Billionaire nanny state megalomaniac and soda-confiscator Michael Bloomberg is in hot water today after leaked audio shows him making basically correct observations about violent crime. In the clip, Bloomberg says that “95 percent of murders and murder victims fit one M.O.” He points the finger at “male minorities 16 to 25,” a trend that he claims holds true in most major cities across the country.
He then explains that the goal should be to “get the guns out of the hands” of the people who commit the violent crime. The method he advocates is to “throw them up against the wall and frisk them,” otherwise known as stop and frisk. These are the tactics Bloomberg used as mayor of New York, where he succeeded in cutting crime, especially violent crime, significantly. He takes more credit for that than he deserves, as politicians tend to do, but it’s still a real achievement.
In any case, true or not, this kind of talk won’t be tolerated in our culture. Predictably, Bloomberg has been blasted as “racist” and “bigoted.” The very unsubtle hashtag “Bloomberg Is Racist” has been trending on Twitter since the clip went viral.
Is Bloomberg actually racist? Well, I can’t see into his soul, but there is no evidence of racism in the snippet of audio that people are outraged about today. It is simply a statistical reality that young black males account for a vastly disproportionate number of murders in most cities, as Bloomberg claimed. Nationwide, nearly half of the murderers and murder victims in a given year are black. This in spite of the fact that black people account for only 13 percent of the overall population. Now extrapolate that figure in a city like New York where the black population is close to 25 percent. It’s probably not the case that “95 percent” of murderers and murder victims are black in New York, but I think we can understand that figure to be a generalization meaning “vast majority” or “extremely disproportionate amount.” And understood that way, there is no disputing it. The facts are the facts.
We can argue about the ethical and constitutional legitimacy of stop and frisk laws, and we can perhaps all agree that Bloomberg’s way of describing the tactic was inartful at best. But inartful is not necessarily the same as racist. Besides, if he’s “racist” for bringing up the racial demographic, shouldn’t we also be calling him sexist and ageist for mentioning the gender and age range of the victims and perpetrators? He didn’t actually single out an entire race. Rather, he singled out a very specific group — minority, male, 16 to 25 — and argued that most of the violent crime is contained within that group. And he was right. Nobody denies that or can deny it, as the statistical reality is unmistakable. Instead we are supposed to accept the idea that some statistical realities are so uncomfortable and awkward that to even acknowledge them is an act of bigotry.
Many conservatives have been happy to concede this point today for the sake of landing a blow against Bloomberg. Right-wingers (including President Trump, before he deleted the tweet) have jumped on the “Bloomberg is racist bandwagon,” suddenly agreeing with the Left that facts are racist. I understand the political strategy, but it’s a bad one. Forfeiting the argument in an effort to defeat one particular guy is penny-wise and pound-foolish. To mix metaphors, you win the skirmish but lose the battle.
That said, I have no interest in going to the mat to defend Bloomberg’s character. I think he’s an awful person and would make an even worse president. He’s a narcissist and control freak who wants to use the presidency to invade every aspect of our lives. He may even be racist, for all I know. But what he said in that clip is not evidence of that charge. It’s simply evidence that he recognizes reality when it comes to violent crime.