Black Lives Matter activists: Only criminals’ lives matter

Black Lives Matter activists: Only criminals’ lives matter

Murders are up 43% this year in Washington, D.C., yet when the City’s black mayor, Muriel Bowser, proposed an increased police presence in neighborhoods most affected by this, “Black Lives Matter protesters tried to shout her down,” noted LU staff earlier. This happened “yesterday, when Bowser came to a crime-ridden D.C. neighborhood where the murder has nearly doubled this year.” As Powerline notes, she was there “to counter the spike in the loss of (almost exclusively black) life due to killings,” which have risen largely due to black-on-black violence. “Bowser spoke for about half an hour, despite being shouted at and heckled throughout.”

The Washington Post has a story titled “Black Lives Matter activists disrupt Bowser speech on how to stop killings.”  It reported that Black Lives Matters protesters “erupted at her first mention of putting more officers on the streets,” disrupting her with “chants of ‘Black Lives Matter.'”

A similar mindset of condoning crime for racial reasons was on display among commenters at progressive web sites like Think Progress. Some of its commenters condoned the violent killings of two reporters in Virginia as a justifiable reaction to racism. One of the reporters had been falsely accused by the killer of “racist remarks” for using two common, non-racial words — “field” and “swinging” — in a completely non-racial, non-racist context.

Like violence in general, school violence is also disproportionately black-on-black.  The Obama administration has pressured schools to reduce discipline for minority offenders, claiming that harsh discipline has a “racially disproportionate impact” on blacks, ignoring the fact that school violence has a far greater disproportionate impact on blacks. (When inner city schools become violent and disorderly, the vast majority of black kids who are law-abiding are deprived of a peaceful, safe place to study).  The nation’s teachers largely oppose the administration’s stance in a recent poll, reports Education Week. Even staunchly-liberal teachers union locals are getting fed up with attacks on school discipline as supposedly being racist, helping defeat race-obsessed St. Paul school board members whose misguided attack on school discipline as “racist” resulted in “chaos in the St. Paul schools.” As education writer Joanne Jacobs writes, “The federal push for ‘no-disparate-impact’ disciplinary policies — linking suspension and expulsion rates to race and ethnicity — is unpopular with the public and teachers.”

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Contrary to the Obama administration’s assumptions, misconduct rates are not the same among students of different races. A 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice by criminologists like John Paul Wright found that racial disparities in student discipline result from more frequent misbehavior by blacks, not racism. The study, entitled “Prior Problem Behavior Accounts for the Racial Gap in School Suspensions,” concluded that higher black suspension rates are “completely accounted for” by students’ own behavior.

The Education Department argues it has the right to demand that schools eliminate even colorblind discipline policies just because they have a “disparate impact” — i.e., if a higher percentage of blacks than whites are suspended, and the school cannot prove to bureaucrats’ satisfaction that the disciplinary rule is essential to maintain order. The Education Department’s January 2014 guidance to the nation’s schools insists that a school can be guilty under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (for disparate impact) solely due to “neutral,” “evenhanded” application of discipline rules, just because more minority students violate such rules (see pp. 11-12).

But under Supreme Court precedent, the Education Department has no right to enforce such “disparate impact” rules. The Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v. Sandoval (2001) that disparate impact doesn’t violate Title VI, only “intentional” discrimination does. The federal government claims that while the Title VI statute itself doesn’t reach disparate impact, regulations under it can and do (an idea that the Supreme Court decision described as “strange” in footnote 6 of its opinion).

The government claims that even if the only reason a school punishes more black students for unauthorized “use of electronic devices” is because blacks actually “are engaging in the use of electronic devices at a higher rate than students of other races,” the school can still be liable under Title VI for disparate impact. This distorts the disparate impact concept. Even when courts do allow liability for disparate impact, the disparity must result from something in the disciplinary process, not the mere fact that more blacks misbehaved. As the 2001 Robinson decision allowing lawsuits over disparate impact in workplace discipline emphasized, a mere “bottom line racial imbalance in the work force” is “insufficient.”

The government also claims such disparities are the product of racism by schools, not just “disparate impact.” That contradicts the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Armstrong. That ruling rejected the “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, which is “contradicted by” reality. Blacks, who are only 13 percent of the population, commit nearly half of all murders.

The Education Department falsely claimed there is no evidence of “more frequent” misbehavior by minority students. But the homicide rate is 10 times higher for black teenagers than for whites.

The only way to equalize suspension rates for all races would be to adopt racial quotas that curb discipline for black offenders. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997) that schools cannot use racial quotas in discipline, striking down a rule that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline.” Ignoring that court decision, the Obama administration pressured school districts such as Oakland, California, and Palm Beach County, Florida into imposing veiled racial quotas. As Paul Sperry noted in the New York Post, violence is

a problem in Oakland schools after officials there substituted such restorative counseling for suspensions on similar orders from Obama educrats. “There have been serious threats against teachers,” Oakland High School science teacher Nancy Caruso told the Christian Science Monitor, and yet the students weren’t expelled. She notes a student who set another student’s hair on fire received a “restorative” talk in lieu of suspension.

Quotas harm, not help, most African-Americans, who are often victims of black-on-black violence. As University of Rochester professor Joshua Kinsler discovered, “in public schools with discipline problems, it hurts those innocent African American children academically to keep disruptive students in the classroom,” and “cutting out-of-school suspensions in those schools widens the black-white academic achievement gap.”

Sperry found that “progressive” discipline policies pushed by the Obama administration — such as “restorative justice”  — are making schools less safe. “Convinced traditional discipline is racist because blacks are suspended at higher rates than whites, New York City’s Department of Education has in all but the most serious and dangerous offenses replaced out-of-school suspensions with a touchy-feely alternative punishment called “restorative justice,” which isn’t really punishment at all. It’s therapy. . . . everywhere it’s been tried, this softer approach has backfired.”

Chicago teachers say they’re “struggling to deal with unruly students” under a new policy that minimizes suspension, reports the Chicago Tribune. “It’s just basically been a totally lawless few months,” said Megan Shaunnessy, a special education teacher at De Diego Community Academy.

Los Angeles Unified also is seeing problems, writes Sperry:

“I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District school recently noted on the Los Angeles Times website. “The black student told me to ‘Back off, b—h.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, b—h, and no one can make me.'”

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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