Juan Williams: Biden must grapple with racial dynamics of crime

Juan Williams: Biden must grapple with racial dynamics of crime
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Black people are 13 percent of the population but 53.7 percent of America’s murder victims, according to 2019 data.

That makes the current rise in the murder rate very real and scary for me.

I’m frightened because more than half of the people being killed are Black and 86 percent of the Black people being killed are men, like me.

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Most men of color know this fear — 81 percent of the Latino murder victims are men too, according to data from Statista.com.

Yet the media only talks about the current spike in murder as if it is part of an overall rise in crime, affecting all races.

The issue is so hot that President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE and Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US 'deeply alarmed' by reports of military takeover in Sudan Prohibit the actions of extremism, but bear with the rhetoric House Republicans call on Garland to rescind school board memo MORE held a gun and crime summit at the White House last week to announce plans to stop crime from rising higher this summer.

“Protecting our communities from violent crime is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” Garland said. He spotlighted the increase in violent crime as “deeply troubling.”

But Garland did not say the problem is Black men killing other Black men.

Eighty-nine percent of Blacks who were murdered in 2019 were killed by other Black people, according to the FBI.

The FBI’s figures also show 79 percent of murdered whites were killed by other white people. But the wildly disproportionate fact that more than half of all murder victims are Black is just one of the signs of the vulnerabilities on crime and policing that Blacks face and whites do not.

Take the well-founded fear of police, for example. Black men are 2.5 times more likely than a white man to be killed by police, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

And more generally, Black men die by gunfire at twice the rate of white men.

So, the heart of the crime issue for me is that, from childhood, Black men live with the terror of being victims of violence.

But politicians treat that reality as too hot to handle.

Instead, they feed the baseless anxiety about a general crime wave threatening men and women of all races, especially white suburban voters.

That’s a dangerous distortion.

First, crime overall was down 6 percent last year, according to the FBI. And last week, FBI statistics for the first three months of this year were "inconclusive," according to the Washington Post, on the issue of whether overall crime rates are trending up or down.

Second, other than murder and its second cousin of aggravated assault, all other major categories of crime are down.

Note that property crimes make up 85 percent of crime and they went down nearly 8 percent in 2020, according to the FBI.

“The FBI will release its official [crime] figures in September, but the preliminary data from over 12,000 law enforcement agencies suggests it was probably one of the largest declines on record,” reported The New York Times.

Finally, there is no dispute that there are more murders. But murders make up only 0.2 percent of major crime in the country. It is the scariest, the most extreme of crimes, but it is an outlier in an otherwise fairly good story about low levels of crime.

Criminal justice experts have no clear explanation for the rise in murders of Black men by other Black men.

It could be due to closed schools and jobs loss due to COVID-19. It could be due to easy access to guns. It could be due to drug dealers competing for business as the country emerges from the pandemic.

But there is no arguing that Black men are the victims of the current murder rage.

This makes it particularly galling to hear Republicans link the rise in crime to criticism of police tactics following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a policeman.

If the problem was criticism of police or cuts in funding to police then all crime should be spiking.

But it is only murder and aggravated assault that are doing so, while other major crimes like rape and robbery have declined.

And even as Black Americans remain big supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, only 28 percent support calls to defund police, according to a March Ipsos/USA Today poll. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said after the 2020 elections that the slogan “Defund the Police,” hurt Democrats running for Congress. It “is killing our party, and we’ve got to stop it,” he said.

Clyburn’s views are in line with most Black people, who in the March poll said they oppose eliminating the police.

It is also in line with Black voters in New York City who overwhelmingly supported 20-year police veteran Eric Adams in his bid for mayor last week.

Adams carries a gun. He opposed defunding the police when many of his competitors embraced the idea. He said many times on the trail that “the prerequisite for prosperity is public safety.”

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A poll taken in New York, an overwhelmingly Democratic city, before the primary found that crime was the number one issue for Democratic primary voters.

The politics of crime have always been inextricably linked with the politics of race in America.

Police brutally enforced segregation laws after the Civil War. In the 20th Century, the brass-knuckle reign of Birmingham police chief Bull Connor helped ignite the modern Civil Rights Movement.

President Nixon’s domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman admitted years after the fact that Nixon’s “War on Drugs” was a deliberate effort to imprison and discredit his two main enemies, the “antiwar left and black people.”

Now Biden has unique credibility on crime.

He also has high support among Black men. And he has a friend with a powerful voice among Black men, former President Obama.

Gentlemen, let's look at crime honestly and speak to the reality of the singular terror threatening Black men.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.