Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, Fox News is trying to stoke fear of Black crime. “Crime wave” fear on its own hasn’t quite had the desired impact. So, why not amplify a ridiculous claim that a spike in 2020 murder rates resulted from “Defund the Police” protests.
The thing about data is that numbers and statistics alone do not tell the full story. And people can craft any narrative they choose by throwing some numbers and assumptions together. But just because there was a documented “spike” during a similar period as social justice protests doesn’t mean the protests caused the increase.
It’s entirely possible that the same issues that drove people into the streets also manifested in other ways, like increased murder rates.
Data from the Center for Disease Control showed the murder rate increased by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020. According to Pew Research Center, this represented the most significant single increase in several decades.
While any increase is something to investigate, it’s important to discuss those numbers in context. The murder rate increased from around six homicides per 100,000 to 7.8 per 100,000. This also includes an increase in firearm-related deaths. (Read more here).
An examination by Vox showed that while some violent crimes like murder increased, crime rates decreased overall during the early part of the pandemic.
The first few months of the pandemic in 2020 outpaced the first two years of the Great Recession in terms of jobs lost. Young workers (16-24) had an unemployment rate of 25.3 percent in May 2020.
High unemployment, limited activity due to public health mandates and other disparities do not alone explain the increase either. That’s because it’s not a simple issue that can be put in a neat little box with a bow.
Fox wants you to believe that murders spiked because attention was drawn to high-profile police killings of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown in 2014 and 2015. And now again, due to the widespread protests after former police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
So-called “Back the Blue” types would rather have you believe that demands for accountability are the problem. Not police and their unions’ actual refusal to be held accountable.
Even if police stopped responding to crime reports, that alone doesn’t translate to a rise in crime. Also, discounting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn in 2020 proves that Fox and the Manhattan Institute are not interested in a genuine conversation on the issues.
“We can’t look at crime rates and sort of divorce them from the realities of the pandemic,” Amara Enyia, policy and research Coordinator for the Movement for Black Lives, said. Enyia said efforts to link calls to defund with rising crime an “extremely faulty narrative.”
“If you look at many city budgets, some of those that are reporting increases in certain types of crimes, many of those cities actually increase the budget for policing,” Enyia said. “It’s time that we actually look into the solutions that we’ve been saying work that reduces crime that addresses violence at the root. And it requires us to change how we invest in our communities.”
Fox showed its hand in another article feeding into the false narrative of Black on Black crime by claiming BLM was silent on the data. It doesn’t matter that groups and individuals collectively called BLM often represent different groups working on various issues, including community safety.
The entire conversation around divesting/investing grew out of a desire to make sure communities had the resources to address the root causes of crime. Last October, The Wall Street Times spotlighted organizations addressing gun violence. Also, youth-led efforts like Chicago’s Good Kids Mad City, a group Enyia works with, focus on positive developmental experiences for youth.
The pinned post on the group’s Twitter account is a clip about the unfortunate killing of one of their own. Black people living with violence aren’t hiding from it. They are leading the charge to make their communities better.
The fixation on Black homicide clearly signals racists to do their thing. The Blacks are killing each other. The protestors are making it happen. We need the police. Right?
The murder rate remains below the level it was during the mid-1990s. It took a global pandemic and massive unemployment, shortage of basic goods etc., for the spike to happen. We’re also in a period with record-setting inflation. Are we gonna blame organizers for that too?
And while many have been in a rush to “reopen” or “return to normal,” there are continued struggles in communities around the country. Republican governors and legislators spend more time fixated on false narratives and solving nonexistent problems than addressing the economic conditions impacting American families.
The Pew report also noted that the overall murder rate was 42 percent lower than the suicide rate and 71 percent lower than the drug overdose rate.
Although claims by conservative “experts” at the Manhattan Institute are pushing an unfounded claim that protests are in some way responsible for the increase in the murder rate for Black people. The logic leaps involved in this claim are reminiscent of the debunked “Ferguson effect” pushed by law enforcement after the Ferguson uprising.
It’s no surprise the folks at the Manhattan Institute are reviving this claim or that it’s popping up ahead of the midterm elections. Drawing the hasty conclusion that protests against injustice lead to murders has nothing to do with concern for impacted groups and everything to do with attacking Democrats ahead of the upcoming election cycle.
A week ago, Rep. Jim Jordan falsely tweeted that crime was up because Democrats want to defund the police. There are organizers and groups in progressive spaces advocating for abolition and defund. But that’s not the mainstream of the Democratic party. Jordan knows this, as do his colleagues repeating such claims.
Fox also repeats a false claim about bail reform contributing to an alleged “spike” in places like New York City. But again, the evidence does not support this assertion from folks who are perfectly fine with a tiered system of access. Locking up people because they are too poor to afford bail is unjust. Pre-trial detention is not about innocence or guilt. Most of those people are incarcerated because of poverty.
An analysis from Slate in March 2022 showed that eight out of ten of the states with the highest murder rates went for Trump. Montana had the most significant increase out of all states at over 80 percent.
It follows the contrived outrage around critical race theory in public schools and the outrageous lie that children are being groomed. There are legitimate ways to critique Democrats, even from a conservative position. But these people aren’t concerned about honest dialogue on issues.
Making people outraged and afraid is all to drive support for Republicans and those spouting conservative misinformation.
But Democrats working toward re-election need to lean in and address the challenges impacting communities. Getting baited into racist tough-on-crime debates do our communities more harm than good.
“We know that safe communities are communities where people have resources, their communities, our communities, where people have access to housing, where they have access to mental health resources, they many where they have access to a job where they have access to the social safety net,” Enyia said. “We should be directing our resources to the things that are preventative, where it doesn’t even become an issue.”