.” Mac Donald writes:
The police, by contrast, according to published reports, kill roughly 200 blacks a year, most of them armed and dangerous, out of about 40 million police-civilian contacts a year. Blacks are in fact killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. In 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the nation’s population.
Mac Donald’s findings suggest that the narrative–currently voiced by the left and Sen. Rubio–that police officers are racially-motivated could increase the threat to police officers and innocent civilians.
In particular, Mac Donald has documented the “poisonous effect” that has resulted from those who “participated in mass hysteria” and “promulgated… untruths” such as the “criminal-justice system is biased against blacks; that the black underclass doesn’t exist; and that crime rates are comparable between blacks and whites—leaving disproportionate police action in minority neighborhoods unexplained without reference to racism.”
As a result, the “incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the ‘Ferguson effect.’ Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the ‘criminal element is feeling empowered,’ Mr. Dotson reported.” Mac Donald writes, “Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.”
“Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%,” Mac Donald observes.
Mac Donald explained that the “Ferguson effect” will only hurt innocent civilians living in gang-beseiged communities.
The closer one is to crime and disorder, the greater one’s support for proactive enforcement. Slightly more black than white voters said they want the police to “actively issue summonses or make arrests” in their neighborhood for quality-of-life offenses: 61 percent of black voters wanted such summons and arrests, with 33 percent opposed, versus 59 percent of white voters in support, with 37 percent opposed.
CNN moderator Anderson Cooper, who oozed praise for Rubio throughout tonight’s townhall, followed up, asking Rubio: “If I could– just a quick follow up: on a personal basis, have you ever felt the sting of racism?”
Instead of demurring and noting that he is currently a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate who has cozy relationships with some of the most powerful and influential billionaires in the country, Rubio instead reached back to “recall” a memory from when he was seven-years-old in which he was forced to endure the sting of racism. Rubio said:
I do recall as a child, during the Mariel Boatlift growing up in Las Vegas that some of the neighborhood kids– older kids– one day were taunting my family saying, ‘Why don’t you go back on your boat. Why don’t you go back to your country. Why don’t you leave here.’ I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was 7 years old, I was like, ‘what boat? My mom doesn’t even swim…’ And my parents had to sit me down and explain: ‘the Mariel Boat lift is going on. People are really upset about it and they’re hearing this stuff, and don’t blame the kids– they must be hearing it from somebody, that’s why they’re repeating it.’ So that disturbed me as a young child.
Rubio continued, “What I give my parents a lot of credit for is that they never raised us to feel like we were victims… that doesn’t mean I don’t deny that there are people in this country that have had a different experience and we need to recognize that. You know, if you look back at the history of this country we have some blemishes in our history, that I believe even to this day we’re fighting through.”
Rubio’s decision to even answer or acknowledge Cooper’s question about whether he has felt the “sting of racism” is notable given how much Rubio has benefited politically and personally from his immigrant success story. Indeed, even in answering Cooper’s question Rubio repeated his talking point about his parent’s immigrant background, which reports note, has become a staple of every campaign speech he delivers: “My parents raised me to believe that it didn’t matter that they came from Cuba, and that he was a bartender and she was a maid–that there was nothing we couldn’t do … they always raised us to believe that our destiny and our future — we lived in the one place on earth where if you worked hard and you persevered you could achieve no matter what,” Rubio told the crowd tonight.
Indeed, Rubio’s immigrant background has played a central role in his political career. The Des Moines Register cited his background in the publication’s endorsement of him, noting that the Republican Party, “could be the party in which the son of an immigrant bartender and maid could become president … We endorse him because he represents his party’s best hope.” So did the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review Journal in its endorsement of Rubio: “The son of immigrants employed by the hotel industry. The driving force behind the 44-year-old’s compelling story is his family’s pursuit of better opportunities and a better life.”
Similarly, a 2013 Time Magazine featured as its cover a full-body portrait of Rubio with the phrase “The Republican Savior,” blaring across it. The cover story corresponded to piece entitled, “Immigrant Son,” in which the young Senator is described as “the great Hispanic hope for the Republican Party.”
Even the synopsis of his memoir, An American Son, begins as follows: “Florida Senator Marco Rubio electrified the 2012 Republican National Convention by telling the story of his parents, who were struggling immigrants from Cuba. They embraced their new country and taught their children to appreciate its unique opportunities.”
Indeed, Marco Rubio articulated his awareness about how his immigrant background has bolstered his standing in the Republican Party. Rubio emphasized that aspect of his campaign in tonight’s CNN town hall: “Today I got the endorsement of a Governor of Indian descent, who endorsed a presidential candidate of Cuban descent and tomorrow will be campaigning with alongside an African American Republican Senator… that says a lot about the Republican Party,” Rubio said.