In a few hours, officials in Memphis, Tennessee, will release a reportedly hard-to-watch video of police officers beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. He died several days later from the injuries. We unreservedly condemn the beatings, and urge the necessary police reforms. At the same time, we are publishing this piece to warn against the dangers of the anti-police movement. We stand with Nichols’ mother who, at a vigil last night said, “If you’re here for me and Tyre, you’ll protest peacefully.”
— Leighton Woodhouse and Michael Shellenberger
After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed in the summer and fall of 2020, the news media, schools, universities, and much of corporate America pledged themselves to the goal of defending black lives.
“This time is different,” editorialized The New York Times on June 5, 2022. “The urgency and validity of the movement” to protect black people “had finally been recognized” and reached “its boiling point.” We would end, once and for all, the editorial proclaimed triumphantly, “unchecked state violence against black people.”
That didn’t happen. The number of black people killed by police in 2022 reached a record high, while the number of black lives lost to homicide rose dramatically, from 7,777 in 2019 to 9,941 in 2020 to 8,534 in 2021. In 2022, US law enforcement killed 1,176 people, making it the deadliest year since 2013.
There’s also some good news: homicides declined in 2022. But by a mere 5%, a fraction of the nearly 30% rise from 2019 to 2020. The drop didn’t even make up for the 6% rise in 2021.
In over one-third of the cities studied, the murder rate rose. In the Bay Area, criminal homicides increased from 295 in 2021 to 309 in 2022 — 50% higher than 2019. Oakland had 120 homicides in 2022, a 60% increase over 2019.
And the share of murder victims who were black rose from 53% in 2019 to 58% in 2021.
In other words, in the two years after millions of Americans promised through their checkbooks, their lawn signs, and their social media updates to do everything in their power to protect black lives, the killing of African Americans skyrocketed. Why is that?