Half a century ago this summer, the Voting Rights Act was passed, propelled by Bloody Sunday at Selma Bridge. The previous summer, the Civil Rights Act became law on July 2.
We are in the 7th year of the presidency of a black American who has named the first two black U.S. attorneys general.
Yet race relations seem more poisonous now than then, when the good will of America’s majority was driving legislation.
Today’s issue, however, is not voting rights, open housing or school busing. It is black vs. blue: African-Americans inflamed at what they see as chronic police brutality and police forces feeling besieged in a demagogic “war on cops.”
And the media are obsessed with it, and determined to make us equally so.
Consider. On June 9, America’s “newspaper of record” ran four stories in the first section about police violence against blacks.
Page one of The New York Times told of black leaders in Cleveland, “distrustful of the criminal justice system,” invoking a “seldom-used Ohio law,” by going “directly to a judge to request murder charges” against the cops involved in the death of Tamir Rice.
Responding to reports of a man with a gun, a cop, two seconds out of his car, shot Tamir, 12. The gun was a toy.
Yet, though this happened six months ago, the Times went into loving detail again on how Tamir died. It then regurgitated the deaths, also last year, of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island.
On page A11 was a story with three color photos, covering almost the whole page, about a cop who, called to a raucous pool party in McKinney, Texas, drew his gun and wrestled to the ground a 14-year-old black girl in a bathing suit.
“A Party at a Pool, a Jarring Image of Police Force” was the banner over the Times’ tale of “powerful and disturbing” images, from video showing “a police officer pointing a gun at teenagers in bathing suits and shoving a young black girl’s face into the ground.”
Had the girl been white, would the Times have splashed it?
Page A12 was given over entirely to cops vs. blacks, with two fresh stories, plus continuations of the Tamir Rice and pool stories.
The story across the top of A12 told of how a North Charleston, South Carolina, cop, held since April on murder charges, has now been indicted by a grand jury for murder.
Officer Michael Slager shot fleeing suspect Walter Scott in the back repeatedly, a killing caught on video, apparently after a fight over Slager’s Taser.
There was also a fresh story on terrorism suspect Usaamah Rahim, shot dead after being confronted by FBI and a Boston cop. Rahim was allegedly wielding a large knife. Blurry video from a Burger King camera shows the cops backing away from Rahim, but not the knife.
Seven Times reporters got bylines for these four stories.
What does the Times’ investment of all this journalistic talent and news space tell us? The Times does not want this issue to die.
The Times editors and writers see “blacks being victimized by white racist cops” as a representative truth about America 2015 that we all must address.
But what is the larger reality? First, the vast majority of black males killed violently are killed by black males, and interracial crime in America is overwhelmingly black-on-white, not the reverse.
While not the media truth, that is the statistical truth.
This is reality. Indeed, if the ugliest expressions of racism are interracial assaults, rapes and murders, the heaviest concentrations of racism in America are in the black communities themselves.
But the preferred story of the Times and mainstream media, of most cable channels and social media, is white cops victimizing black folks.
Thus we have all heard about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray, but few know even the number of black folks gunned down annually in their own black communities.
The press is not interested in ferreting out those statistics.
Why? Such stats would muddy the message the media seek to send and reinforce: I.e., America must confront the crisis of rogue cops.
What is coming is not difficult to predict.
As, invariably, white cops clash with black suspects, the media will seize upon and pump up every episode that fits and advances their scripted narrative. Angry and violent protests will occur. There will be judicial proceedings and trials, like that of the West Baltimore cops coming up.
America will divide and take sides. And the rival “war on cops” and “Black lives matter!” claims will be adjudicated in the election of 2016.
In 1968, Richard Nixon rode the law-and-order issue into the White House. Hillary Clinton seems to be moving to capture the “Black-Lives-Matter!” constituencies.
As for the Republicans, they seem to be acting more like the John Lindsays and Bill Scrantons of yesteryear than the Nixons and Ronald Reagans. But someone is going to pick up this issue.