February 01, 2023

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee

Source: Bigstock

One downside of reading me is that tomorrow’s headlines aren’t as full of surprises. For example, while much of the media world is currently stunned that the five Memphis cops who beat a black motorist to death are black, my regular readers aren’t.

I start with empirical observations and look for the simplest and most powerful explanations of reality. For example, I’m one of the few who point out that all the data show that America has a big problem with black violence.

In contrast, the conventional wisdom starts with simpleminded racist bigotry: Whites are the Bad Race and blacks are the Good Race.

“The Memphis outrage is simply an exemplification of many of my themes during the ongoing ‘racial reckoning’ of this decade.”

So when blacks, such as the Memphis Five, behave so badly that it demands national attention, we are deluged with labored explanations of how blacks killing a black must be the fault of white supremacy. But as I wrote during the first week of 2020’s Mostly Peaceful Protests:

What America needs to do is treat blacks as human beings with free will who when they make good choices should enjoy the benefits and when they make bad choices should experience the consequences. Instead, The Establishment views blacks as our Sacred Cows, above criticism, but beneath agency.

The Memphis outrage is simply an exemplification of many of my themes during the ongoing “racial reckoning” of this decade.

For example, it’s unsurprising that 2020’s surge in bad driving by blacks that I was the first (and still just about the only) to document played a sizable role in the decision of Memphis’ black female police chief to start the ill-fated SCORPION squad of cops in unmarked cars hassling drivers in Memphis’ worst neighborhoods. The New York Times reported:

In laying out her crime-fighting strategy in 2021, Chief [Ceralyn] Davis spoke in particular about reckless driving in Memphis, calling it the worst she had seen in her career and expressing fear about being on the roadways herself.

She had good reason to be concerned about how terrible driving exploded after George Floyd’s death. In Shelby County, where Memphis is the seat, the CDC WONDER database reports that black traffic fatalities numbered 115 in 2018 and 114 in 2019, but then 176 in 2020 and 204 in 2021, a 79 percent increase from 2019 to 2021.

In the wake of the Memphis Five, of course, we are likely to see a return to the Establishment’s lethal 2020 strategy of discouraging cops from pulling over as many irresponsible drivers. And, consequently, we will probably see more human beings die in car crashes.

You wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. But then again neither will those who follow the prestige press because the media likely won’t get around to mentioning it to them, just as they’ve kept covered up the 2020 black road disaster they helped cause.

Many pundits, being of an antiquarian turn of mind when it comes to race (Emmett Till! Redlining!), were startled to learn that the Memphis Police Department is 58 percent black in a city that is 65 percent black. Haven’t we been assured that white males hog all the power?

In reality, Memphis’ police department has been highly black for a long time: 40 percent back in 2000.

But if you are one of my readers, you are likely to think, “Wait a minute, doesn’t it take a lot of affirmative action to get to that high of a percentage of blacks qualifying for police work? If so, it’s not astounding that Memphis is the place that screwed up this badly.”

And indeed, the Memphis Police Department has a long history of racial preferences in hiring and promotion that has been amply documented in lawsuits. The legal website LRIS wrote in 2007:

Other than perhaps the plans in place in the Chicago police and fire departments, no affirmative action plan has been subject to more litigation than that used for promotions by the Memphis Police Department.

Not surprisingly to you or me, the history of attempts to boost black numbers at all levels of the Memphis PD is similar to the same bleakly comic history seen in Chicago, New York City, Frank Ricci’s New Haven, and just about everywhere else in America. It turned out to be impossible to square the circle of creating civil service tests that are both optimally valid and on which blacks perform as well as whites.

The same expedient was resorted to in Memphis as in Chicago: lowering the passing score into uselessness:

…the 2000 process utilized a cutoff score on the written test as an initial hurdle in the promotion process. When not enough African-American candidates passed the written examination, the City lowered the passing score so that 389 of the 444 candidates passed the written examination.

As I’ve often noted, making the test so easy that practically everybody passes in order to benefit blacks is more destructive than a more straightforward racial quota where you take the top scores of each race in rank order until their quota is fulfilled. At least with a blatant quota system you get the best of each race (although, of course, the quality is lower overall than in a color-blind system).

Even the details of this beating, such as that the killing took place in Memphis, shouldn’t be shocking. Memphis regularly ranks near the top in my tables of homicide rates. As I reported in January 2021, of the fifty biggest cities, Memphis had the fourth-highest growth in homicides (74 percent) in 2020, the year of the “racial reckoning,” and came in behind only Baltimore for highest per capita rate of killings.

As I’ve been pointing out for some time, the middle of the country, the Mississippi watershed and the Great Lakes, has a major black crime problem that’s not getting better. My best guess is that Rust Belt cities that grew up on industries that benefited from water transport have seen many of their harder-working blacks depart for more economically modern cities like Atlanta and Dallas, leaving behind an increasingly hard core of the intractable.

Over time, depopulation looms. Memphis, I recently noted, would have seen its population shrink more than its 3 percent decline in this century without a Tennessee law that has allowed it to annex fifteen suburbs.

Other pundits, such as Noah Smith, have argued for requiring police officers to have bachelor’s degrees. Indeed, this would create a police force that is more genteel, more expensive, and, as few pundits realize, much less black. Memphis, for example, is not exactly a hotbed for finding black men with BAs. Nationally, “44.3% of White men have a college degree versus just 26.5% of Black men,” or two-thirds more.

Yet none of the first 200 comments on Smith’s Substack mention that effect.

I think it’s not at all common among most people who rely on the mainstream media for their worldview to understand that the supply of blacks competent to succeed at fairly complex jobs like policing is highly finite. If you boost standards for policemen, fewer blacks will make the cut.

If you simultaneously want to improve the quality of police and you deem diversity-inclusion-equity numbers on the police force as sacrosanct, as most pundits do, then you’d have to do two things to get better black cops without a decline in numbers.

First, pay the police much more. (And cops aren’t all that badly paid these days already.) Blacks with decent IQs, good work ethics, and clean criminal records have numerous more appealing opportunities in our affirmative-action age, so they don’t come cheap.

Second, tolerate less black representation in other careers. Mathematically, that’s the only way it can work.

But even thinking about that is intolerable today. So nobody thinks.


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